Aman Singh, Vault's CSR editor, recently spoke with Rhonda Joy McLean. A former federal prosecutor turned Deputy General Counsel with Time, Inc., McLean has had a fascinating career path. Not only is she passionate about ethical and social responsible business practices, she also developed an internship program for law and paralegal students at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In this excerpt of the interview, McLean offers inventive advice for law students adjusting to a world in which prestigious, well-paid internships and summer associate programs are no longer the norm.Do you have any advice for law students who are nervous about job prospects or struggling in the market?
It is a tough time, no doubt. I think one of the things you have to be willing to do is work for free at a place you think you are interested in being hired at. This could include being an extern in a judge's chambers or an intern at a bar association committee also. I've sent a lot of students to bar association committees because often they don't know that these committees exist and they have the best and the brightest. Many top partners, many of whom are also general counsels at major corporations chair these committees. So as a student you can get a very cheap student membership, and go to the IP, copyright, trademark committee and offer to write a paper or do research for them. It's a good way to keep your hand in, develop your skill sets, and besides, it never hurts to expand your networks.I think we have to be really creative, these are hard times and you have to be willing to do the very things that no one else is willing to do or do something that hasn't been done before. Don't be afraid to step out there and do that.
As a senior executive, you often talk about the importance of mentoring young women. Do you see a lot of women actively mentoring in the law industry?I've mentored all my life as well as being fortunate enough to be mentored by people in the law industry as well as outside. I mentor people who are not lawyers as well. I don't really worry about the race, age or gender of my mentors or coaches as long as I feel they genuinely have my interests at heart. Today, technology has made it possible to stay in touch with your mentors in many ways. I think we need to be more creative with that. I also think that we need to move away from the limited definitions we use of what mentoring relationships should look like.
Instead of saying, "They're not that many black women around so I can't be mentored," mentoring needs to become bias-free. Maybe there's someone from your law school who you don't even know. Go to your career development office and look for someone who is doing what you're doing. Generate your own network of contacts and it certainly helps to go when you're not desperate for work. It's also not just about collecting business cards, you have to really put yourself out there, read about the person you are interested in and then go from there.Read the full interview, in which Rhonda McLean speaks more about CSR, mentoring and the law FTC internship.
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