April 19, 2016
Street Law is excited to announce the presentation of its 2016 Excellence in Service Award to the Chicago Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC). The Excellence in Service Award recognizes the volunteer efforts of companies, law firms, and organizations that provide exceptional community service in the form of a Street Law program. ACC Chicago Chapter leaders Jenifer M. Robbins and Julia Jackson accepted the award at Street Law’s annual awards gala on April 27, 2016 in Washington, DC.
The ACC Chicago Chapter participates in Street Law’s Corporate Legal Diversity Pipeline Program, where its members work to encourage diverse young people to pursue legal careers and increase their knowledge of the law by providing them with role models, career education, and hands-on experiences in the legal field.
The ACC Chicago Chapter established its Pipeline Program in 2006, with program sites in downtown Chicago and the northwest Chicago suburbs. Their program is exceptional in many ways; perhaps most notable is its size in terms of the number of participating high schools and students reached. Collectively, the program is active at eight Chicagoland high schools, has more than 80 volunteers, and reaches approximately 325 students each program cycle.
As one of the largest in-house bar associations in the Midwest, ACC Chicago brings together a wide variety of program participants. It draws support from corporate legal departments like Sears and BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois as well as law firms DLA Piper and Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP. Each year, the Chapter recruits new members to volunteer to teach in the program, adding to its base of veteran volunteers who have been active in the program for the past 10 years. Members, typically drawn from around 50 different legal departments, enjoy the opportunity to get to know one another; however, it is the interaction with students that keeps them coming back. According to volunteer Kumar Sandeep, Operations Counsel at KONE, "Street Law allows me to make a personal investment in the future of high school students in a way few other programs can. The ability to influence students' educational and professional choices allows me to make a difference in their lives and the community.”
ACC Chicago has played a key role in enriching other Legal Diversity Pipeline Program sites by developing and sharing teaching materials and best practices. The Chapter’s popular rock concert contract negotiation materials are now being used by Street Law Pipeline Programs across the country. Additionally, the Chicago Chapter has recruited other ACC Chapters to participate in Street Law programs, and it helped peers enhance their programs by sharing their lessons learned, challenges, and successes at the program’s annual Best Practices Workshop, which aims to strengthen the quality of Street Law Pipeline Programs across the country.
ACC Chicago is passionate about the future of the legal profession and ensuring its diversity. In addition to its Street Law program, ACC Chicago sponsors a summer internship program that creates 13-16 summer jobs for aspiring lawyers each year. The internship program places diverse first-year law students into Chicagoland legal departments. The Street Law program, by contrast, reaches students much earlier in their educational career, encouraging them to continue their education while considering a legal career path in the future. According to teachers working with the program, that goal is being met. Michael S. Thornton, a social studies teacher at participating South Elgin High School, says “This program creates such a positive energy with the students. Every year the students comment on how great the experience was. Having the opportunity to meet lawyers and participate in active workshops that give them an insight into the legal profession has provided several of my students with the motivation to seek a legal career.”
Helping provide students with that motivation also inspires ACC Chicago’s volunteers. Says Denice Simon, a long-time program volunteer and Assistant General Counsel with Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A., Inc., “It’s uplifting to be able to present a positive view of lawyers and the law. The Street Law Program exposes high school students to lawyers they wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to meet and whose images will hopefully remain with them. It’s an opportunity to see young minds absorb some initial legal concepts, which is exciting because a part of the future of the legal profession is in the classrooms that we visit; a future with the potential for greatness.”
ACC Chicago’s dedication to the Street Law Program grows stronger every year. The program benefits both the attorney volunteers and the student participants by strengthening the communities where they live and work—a true win-win for everyone involved.
(Reproduced with permission)
Corporate Legal Diversity Pipeline Program
Legal Diversity Pipeline Program for Law Firms