Letter From The President Of The New York County Lawyers' Association

2008-05-01 01:00

To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel :

"The long-term benefits of the program in building public confidence in our judicial system and in enriching the quality of lawyers and judges cannot be overstated. The NYCLA Minority Judicial Intern Program provides an example of professional leadership at its finest."

- Whitney North Seymour Jr., September 28, 1998letter to the New York Law Journal

The New York County Lawyers' Association has long held the belief that one of the most effective ways to increase diversity in the legal profession is to focus on specific actions rather than aspirations alone. To that end, for the past 19 years, NYCLA has taken a leadership role in providing educational and career opportunities to over 150 law students of color. Since 1989, our Summer Minority Judicial Internship Program has provided law students of color with eight-week paid internships with state and federal judges. The program was founded by career and diversity consultant Dr. Suzanne Baer and her husband, NYCLA Past President and United States District Court Judge Harold Baer, Jr.

In creating the internship program, the Baers understood that a successful legal career is obtained by mentor relationships, training and access to meaningful assignments. They knew that an internship provides a law student with exposure to the legal system, hands-on experience and marketability. Internships can also provide an important competitive advantage when the law school graduate seeks a full-time position. Indeed, in many law firms and government offices, not only do summer interns get first-hand exposure to the work of their offices, they also are afforded the opportunity to apply early for permanent positions. Too often, only the privileged few have enjoyed internships that lead to coveted career opportunities. NYCLA's internship program has played a significant role in opening the door to these opportunities.

In 1999, The New York Times published an editorial entitled: "Needed: Minority Clerks at the Court." The editorial attributed the lack of minority clerks in the United States Supreme Court to "a reluctance to alter the clubby 'feeder system' from top tier law schools and judges that produces a nearly all-white coterie of high caliber clerks . If the justices wanted greater diversity, they could achieve it without diminishing the high standards they need to use for hiring." NYCLA's internship program then and now is a model on how to achieve greater diversity in the legal profession without compromising high standards.

Each year, we receive over 50 applications from law students from the eight New York City law schools.Candidates supply a writing sample, statement of interest and letter of good standing and are interviewed by members of NYCLA's Minorities and the Law Committee and selected on the basis of their writing ability and academic achievement, as well as their motivation and prior public service.

NYCLA and all of the participating judges can take pride in the fact that we have mentored a generation of lawyers of color who have gone on to work for major law firms, corporate law departments and government agencies. Judges who have participated in the summer program include: Judges Sheila Abdus Salaam, Deborah A. Batts, Harold Baer Jr., John Carter, Cheryl Chambers, Denny Chin, Helen E. Freedman, Priscilla Hall, Yvonne Lewis, Richard B. Lowe III, Robert Patterson, Sonia Sotomayor, Charles E. Ramos, Charles Tejada, Troy Webber, Lottie E. Wilkins, Jack B. Weinstein, Bonnie G. Wittner and James A. Yates.Sponsors of the program include NYCLA's Supreme Court Committee, Pfizer Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and White & Case LLP.

Contributions to the internship program can be made payable to the NYCLA Foundation, Inc., 14 Vesey Street, New York, NY 10007. For further information, call Marilyn Flood, Executive Director of the NYCLA Foundation, who administers the program, at 212-267-6646, ext. 222 or email mflood@nycla.org.


Catherine A. Christian