Morgan Lewis Panel at Duke Law
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Duke University

Opportunity Knocks, Duke Law and Morgan Lewis Answer

Duke Law alumna Michelle Park Chiu J.D./LL.M.’06 blends her alma mater with her professional life as a lawyer by cocreating a program helping new generations of diverse students enter the legal field.

Michelle Park Chiu J.D./LL.M.’06, was working as a lawyer for Morgan Lewis for several years and wondered why there were not more Duke Law graduates joining her firm. 

Despite the positive culture and work she was experiencing at her firm, Chiu wondered why more Duke students weren’t choosing Morgan Lewis. With her experience at the university being a positive one for her professional career, she decided to focus her recruiting efforts on specifically encouraging Duke Law students to get to know Morgan Lewis. In discovery of what Duke students would benefit from, she found ways her firm could offer extra support and guidance to first-year law students. Consequently, the 1L Career Skills Workshop at Duke Law was launched.

“Something important that we do is work with the affinity groups at Duke Law, like 1GP, APALSA, LALSA, and BALSA, and others” says Chiu. “Through our conversations, we learned there were two goals students wanted to accomplish; how to become better interview candidates and how to build relationships with attorneys.

The program offers two types of one-on-one workshops for 1L students. One offers a pairing with a Morgan Lewis representative to go through a mock interview, providing feedback to the student at the end. The other focuses on practical help with editing resumes and cover letters. She notes it’s important to remember not everyone in law school had the same opportunities to learn professional development skills. Many come from various professional, academic, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, which can make law school an overwhelming place. The program strives to provide students with training and advice on how to develop their professional opportunities, especially for students from underrepresented communities who may not have had access to such training previously. 

Relationship building and networking is a skillset and one that is never too early to develop says Chiu. An integral part to the success of the workshop is their targeted audience being 1L students who participate in affinity organizations. By developing these relationships early in their time at Duke, she notes how the workshop can maximize their help and resources to students in an intentional way. 

“We make sure the advice that we’re giving is helpful and not just filler or temporary,” she says. “We are giving people ways to build relationships instead of just saying to do it.”

Authenticity and being genuine is at the core of how connections work. In law, connections are immensely important as it serves as the basis for many of the relationships built and the work that’s done, she says.

“Your clients need to trust you to do their legal work and to always look in their best interests. Who do you turn to for that? People that you trust.”

Connections and trust can go far, according to fellow Duke Law alumni David Yates J.D./LL.M.’21. As the first student to go through the program, work for Morgan Lewis and now comes back to Duke to volunteer, Yates refers to the experience as his break into the legal world.

“It gave me my start,” says Yates. “The nice thing about this is that even if I hadn’t ended up at Morgan Lewis, it gave me the skillset to apply and present myself to other firms.”

Yates was paired with Chiu for his mock interview workshop, and they connected soon after. As a first-generation student and part of the Latin American Law Student Association (LALSA), he notes how the workshops dedication to diverse groups is genuine and a large part of why he comes back to help new students. 

“For someone from an underrepresented background, this workshop gave me the opportunity to hone my skillset,” says Yates. “Even after the fact, it’s offered me a way to remain connected to Duke and the affinity groups.”

With the success of almost 8 years and over a hundred students, the program continues to change the trajectory for Duke Law students. Chiu, now serving on the Law Alumni Association Executive Committee and Duke Law's Diversity & Inclusion Committee, reflects on how the workshops have proved to be rewarding more than anything. Whether it's a small comment of appreciation from a student who participated in a mock interview or seeing students be hired at Morgan Lewis or otherwise, it's worth everyone's while.

“I’m very proud of our community,” says Chiu. “Seeing our clients, attorneys and the students all receive something positive out of this is incredibly inspiring.”

The 2024 program is set to take place early this year, a slight change from years past. Interested if the change in timing will alter any components, Chiu assures they will always provide the services and opportunities the workshop has always offered. As an alumni-led program, she credits Duke Law’s supportive partnership and her firm for always having the same goal: the continued success of diverse law students.

“You can go around the country and always find people to connect with from Duke. And because of that, I think that is what really makes our program successful.”