When Keita Young left her job as a lawyer to raise children she never imagined taking an eleven-year break. When she decided to return to work, she wasn’t sure any law firm would hire her, after being out of practice for so long. That’s when she contacted her law school alumni association and found JPMorgan Chase’s ReEntry program. Now, Young is back in the work force as a vice president and assistant general counsel at JPMorgan (JPM), all thanks, she says, to the bank’s program.
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“The program really has changed my life,” says Young. “Without this program I don’t think I would have been able to re-enter workforce after eleven years without the support that I needed to be successful.”
Launched in 2013, the bank’s ReEntry program focuses on recruiting out-of-work talent who once worked in financial services, but left the industry to raise children or care for a parent. The program started with the asset management division and in 2014 expanded to the legal and investment bank divisions. Young is one of 26 women who’ve gone through the bank’s program over the past two years.
“We thought there was a pool of highly talented individuals we weren’t reaching through our normal recruiting mechanisms,” says Julie Lepri, senior vice president and general counsel of Consumer & Community Banking and Operations & Controls at JPMorgan, who also leads the ReEntry program for the bank’s legal department and is Young’s manager. “We thought this would be a great way to reintroduce people who left the practice of law.”
The bank offers VP-level, paid ten-to-fourteen-week internships that include training sessions aimed at re-acclimating participants to the workforce and acquainting them with JPMorgan. Sessions range from education on the financial services sector to using Microsoft office, to real assignments that would be done on the actual job. Each recruit is also given a mentor. The goal: make the internship a full-time position.
“We wanted to provide a seamless reintroduction into the practice of law,” says Lepri.
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JPMorgan mainly recruits through alumni associations of select schools like Harvard and Columbia. In 2015, prospective candidates can also visit JPMorgan’s career website to apply. The program is open to both men and women, but currently it is limited to New York-based opportunities. The bank is considering expanding its search for candidates to other schools and cities.
About one-in-ten mothers with a Master’s degree or more are staying home to care for their family, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of census data. Among mothers with professional degrees, such as medical degrees or law degrees, 11% are relatively affluent and are out of the workforce in order to care for their families.
JPMorgan is one of several other return-to-work programs banks have started in recent years. Goldman Sachs was the first bank to start the movement at the height of the financial crisis in 2008 when it launched its “Returnship” program, which targets folks who left the financial services industry to raise children and offers paid internships and mentors to acclimate participants to the present day workforce. Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse and MetLife also offer similar programs. Bank of America has a return-to-work program in the UK, which it’s currently piloting in the U.S.
Law firms are also climbing on board. Last year, nearly a dozen law firms jointly started offering return-to-work fellowships through a program called “OnRamp” designed to help people – primarily women – who left the workforce to start families get back into the legal profession.
For JPMorgan’s return-to-work program, prior work experience in the desired position is required. Though, JPMorgan looks at other experience as well from government service to other private sector and life experiences that informs the bank’s decision of the candidate. In Young’s case, while she took off eleven years from practicing law, she did other types of part-time work that allowed her to spend time with her children; including opening a children’s consignment shop and resource development for an educational nonprofit.
“They realize that we bring value to the workforce,” says Young. “Even though we’ve been out, we still have life experiences that can benefit the company.”
“I’m thrilled that Keita Young came to work on my team,” says Lepri. “To me it made the whole program worthwhile.”