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Job fair connects diverse students to jobs

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To help a diverse group of 2L students find summer employment in central Indiana, and to help Indianapolis-area employers connect with diverse, qualified students looking for summer associate positions, the Indianapolis Bar Association hosted its third diversity job fair at a downtown Indianapolis hotel Aug. 19 - 20. Plans for the 2011 fair haven’t been solidified, but organizers say they are in the process of looking at what has worked the last few years.

While this isn’t the first or only fair of its kind in the Midwest – a similar fair takes place in Chicago – the purpose is to attract a more diverse group of candidates to Indianapolis. All employers participating in the job fair are required to offer jobs in central Indiana, said Caren Chopp, pro bono coordinator for the IBA.

The fair is open to all 2L law students seeking summer associate jobs in central Indiana between their second and third year of law school. Candidates can be from any law school, and not all of them were from the Indianapolis law school.

In 2010, 20 employers participated, while 19 participated in 2009, and 17 participated in 2008. Organizers have said that there are already employers asking to participate in 2011.

Employers at the 2010 fair included some of the largest firms in Indianapolis, as well as a few medium-size firms, corporate legal departments, the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, Marion County Public Defender Agency, the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, and the Office of Corporation Counsel for the City of Indianapolis.

The number of students participating has increased each year as well. In 2010, 78 participated; in 2009, 68 students participated; and in 2008, the event drew 55 students.

Last year, about a dozen law students ultimately accepted offers for summer employment after meeting employers at the fair and participating in an interview. As of November, 31 job offers had been accepted, and Chopp said she expected about a dozen students would secure employment for summer 2011.

As for why the IBA has been hosting these diversity job fairs, Chopp said, there isn’t an official statement, but in an e-mail response, she quoted the IBA’s diversity statement: “‘Diversity in the Indianapolis Bar Association and among the Indianapolis legal profession is important to filling our mission’ and we ‘declare that diversity is a core value of the IBA, and that the IBA shall promote and encourage diversity among its leadership, its membership, and the entire legal community.’”

The IBA also hosts this fair as a way to help employers in the Indianapolis legal community to recruit qualified employees.

“We want to find students who are interested in practicing specifically in central Indiana,” she said, as opposed to Chicago, New York City, Boston, Washington, D.C., or the West Coast. “Similar to other fairs, we use hotel suites for interviews and use a similar method to setting up the interviews.”

She added the job fair in Indianapolis is unique because many other fairs do not offer as many networking opportunities for the students, where the IBA fair has a reception and a lunch for students and employers. Other fairs often separate the students and employers. The IBA also offered three scholarships to 2010 participants, which others don’t, at least not yet, Chopp added.

For more information about the IBA Diversity Job Fair, visit the website, http://www.ibadiversityjobfair.org.•

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