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Elizabeth Finn Johnson's story
The Corporate Legal Diversity Pipeline Program partners corporate legal departments with nearby, diverse high school law classes in an effort to engage the students, teach them more about civil law, and encourage them to consider careers in the legal profession.
September 17, 2009
Elizabeth Finn Johnson has been with The Coca-Cola Company’s Legal Division since 1990. She is senior counsel, litigation and employment, and leads her division’s participation in the Street Law/ACC Corporate Legal Diversity Pipeline Program.
The Coca-Cola Company’s Legal Division began participating in the Pipeline Program in 2003. The division was honored with Street Law’s 2007 Corporate Legal Diversity Pipeline Award for their exceptional work in the Atlanta Public Schools.
I always wanted to be a lawyer but thought I would be an ACLU lawyer or a criminal defense lawyer — always focused on civil rights. Interestingly enough, I now sit on the complete opposite side of the table than I expected on discrimination claims.
The Coca-Cola Company began a real pro bono/community service program in our legal division in 2001, establishing a committee and creating a pro bono policy. As part of that, we were interested in providing service-related opportunities for all of our Legal Division employees, not just our lawyers and paralegals.
We learned about Street Law, Inc. and the Corporate Legal Diversity Pipeline Program through the Corporate Pro Bono Institute, and were immediately interested in it. We contacted Street Law, Inc. and we all met to discuss the Company adopting some Atlanta schools for the program.
I fell in love with it the first time I heard of it — loved the idea behind it, loved the notion of helping inner city kids learn about the law from a perspective other than what they see/hear in their lives and on TV, and I strongly supported the idea that diversity in the profession is important. Given my original interests in the law, I needed to find a way to satisfy the part of me that wanted to work for justice, and I see Street Law and the Pipeline program as a way of doing that.
I love this program — I love the contact with the kids, I love that we, as a Company, are working in our community to improve the educational opportunities for kids, and I love that we are working to make the profession better as well. It excites me to think that I could be having a positive effect on these kids, that we could be helping them see that a career in the law can be a reality for them.
High school students participating in the Pipeline Program attend a conference at the Coca-Cola Company headquarters in Atlanta, GA.
Street Law’s Pipeline Program benefits everyone involved — the community, the students, the Company, the schools, the profession and the people who participate from our Legal Division.
The community benefits because we provide, free of charge, additional educational content that enriches the classroom experience. Maybe we inspire some of these kids to aim higher, to do more.
The students gain role models, learn about the law, have the opportunity to visit a Fortune 50 company, and learn about the critical role of law in a democracy. Maybe they see they can do something they never thought they could do. Maybe they realize that there are people out there who truly care about them and their futures. Maybe they learn the importance of giving back to the community. I hope so, and I believe all of these things happen.
The Company benefits because we stay in touch with our community, giving the Company a positive image, and hopefully some more loyal consumers. The Company's employees have the chance to be part of something bigger than themselves, which in turn will make them better employees. The profession benefits from the positive depiction of lawyers and other legal professionals, and because maybe some of these kids will be inspired to become lawyers, thereby making the profession more representative of and responsive to the community.
We, the participants, benefit because we know we are doing something that matters and impacts young people and our profession in a positive way.
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(Reproduced with permission)
Corporate Legal Diversity Pipeline Program
Legal Diversity Pipeline Program for Law Firms
Law School Diversity Pipeline Program
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