Nineteen students have completed the State Bar’s Diversity Clerkship Program, now in its 27th year, that has placed nearly 500 students into paid internships since its inception in 1993. The students were recognized at the Diversity Clerkship Program Reception at the State Bar Center July 18.
Brittani Miller is one of 19 first-year University of Wisconsin and Marquette University law school students soon to complete the State Bar of Wisconsin’s 10-week Diversity Clerkship Program, where she was matched with Alliant Energy Corporation to give her practical legal experience.
Like many students in the program, Miller, who is African American, has faced her share of challenges to get to where she is today at the University of Wisconsin.
Miller spent a number of years as a ward of the State of New York, growing up in the foster care system, before her grandparents received guardianship of her. She attended 12 different schools before graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Post university life, Miller entered the Air Force, and while serving her country, she earned an associate’s degree in paralegal studies.
“Growing up, my grandfather would tell me, ‘You’re black and a woman; that’s two strikes against you,’ and ‘you have to work twice as hard to be considered half as good.’ While these phrases seem hard, he wanted to make sure I was aware of some of the hurdles I would face once I left home,” she wrote in her Diversity Clerkship application.
“He instilled in me the motivation and drive to not only overcome my early childhood experiences in foster care, but to push me forward to work hard and beat the statistics. He taught me that my world view may be different from other people I would interact with, and that it is important to hear their views and share my own.”
Her summer clerkship experience, she says, has been invaluable. “I have felt like a valued member of the Alliant Energy team since my very first day. The diversity of projects I’ve been assigned and the groups of people I have gotten to work with have really helped me determine what kind of attorney I want to be. I am blessed to have been given the opportunity to work with such an amazing group of people.”
Diversity Clerk Program participants include Amakie Amattey, Richard Esparza, Forrest Gauthier, Jenny Kumosz, Rongyi Lin, Liuzhouyi Liu, Annie Louk, Aleina McGettrick, Amanda Meyers, Brittani Miller, Lan Milhomme, Wilfredo Navarro, Lauren Nelson, Keyana Payne, Mathias Rekowski, Luke Schaetzel, Gabrielle Tielman-Fenelus, Christian Vu, and Oniquca Wright.
Forrest Gauthier grew up on the Menominee Indian Reservation in northern Wisconsin. The product of a single parent home, Gauthier was the first in his family to graduate college. He studied community and environmental sociology at UW-Madison, and after graduation worked at the Menominee Tribal Clinic helping his community with obesity prevention and nutrition improvement — but wanted to do more so he enrolled in law school. He decided to apply for the State Bar’s program because his background is “rarely represented in law” and because “there is a need for people to understand Indian law and the policies affecting communities like mine.”
“My dad always challenged me to look at life beyond the reservation,” Gauthier wrote in his application. “I wonder if he knew that leaving would only strengthen my resolve to come back.”
Gauthier clerked at Boardman & Clark and described his experience as “great,” noting he helped the firm with legal research.
Other University of Wisconsin and Marquette University Law School students in the State Bar’s program come from as far away as China, Puerto Rico and Jamaica. Some students come from urban centers like Milwaukee, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. While others come from smaller cities, like Dubuque, Iowa.
Employers in the program include Alliant Energy Corp., Madison; Bell Moore & Richter, S.C., Madison; Boardman & Clark LLP, Madison; Church Mutual Insurance Co., Merrill, WI; David Werwie & Associates (State Farm), St. Paul, MN; Fiserv Inc., Brookfield; GE Healthcare, Waukesha; Hall, Render, Killian, Heath & Lyman PC, Milwaukee; Law Office of Odalo J. Ohiku, Milwaukee; Law Offices of Thomas Stilp, Milwaukee; Madison City Attorney’s Office; Milwaukee City Attorney’s Office; Northwestern Mutual, Milwaukee, WI; Quartz Health Solutions, Madison; Regal Beloit, Beloit; Rockwell Automation Inc., Milwaukee; SmithAmundsen LLC, Milwaukee; Stafford Rosenbaum LLP, Madison/Milwaukee; and the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, Madison.
Also at the Diversity Clerkship Program Reception at the State Bar Center, Stafford Rosenbaum LLP, a Madison-based law firm with an office in Milwaukee, was recognized by the State Bar as a Champion of Diversity for its 20-year commitment to the program.