Reed Smith and other leading U.S. law firms and legal departments are collaborating with Diversity Lab to smooth re-entry into the profession for women lawyers whose careers were interrupted by pressing life events, including childbirth and other family responsibilities.

Related Professionals: Cristina M. Shea

Thirty-nine of the nation’s top firms and in-house legal departments have signed on to the OnRamp 200 Fellowship to promote a goal of reintegrating at least 200 women lawyers into the profession by 2025. The initiative affirms and extends Diversity Lab’s acclaimed OnRamp Fellowship, which was launched in 2014 to re-connect legal organizations with women who left their law practices, sometimes decades earlier.

“In furtherance of our long-standing commitment to the equitable advancement of women in the legal profession, Reed Smith is proud to partner with Diversity Lab’s OnRamp200 Fellowship,” said Christina Shea, global chair of the Woman’s Initiative Network of Reed Smith (WINRS). “We are excited to be a part of an initiative that seeks to overcome the unconscious bias faced by those who have taken a hiatus from the profession – a bias that disproportionately affects women.”

The Fellowship is a proven strategy for promoting women’s reconnection with their legal careers. With a record of engaging some 100 fellows prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program reported 87 percent of these women subsequently received offers of full-time employment at a law firm. Several OnRamp fellows have already achieved rapid career advancement, including promotions to leadership roles and their firm’s partnership ranks.

According to data from Diversity Lab, more than three million women lawyers have recently left the full-time practice of law, including a significant number during the COVID-19 pandemic, which also contributed to a two-year pause in the OnRamp Fellowship program. Diversity Lab’s renewed emphasis on diversifying the pipeline to top professional roles remains focused on increasing the proportion of women who advance to partnerships in their organizations, a figure that has yet to reach 40 percent. The proportion of women law partners of color remains even lower, at less than 25 percent.

OnRamp 200’s re-entry approach will provide experienced lawyers returning to the workforce with a one-year paid fellowship in a participating law firm or legal department. In addition to paid employment, support for the fellows will include a professional career coach, monthly fellow cohort meetings, and access to a broad range of training opportunities, including the Practicing Law Institute’s continuing legal education programs.

Learn more about Diversity Lab’s OnRamp 200 Fellowship by visiting onrampfellowship.com