Given the increasingly competitive climate evident in the legal community in recent years, it is imperative for law students and graduates to have substantial work experience when seeking employment. The Gateway to Diversity Summer Employment Program, a joint initiative of the Indiana Conference for Legal Education Opportunity (ICLEO) and the Indiana State Bar Association’s Committee for Diversity in the Legal Profession, began in 2000 and is designed to do just that. The Gateway program attempts to link all minority students attending one of Indiana’s four law schools and eligible Indiana CLEO Fellows to employment opportunities in all sectors of Indiana’s legal community. Each year in November, ICLEO sends to all eligible participants a Gateway resource guide complete with all participating employers to make the students aware of the employment opportunities available for the following summer.
Several participating employers have been long time supporters of the Gateway program. The Indiana Court of Appeals is one example. Appellate Court Judge Carr L. Darden recalls Rudolph Pyle, a 1997 ICLEO Fellow, who worked in his chambers in 2000 and later became Madison County’s first African American judge. Judge Darden is “impressed with the Indiana CLEO program overall” and is “glad to give ICLEO Fellows exposure to the practice of law that they may not otherwise receive.” According to Judge Darden, “law students can only learn so much in theory.” The experience of working in the Court of Appeals, in Judge Darden’s opinion, helps to make Fellows “more confident and less inhibited” when they graduate and being practicing law.
Henry County Circuit Court Judge Mary Willis is another long time Gateway supporter. She sees the program as a valuable resource and is always eager to hire an ICLEO Fellow. In fact, for the last three years, Judge Willis has been the first employer to notify the ICLEO program office that she will be hiring an ICLEO student for the summer. Judge Willis says about the Gateway program and Indiana CLEO Fellows: “Henry County has been privileged to work with the ICLEO Gateway Program since 2005. It is a wonderful teaching and mentoring opportunity for employers to nurture our youngest law school colleagues as they embark on their legal careers. The student participants are always eager to learn new facets of the law and are enthusiastic about the projects that are assigned to them. After having worked with five very qualified candidates, I can attest that it has been a very rewarding experience to see firsthand how the students are able to hone and sharpen their practical skills and legal reasoning in a few short summer weeks and bring together the esoteric and academic subjects into the real world of litigation and practice.”
In addition to exposing Fellows to invaluable work experience, the Gateway Program lays the groundwork for talented students to remain in Indiana and bolsters the expertise of our own legal communities. The Gateway Program increases the likelihood that ICLEO Fellows who have Indiana work experience under their belts will keep their talents and skills within our great state. The Gateway to Diversity Summer Employment Program is seeking to increase the number of available employment opportunities for students. Potential employers are encouraged to visit the ICLEO website at courts.IN.gov/cleo.
Requests for further information and questions may be directed to Robyn Rucker at 317.234.1376 or firstname.lastname@example.org.