NYU Law’s longstanding commitments to empower student success and to improve diversity and inclusion in the legal profession were both codified in the Law School’s recently released strategic plan. Those values were also foremost in the mind of Associate Dean for Career Services Irene Dorzback back in 2014, when she led an effort to expose more first-year NYU Law students to the idea of pursuing 1L diversity summer program positions offered by major law firms and companies.

To that end, Dorzback and her colleagues in the Office of Career Services (OCS) created the Diversity Forum and Career Fair to allow interested students and employers to meet on campus. OCS held the third annual event at the beginning of this month. The 2016 fair hit a new record, with 43 employers—a dozen more than in the first year—sending representatives to speak with first-year students about 1L diversity summer programs.

The programs operate much like typical summer associate programs, with students doing the same kind of work. The key difference is that diversity summer programs focus on candidates who, through their background or life experience, contribute to the diversity of the hiring organization. Diversity summer programs often feature a greater emphasis on mentoring as well.

This year’s forum portion of the Diversity Forum and Career Fair included panelists Jung Choi, senior counsel at the Bristol-Myers Squibb Company; Ciara Grubbs ’18, who spent her 1L summer at Kaye Scholer as New York City Bar Diversity Fellow; Maja Hazell, director of diversity and inclusion at White & Case; and William Russell Jr., a partner at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. Moderator Cassandre Stump, associate director of recruitment and marketing in OCS and the organizer of the Diversity Forum and Career Fair, guided a discussion that covered what students could expect when applying for a 1L diversity summer associate position or internship as well as issues facing attorneys and law students of diverse backgrounds.

Choi explained that “diversity” has no single definition. “For us, it is a combination of many things,” she said. “It can be racial, it can be background circumstances… what makes a person unique in terms of their experiences.”

Grubbs advised her fellow students to use those unique experiences and the interests stemming from them in assessing prospective employers: “I think it’s important to know what you value in a workplace and what your long-term goals are.”

The career fair immediately following the panel discussion attracted scores of 1Ls to Greenberg Lounge to meet with representatives of more than 40 organizations. One such student, Deepa Devanathan ’19, benefited from learning more general facts—for instance, that some firms do hire 1Ls—as well as information specific to diversity summer programs. “The key point that I took away from it is that firms are making actual, tangible efforts to expand diversity,” Devanathan said.

After the panel, Hazell, who has attended the fair as a White & Case representative the past two years in addition to speaking at this year’s forum, stressed the importance of NYU Law’s efforts for her firm. “We had a goal of increasing our profile with more students generally at NYU, and it has more than delivered on that goal.”

Dorzback, for whom diversity encompasses not simply race and ethnicity but also gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, religion, and other characteristics such as chronic health challenges, pointed out how the employers’ recruitment success had changed the playing field for students seeking an earlier start to a high-powered career. Two years ago, more employers had diversity summer programs for 2Ls than for 1Ls; now the opposite is true.

“Some of these students who’ve been very happy in their 1L summer positions have stayed, so it’s been a very effective recruiting tool for these firms,” said Dorzback.

She also highlighted the event’s concrete results in the form of more applications from students like Devanathan. Between the summers of 2014 and 2016, the annual number of diverse NYU Law 1Ls landing summer associate positions at firms increased from 40 to 61—a 50-percent boost. Dorzback anticipates that future editions of the Diversity Forum and Career Fair will help to continue that trend, with benefits for both students and employers.

Posted November 28, 2016