Chase-ing the Dream

JPMorgan Chase and Columbia Law School Have Partnered to Help Highly Qualified Alumni Who Have Left the Profession Re-Enter the Workforce through an Innovative Internship Program

New York, April 30, 2015—When Miriam Frieden ’87 started working with her colleagues in the legal department at JPMorgan Chase on a way to attract diverse applicants to the financial services company in 2013, she knew exactly where to look for help.

A Columbian through and through, Frieden immediately thought of her alma mater, where she spent eight years earning an undergraduate degree at Barnard College and her J.D. and M.B.A. degrees at Columbia Law School and Columbia Business School.
“When I think of what a great experience I had at Columbia, I wanted to tap into those relationships,” said Frieden, a senior vice president and associate general counsel in the card services department at Chase.
The resulting initiative, the JPMorgan Chase Legal ReEntry Program, debuted last year in a pilot phase, allowing qualified graduates of Columbia Law School and the University of Pennsylvania Law School who have been out of the workforce for at least two years to apply to a competitive 12-week paid “internship” and training program helping them reintegrate into the workforce. Last year, 165 men and women applied and five were chosen, including Joanne L. Monteavaro ’97.
Miriam Frieden ’87 (left), a senior vice president and associate general counsel at Chase, helped create the JPMorgan Chase Legal ReEntry Program to help attorneys get back into the legal profession after an absence. Joanne L. Monteavaro ’97 (right), was part of the first class of interns. She is now a vice president and assistant general counsel at the company.
After graduating from the Law School, Monteavaro clerked for Constance Baker Motley ’46, a fellow alumna and the first black female federal judge, before practicing complex commercial and securities litigation at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr for several years. In 2010, she left the profession to tend to family-related matters. As she was beginning to think about how to start her career up again in the spring of 2014, she received an email from the Columbia Law School Office of Development and Alumni Relations about the JPMorgan Chase Legal ReEntry program.
“I had no idea a program like that existed,” Monteavaro said recently in an interview. She is now a vice president and assistant general counsel in Chase’s card services department. “The email came at a perfect time. It seemed like the stars aligned.”
Columbia Law School Senior Director of Alumni and International Career Services Marta Ricardo ’94 said the Chase Legal ReEntry Program is just one example of the innovative ways the Law School helps graduates at every stage of their careers. The office offers individualized counseling as well as a variety of professional development workshops and other programming.
"JPMorgan Chase presented us with an excellent opportunity for alumni," Ricardo said. "We hope to explore new ways to partner with employers to serve our very talented and experienced graduates."
Frieden said the partnership was a natural one for Chase.
“We call ourselves one of the best law firms on Wall Street, and we try to attract a variety of talented people with a variety of backgrounds,” she said. “We wanted to make this as robust and meaningful as possible both for the people that would be participating and for our organization. It’s a win-win situation.”
Frieden knows firsthand that rejoining the workforce after an extended absence can be difficult. After more than 20 years in practice at Citigroup and other financial services companies, she took two years off for personal reasons before seeking to regain her place in the law.
“I was very fortunate to get a job that fit my skills at a terrific company,” she said. “If I had been offered the support we give our interns in the ReEntry Program as well, I would have been over the moon.”
The program is comprehensive by design—offering a “panoramic view” of the company, as Frieden described it. It includes everything from updates and refresher courses on basic legal and technological skills to networking opportunities with management personnel and sessions on time management and work-life balance. The law firm Morgan Lewis & Bockius is a partner, offering educational seminars and connecting interns with senior firm attorneys on a one-on-one basis.
“Interns have to come in and perform at the level we expect of our employees, but they have access to all the support they need for a smooth transition,” Frieden said.
As part of the first class of ReEntry interns, Monteavaro said she and her colleagues felt completely supported “from the minute we walked in the door.”
“I couldn’t have asked for a better way to re-enter the workforce,” she said. “It was clear the firm was committed to helping us integrate and practice law at the highest level.”
Frieden called the program a “labor of love.” When she took time out of her legal career, she participated in a variety of other important work, including helping re-open a public school on the Upper East Side.
“It was an incredible part of my life,” she said. “A lot of people we’ve seen apply to this program made valuable contributions to their communities, their children, and their families during their time away from the profession. I want people to know, you can do that and then come back to a career.”
Now in its second year, the JPMorgan Chase Legal ReEntry Program has partnered with several more law schools in addition to Columbia Law School and Penn.
Applications for the Fall 2015 internship class are being accepted through May 15 through the company’s website.