In 2016, the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile spurred internal dialogues about diversity and systemic inequity across many groups at Google—including the Legal team. Those conversations led to a number of projects, including a patent team program called the IP Summer Institute. The focus of the institute was on supporting the careers of underrepresented law-school students and in the last two years, it’s taken on a life of its own. This year’s applicant pool topped more than 350 people.
“Supporting diversity in this field is both a challenge and opportunity. It can take more than eight years for these students to complete law school and get the legal experience they need to thrive as full-time employees at Google,” says Aerica Banks, a patent policy analyst. “It takes patience and investment, but I’m so proud to be part of a program that’s working to build this pipeline.”
Held each June and now called the Legal Summer Institute (LSI), the program brings 28 traditionally underrepresented law students to work with in-house counsel at Google and then sets them up with partner law firms across the country.
“I knew zero lawyers growing up,” says Sergio Soledad, a participant from Howard University Law School. “I have been inspired by so many successful individuals who allowed me to realize what working for my favorite organization can be like. This is especially important for a first-generation student like myself. It’s invaluable.”
“We are excited not only about the direct impact that Google’s LSI program had on our class of students this year but also about the impact we had on the wider industry by setting an example for other companies,” says Terri Chen, Director of Intellectual Property. “Several speakers we brought in from other companies told us that they were inspired by LSI and would be seeking to start summer programs at their own companies next year.”
The students spent time being matched with Google mentors across Legal and learning about the tech industry, including through detailed workshops on topics ranging from M&A to intellectual property to privacy to competition. They also had a fireside chat with David Drummond general counsel for Alphabet, and a keynote address from Kent Walker, among many other speakers.
The program is one of several programs that Google has either launched or partnered with to support diversity across a number of sectors. For example, last year Google partnered with Howard University to expose Black computer science students to coding; in 2016, the NYC offices of Google donated space to Black Girls CODE, and that same year, partnered with Black Girls Rock! to promote African American girls in the STEM space.
According to Google, by the end of the program, scholars will walk away with:
- An understanding of how in-house attorneys provide value to their company.
- An understanding of what clients expect from outside counsel lawyers.
- An understanding of the different legal strategies that a client may pursue.
- Hands on experience working as a lawyer at a law firm.
- Key business relationships and how to navigate them effectively.
(Article written by Google with additional reporting by TNJ Senior Editor Sergie Willoughby.)