Have you ever met a person who you immediately knew would be a super-star? I confess I have met only a few that gave me that impression. I met one of them on a Saturday morning in May of 1997  during the Byron Nelson golf tournament. That morning in downtown Dallas, Nancy and I met Caren Ulrich Stacy (it was just Ulrich at that time). She was our firm recruiting manager and on that day, Caren, Nancy and I would be hosting our summer associates.

What impressed us? If you know Caren I am sure you can mention many things. I guess the first thing that struck me was her energy. I don’t think I ever had that much energy. The next thing that struck me was her authenticity and genuineness. I knew right away we were seeing the real person. The next thing that struck me was Caren’s ability to connect with and engage people, including the summer associates going with Caren, Nancy and me to the golf tournament that day.

I feel fairly confident that many of the summer associates who joined our firm the next year did so in large part because of their experience working with Caren.

I have to share one secret that you will never find on Caren’s resume. While she was at our firm, I talked her into joining our Marketing Department. I learned by that experience that I should sometimes keep my fatherly advice to myself. Caren was far more suited to be in recruiting and attorney development.

Caren recently founded OnRamp Fellowship. It is a really an awesome idea. It is a re-entry platform that matches experienced women lawyers returning to the profession with law firms for a one-year, paid training contract.  When I read about Caren’s new venture I wanted to make sure that she could tell you about it.

The lack of women lawyers in the upper ranks at law firms has been a problem for decades and it’s only getting worse.

Although there is typically a 50/50 gender split at the entry-level, only 16% of partners are women. And, to further exacerbate the pipeline issue, this year marks the fourth consecutive annual decline in the number of mid/senior level female associates in large law firms.

No one seems to debate that this is an issue that warrants attention. But it also seems that no one knows exactly what to do about it. So, we talk. We brainstorm. We come up with ideas and then dissect them to the point that nothing ever gets done because the ideal solution is never perfectly ideal.

Four major law firms – Baker Botts, Sidley, Cooley, and Hogan Lovells – are finally moving past the “talk” stage into serious action. To replenish the leaky pipeline, they are banding together to pilot a new initiative called the OnRamp Fellowship.

The Fellowship is a re-entry platform for women lawyers who have taken a break from practicing for one reason or another. Through one-year, paid fellowships – which include unlimited online CLE, individualized career counseling, and extensive training in negotiations, oral advocacy, and business development – the returning women broaden their skills, experience, and legal contacts. There are Fellowship opportunities this year in 15 cities across the U.S., including Houston, Dallas, Chicago, Washington, D.C., New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

The goal is to increase gender diversity in law firms.

But, for this initiative to succeed, the word must get out to women lawyers who want to return. You can help by telling two people and asking them to tell two people. Post an announcement about the Fellowship on Linked In and twitter. “Share” this blog post with your colleagues. Direct anyone that is interested to the OnRamp Fellowship Website.

A little “action” on your part will go a long way in helping us to increase gender diversity in the profession.

Caren put it well: A little “action” on your part will go a long way to helping gender diversity.