Each week I will highlight a different case or legal happening, and solicit your thoughts on the impact of it in the legal community.
About 10 years ago Accenture and DLA Piper attorney David Mendelsohn began working together on the issue of Y2K.
That client-lawyer relationship blossomed over time and today DLA Piper and Accenture team up not only on legal matters, but also on projects to improve diversity through pipeline programs, and provide pro bono services.
“Both of the organizations have values that are in common,” said Christina Martini, hiring partner for DLA Piper’s Chicago office. “A lot of it is about giving back to the community, and a lot of it is about diversity.”
Both companies work together on a number of programs and projects.
For example, they participate in a project with Chicago Public Schools’ John Barry Elementary School to help improve the students’ literacy and vocabulary skills. Each fall attorneys from both organizations teach a semester-long program about the basics of constitutional law. There is also an annual literacy night where volunteers read to the students, and that occurs in tandem with a book drive. And in the spring they work together on a career-tutoring program to help the Barry students think about career interests early on.
“You have to reach out to students at all levels, and try to make a meaningful difference in their lives,” Martini said.
Accenture and DLA Piper also work together on a program called, “Accentuating the DLA Piper Summer Experience” It’s a summer associate program where a group of DLA Piper summer associates get to spend two weeks at Accenture learning about what an inside counsel does.
Last year, five summer associates participated. This year six participated, and visited the Chicago and Reston, Va. Accenture offices for two weeks on a rotation basis, said Joel Stern, Accenture’s director of legal services, Americas.
This program has a number of benefits including exposing summer associates to inside counsel, giving them additional mentors, and helping them create a relationship with Accenture that may benefit them when they someday work at DLA Piper, Stern said.
Many of the law students who participated went back to their law school excited about what they experienced, and excited about Accenture and DLA Piper, he said.
Accenture gets to not only experience high-quality, cost-effective legal support with DLA Piper, but also experiences a partnership that allows them to try to make a difference in people’s lives, he said.
“We have been able to take a normal attorney-client relationship and extend it to the corporate citizenship area,” Stern said. “It continues to grow to this day. It is not only a partnership, but also a lot of fun … The more we talk about it the more these messages will get out and once again that will make a difference. We want other companies to copy us and we are looking at what other companies are doing as well.”
“I think it would be fair to say that the personal relationships that exist are much more meaningful,” Mendelsohn said. “and much more personal than ever would be the case if we would not work on these projects together.”