A unique summer program for law students working at local Birmingham law firms hits several sweet spots for Tara Plimpton, Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary at Regions, and her team.
Since her arrival at the bank in 2020, Plimpton has established a few key priorities that have become mantras in her organization: talent development; diversity, equity and inclusion; and collaboration within the local legal community.
In law school you learn the law, but you don’t necessarily learn how to be a lawyer. I think it’s important to expose these future lawyers to as many areas of law as possible, so they’ll have a better understanding of what career opportunities they have after graduation.Tara Plimpton, Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary at Regions
The Legal team recently hosted a group of seven law school students who are spending their summers as law clerks for Birmingham firms for a corporate law ‘mini term’. The students were paired with Regions Legal mentors for a crash course in life as an in-house lawyer.
“In law school you learn the law, but you don’t necessarily learn how to be a lawyer,” Plimpton said. “I think it’s important to expose these future lawyers to as many areas of law as possible, so they’ll have a better understanding of what career opportunities they have after graduation.”
Mission accomplished, according to Megan Wong, a student at the University of Alabama School of Law who is a summer clerk at Baker Donelson. “In-house is a really good option. I really didn’t understand this was a viable route you can take in your legal career,” she said.
During their time at Regions, she and the other students sat in on meetings that included many business and support groups across the bank. They enjoyed learning how different areas of the bank collaborate with Legal. “I had no idea how critical the Legal department is in a corporate environment,” said Alisha Clay, a clerk at Burr Forman who also attends the University of Alabama School of Law.
When it comes to recruiting, hiring and developing legal talent, a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, is paramount to the Regions Legal team. With Plimpton’s leadership, they are pursuing Mansfield Rule Legal Department certification, which is modeled after the Mansfield Rule for law firms, a well-known national movement to increase diversity in legal recruitment and promotion practices.
“It’s especially important in the legal profession that lawyers reflect our community,” said Andrew Nix, Chief Governance Officer at Regions and leader of the Legal department’s Culture & Equity team. “The Regions Legal team is committed to expanding opportunities for groups who have been underrepresented in the legal profession, including women, racial and ethnic minorities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and people with disabilities.”
I enjoyed having a woman mentor at Regions and learning about her career experience. Naomi Migoya, a student at the University of Mississippi School of Law
The seven law clerks who did a stint at Regions are from historically underrepresented groups, which was meaningful for many of the students.
“I enjoyed having a woman mentor at Regions and learning about her career experience,” said Naomi Migoya, a student at the University of Mississippi School of Law serving as a clerk for Baker Donelson. “She was open and honest about the highlights and the challenges of being a woman in a historically male-dominated field and it was helpful to hear her perspective.”
Other participants noted how much they enjoyed similar conversations with their mentors, including tips on balancing career and motherhood.
Besides their mentors and Legal department leadership, the students enjoyed some face time with company executives, including Kate Danella, head of the Consumer Banking group at Regions, and Kimberly Robichaud, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion program manager.
Spending time with Head of Community Affairs Leroy Abrahams was a particular treat for these community-minded students.
“Learning about Regions’ commitment to the community was a highlight,” said Lizz Campbell, a student at Cumberland School of Law working at Maynard Nexsen this summer. “The intentionality of the programs the bank supports and the impact – that was really impressive to hear.”
Even though it’s only two weeks, this program makes such a positive impact. Katie Loggins, Regions Legal Services manager
Tionna Tate, a University of Alabama School of Law student also clerking at Maynard Nexsen, agreed. “I enjoyed hearing about the work of the Regions Foundation, especially around their investment in education. I was also interested in Regions Bank’s participation in The Birmingham Promise. It really made an impression on me and made me realize the importance of pro bono work.”
Clearly the brief time at Regions was a positive experience for the students, but the Legal team also benefitted.
“Even though it’s only two weeks, this program makes such a positive impact,” said Katie Loggins, Regions Legal Services manager who works closely with the law firms to manage this program. “Our Legal team is made up of lawyers with such varied backgrounds and experiences. Most of us never thought when we were in law school that we’d end up working for a bank. But the work Legal does is interesting and really diverse – I love that we get to share that and introduce these future lawyers to what it’s like to practice law at a company like Regions.”
Loggins and the team plan to stay in touch with the students and make themselves available for additional career advice as they continue their education. The team will also be refining the program and begin preparing for next year’s participants.