Aligning Interests: Fellowship Program Connects Students with Tech Law
Summer Fellowship Diversity Program Matches Diverse Students with Tech Law Environments
By Lori Woehrle
John Nadolenco ’95, partner at Mayer Brown in Los Angeles, has a civil litigation practice focused on high-stakes cases and class action defense. He does a lot of listening.
So when two people asked him for help with different projects and he saw a mutual connection point, he listened harder, and came up with a plan.
“Our firm does a lot of work with technology firms in Silicon Valley,” Nadolenco says. Many clients put a priority on using a diverse array of lawyers to represent them, and Mayer Brown was able to meet that need.
One client in particular—eBay—asked Nadolenco to partner with them to build a bigger pipeline of diverse lawyers in technology. This conversation happened just as Nadolenco joined the American University Alumni Board and met Dean Camille Nelson, who was looking for ways to develop the law school’s reputation in technology law while promoting the school’s diverse talent in Silicon Valley. Nadolenco was well aware of the diversity among AUWCL’s student body and saw a way to connect the two interests.
Working with eBay and Nelson, Nadolenco created the Summer Fellowship Diversity Program, under which a student from AUWCL is paid by Mayer Brown to work jointly for eBay for five weeks and the firm for five weeks, all over the course of a single summer.
“John stood out as a person who could accomplish just about anything,” says Nelson. “He is a dedicated member of our alumni community who is willing to use his expertise, time, and resources to help elevate the law school. He’s an inspirational leader and we are the better for his engagement.”
The benefits of the fellowship program are many. The student gains experience working as in-house counsel in a large technology company and as outside counsel with a firm.
'They Earned Their Seat'
Patricia Svilik, senior counsel at eBay, says her company has fourstudent-facing goals for the program:
- providing critical work experience and great legal training;
- providing stellar resume credentials over a summer;
- providing a network of contacts as mentors; and
- building their confidence to succeed.
“They earned their seat at the table,” Svilik says. “We want them to have the confidence that they belong here.”
In addition to the Mayer Brown summer program, eBay collaborates with other tech companies in the Law in Tech Diversity Collaborative to bring in a group of diverse legal interns who have the opportunity to build relationships with interns and attorneys across those companies to create the foundation for an expanded network of professional contacts.
“At the heart of this program are both the students themselves and a strategic play to increase diversity and inclusion in the legal profession,” she says. “For students, participating in this program is a long-term investment in their career development. We want to set these smart students up for success by giving them the skills, the credentials, the networks, and the confidence to propel them in their legal careers and ascend the ranks.”
Mayer Brown and eBay selected AUWCL’s Britteny Leyva, then a 2L student, for the fellowship in summer 2019. She found it to be a“life-changing experience.”
Leyva saw a posting for the program through the law school’s Office of Career and Professional Development and applied. Nadolenco spent a day on campus interviewing candidates. The program’s coordinators then flew Leyva to Los Angeles to meet again with Nadolenco, other partners, and associates. The next day Leyva flew to eBay to meet with Svilik and her colleagues. “It was a whirlwind—like a dream. This was all happening in the middle of the semester during my transition as editor-in-chief,” she recalls.
Leyva had developed an interest in technology law after writing about LabMD, Inc. v. Federal Trade Commission, a data breach case, for the Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law, the law review for which she is editor-in-chief. Leyva is interested in technology law because it is “so new that even the judges are trying to figure it out.”
“Brittney displays precisely the type of intellectual curiosity that we want to foster. She is determined to use her knowledge, experience, and insights to take on the pressing issues of tomorrow,” says Nelson. “I am looking forward to following her trajectory—the sky is the limit.”
The summer fellowship “exposed me to people at the height of their careers and the best in this area of law,” Leyva says. She was able to start forming a network of mentors immediately.
The experience also helped Leyva narrow her interest in tech law to data privacy. At eBay she did research on how information and data are shared, an experience that helped her at while at Mayer Brown during the second half of the summer.
“Britteny’s intellectual curiosity, sharp legal mind, work ethic, and open-mindedness made her an excellent contributor to eBay’s legal team,” said Svilik.
Added Nadolenco, the partners at Mayer Brown “loved her.” Though the paid internship was called a fellowship, and not a traditional summer associate position, the partners wanted to extend her a job offer.
Leyva, who is Mexican-American, was raised by a single mother in Los Angeles. She came to AUWCL in part because she wanted to live in the city where most law is created and argued over. She is a spring 2020 intern for U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).
But she is headed back to Los Angeles this summer after graduation, when she joins Mayer Brown as a litigation associate. “I am beyond excited to return to my hometown and litigate alongside the best in the industry,” Leyva said.