In 2011, Phillips Lytle LLP introduced its own innovative diversity pipeline program “Peace Out.” Through “Peace Out,” teams of Phillips Lytle lawyers guide interactive sessions with middle school students in underserved communities in which the firm has office locations. The “Peace Out” program engages students in role playing, as they explore problem solving and dispute resolution in a scripted legal controversy. The graphic used to identify and brand Phillips Lytle’s pipeline program is a peace symbol. Each arm of the peace symbol represents a principle of practice for students to learn and embrace— problem, knowledge, and solution.
The firm started its “Peace Out” pipeline program in the City of Buffalo. Firm attorneys developed a variety of classroom exercises where students organize legal positions and ultimately make and judge a courtroom argument, engage in negotiations on behalf of a client’s interests, or participate as an advocate in an arbitration. Part of what makes “Peace Out” so innovative and effective is that these exercises were designed to include subject matter that students readily connect with, such as copyright and trademark disputes adapted from actual controversies, and sports and entertainment problems relevant to contemporary issues.
The firm has been able to establish relationships with five schools located in Buffalo, Rochester and New York City, and the process of expanding “Peace Out” is ongoing. This summer, the firm’s Summer Associates were offered the opportunity to participate in “Peace Out,” so that even as law students they can begin the process of giving back to the community and supporting diversity in the profession.
Another part of the concept is that the firm stays connected with students who meet lawyers through “Peace Out.” Phillips Lytle returns to participating schools to conduct additional, more advanced exercises and plans to launch a “Peace Out” website that will be sponsored and maintained by the firm. By introducing students to some of the skills that lawyers draw upon to confront and resolve matters, and by giving students multiple opportunities to experience the process for themselves, the firm believes they have developed a significant way to impact the pipeline of diverse talent into the profession.
The feedback from students, teachers and firm attorneys who have participated in “Peace Out” has been strong. The firm has been invited to return to the classrooms where they have previously conducted the “Peace Out” program, and interest in the program is growing. Individual students often tell attorneys at the conclusion of the program that they are now open to the possibility of practicing law and recognize that a successful career in law can take many forms.
The most significant indicator that “Peace Out” is effective and impactful has been the enthusiastic response from the students and educators who participate. Phillips Lytle also sees the program’s success when they observe the level of engagement by the students. The expansion of the program also speaks emphatically to its success.