US firm Edwards Wildman Palmer has launched a veterans placement programme aimed at introducing former armed service personnel to new careers in the civilian workforce.
The firm says it is among the first to launch such an initiative, which will involve sponsoring an internship for a veteran, and is running two pilot programmes in London and in its office in Hartford, Connecticut.
Edwards Wildman has kicked off the scheme in London with the recruitment of Andrew Bell, a current British Army officer whose active service military career was cut short by an operational injury.
Bell began his six-week internship programme in late June, citing the opportunity to experience first-hand the inner workings of an international law firm as his primary reason for taking up the opportunity. He has since worked in several of Edwards Wildman’s administrative functions including marketing, IT, HR, and finance and has also gained experience of substantive practice areas in law.
“I’ve spent nine years in the army and didn’t know as much as I’d like to know about what a job in an office entails,” said Bell. “In my first week here I worked in the marketing team and now I’m working in business intelligence. I then move on to finance and working with the fee-earners. My aim is to get as broad as experience of working in a law firm and an office as possible.”
Bell’s in-house liaison at Edwards Wildman is Jonny McDonald, an IP associate who came to the law after serving in the British Army for six years as an infantry officer which included being stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
McDonald said it should not come as a surprise that it is a US firm that has launched a veterans programme.
“It’s no secret in military circles that the US is very supportive of ex-serviceman,” said McDonald. “This is about making a practical difference with a short work experience placement over here and in the US.”
Bell argued that one of the reasons the armed forces tend to be viewed less positively in the UK is that proportionately fewer people serve here, adding that during the time of the Troubles in Northern Ireland it wasn’t seen as acceptable or indeed safe to wear uniform in public. However, he pointed out that over the past five years attitudes to the armed forces in the UK had changed and become more positive.
“I did my first tour of Afghanistan in 2008 and my second in 2010,” said Bell. “There was a qualitative difference when I came back the second time.”
Consequently in addition to training veterans looking to transition to the civilian workforce, Edwards Wildman says it hopes other law firms will also take an interest and offer similar programmes of their own.
A combination of Edwards Wildman partners and business support people, notably the US-based global director of finance and accounting Bob McGowan and IP partner John Olsen, a former member of the US airforce reserve, are the driving forces behind the initiative.
McDonald added that the initiative was not just about CSR.
“There’s the added value that we get ex-servicemen through the door who might be looking for a job,” he said. “The armed forces will be shrinking in the UK over the next couple of years and there’ll be a pool of talented people looking for new careers.”