DPP and Me: How the Diversity Pipeline Program Opened My New Career Path

The Diversity Pipeline Program (DPP) is an innovative legal internship and skills development program in tech, media, and telecom (TMT) law, created by members of the Federal Communications Bar Association (FCBA). The program provides 1L law students from historically underrepresented communities, and who are interested in TMT law and policy, with training and internship placements in law firms, the public and private sectors, nonprofits, and trade associations. The DPP is the inspiration of Rudy Brioché, Comcast’s vice president and global policy counsel based in Washington, D.C., and a member of the executive committee of the FCBA. Comcast and the FCBA got behind the idea early and actively shaped and launched the program.

The DPP includes a TMT law certificate program, covering foundational legal principles, policy, and regulations in areas such as intellectual property, technology, administrative law, antitrust, trademarks, copyright, and artificial intelligence, and other areas that fall under the TMT law umbrella. The TMT certificate is fundamental in preparing students to contribute to the complex legal issues they may encounter in their internships and in their future careers as attorneys. The program is as rigorous as it is rewarding in exposing students to the foundations of tech and telecom law, and in providing opportunities for future career growth.

I first heard about the DPP from Alan Galloway, a communications law attorney at Davis Wright Tremaine (DWT) who is now one of my colleagues and mentors. I had reached out to Alan to learn more about his regulatory telecom practice and DWT’s nationally renowned communications law group. Serendipitously, the week I met with Alan was also the deadline to apply for the DPP; if Alan had not mentioned it and encouraged me to apply, I would have likely missed what turned out to be an amazing new career opportunity. DWT has also been a strong supporter of the DPP from the beginning.

At that time, I was working in government and regulatory affairs at Comcast. This was also the case when I started law school as an evening student at Seattle University School of Law. During law school, I took three extensive leaves of absences from work to pursue my legal career, including two summers off to work at DWT as a summer associate. I also took time to participate in the DPP, which was fundamental in leading to my 1L internship placement at DWT. This was extremely important for me because I knew I wanted to work in communications law at a firm like DWT.

And each time I had to take time away, my team at Comcast not only supported my decision but helped cover my work until I returned. Each semester, my former boss, Marianne Bichsel, VP of Comcast’s external affairs for the Pacific Northwest region, also made sure I was able to take two full weeks off during final exams, which was critical to my success in law school. So not only was I getting to work on communication law issues year-round, I was also able to enjoy the law school experience, focus on finals, and secure a position with DWT, where I currently work.

What made my law school experience turn out so well are the people who supported me throughout. For me, that has been the case since I decided to apply to law school; I had the full support of my employer since day one. I have also had incredible support from many of my SU Law professors, who have not only helped by offering advice and mentorship from my first semester to the last, but often also worked with my schedule whenever I had to travel for work. While not impossible, it is typically difficult for non-traditional and evening part-time law students, like me, to leave their full-time jobs for externships and summer associate positions. And, as we know, such positions are vitally important and often lead to permanent positions after graduation.

I love working in communications law because it’s an area of law that is constantly changing. I am never bored, and my daily work includes a perfect combination of policy, law, and regulatory work. I first discovered that I’m a huge regulatory and telecom nerd when I was working at the Washington State Legislature and had a chance to work on some utility regulations and technology issues. What cemented my decision was a conversation I had with Rhonda Weaver, Comcast’s vice president of state government affairs, who took the time to share with me some of the types of issues she worked on.

TMT law encompasses a group of legal practices that are considered among the most innovative and emerging areas of law—and I can attest to that, having worked in this industry for over five years and still discovering new issues every day. So, by the time I got to law school, I already knew I liked this area of law. But that came from both talking to people who work in the industry and getting job experience covering those legal issues. This is not typical for most law students and that is what makes programs like DPP even more important.

No prior experience is required to apply, offering students an opportunity to be exposed to TMT in their first year of law school. The certificate program includes an intensive writing component, which I found to be one of the best opportunities to receive feedback from practitioners—and something that is not offered in many law school legal writing courses, which tend to be more academic and less practical.

Hands-on experience remains one of the best ways to learn if you can truly see yourself practicing in a particular field of law. Legal theories taught in the classroom do not capture what practice is like, and an interesting area of law to study in class can be very different in practice. Programs like the DPP are an excellent way to expose yourself to areas of law in which you are interested but still unsure whether you would enjoy practicing.

Through a program like the DPP, you can get the exposure and training to prepare for work in TMT areas of law and be part of a network of some of the best legal practitioners in the country, including former and current FCC and FTC commissioners, attorneys general, judges, and renowned legal practitioners who support the program and provide ongoing mentorship to students in the DPP.