SVUDL Salutes Champions of the Legal Pipeline Challenge

Volume #3, Week of October 1, 2018

Matthew Irwin.jpg

Matthew Irwin, Associate General Counsel/Senior Director at Gap, Inc.

In August, Matthew Irwin hosted 15 SVUDL students at the headquarters of Gap, Inc. in San Francisco--an opportunity to go behind the scenes of one of the world’s most iconic brands. The visit was a huge hit for the students, and it left Irwin inspired by what the students are gaining from SVUDL. He did not participate in debate or moot court in high school. But in hindsight he wishes he had because of the significant communication skills, verbal advocacy, self-representation and self-confidence that result from this activity. As he has risen through the ranks in his career, Irwin has experienced firsthand the ways in which strong communication skills may positively impact professional advancement. He commends SVUDL for giving its students the opportunity to access this level of game-changing career and life preparation.

Irwin was fortunate at a young age to have a successful attorney act as a role model and mentor so he understands how helpful direct access to professionals can be when you are young and seeking guidance, advice and validation regarding your career aspirations. With this as a top priority, Irwin was selective about  the colleagues he invited to participate in the SVUDL visit. He wanted to ensure students had the opportunity to meet and interact with professionals who mirrored their diverse ethnic and gender backgrounds and represented a variety of career paths and experiences. By bringing together a group of colleagues who work across different departments and functions of the company, the experience  exposed the students to the broad range of work performed by in-house attorneys and other business partners at Gap, Inc. In short, the ultimate goal was to provide the students with the opportunity to see what’s possible in their future.

What It Takes

Irwin’s path to becoming an attorney and to his current role was not linear. A burgeoning interest in pursuing a legal career first as a professional sports attorney, and later as a political campaign consultant, led him to attend Georgetown University law school to be in the epicenter of national politics and lawmaking. When he speaks about the study and practice of law, Irwin is bullish about the strong foundation of skills and training that makes lawyers excellent problem solvers and builds perseverance, mental fortitude, and a solid work ethic.

On the topic of diversity in the legal profession, Irwin described the work of the company’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee to support diversity within its ranks through pipeline and pro bono programs. He’s proud of the efforts by his legal department colleagues to impact diversity in law firms through the criteria it sets for its preferred vendor network. The company’s charitable arm, the Gap Foundation, also works in parallel with the company’s overall diversity goals through its grant making and support, focused on youth and women. Irwin is hopeful that corporate counsel may continue to support diversity in meaningful ways in law firms with whom their companies do business. And though he knows that Gap, Inc. is not alone in this effort, he gave a special shout out to Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Willie Hernandez, its Vice President and Deputy General Counsel (SVUDL Board Chair), for being the leaders of the pack.

SVUDL students preparing for the start of the 2018 debate tournament season

SVUDL students preparing for the start of the 2018 debate tournament season

SVUDL students at Gap, Inc. headquarters in San Francisco in August with Matthew Irwin

SVUDL students at Gap, Inc. headquarters in San Francisco in August with Matthew Irwin

Debate Instills Confidence

Irwin believes when you own your voice and can stand in front of audiences and speak genuinely and confidently, the perception of you as a speaker is powerful; this is admiration and advice he wants SVUDL students to embrace and remember. We proudly salute Matthew Irwin and Gap, Inc. for championing the SVUDL Legal Pipeline Challenge!

Legal Pipeline Challenge

Every year since its inception, SVUDL has amassed a coalition of leaders across the legal profession to make generous financial contributions to support SVUDL’s debate teams in partner schools and after-school programs through the Legal Pipeline Challenge (LPC).

The LPC is a meaningful opportunity for law firm partners and corporate counsel to address, on a micro level, some of the inequalities in access that exist to educational enrichment opportunities in Silicon Valley. By supporting SVUDL, attorneys  can help extend the skills and power of debate to talented and motivated low-income high school students and inspire some of these students to consider future careers in the legal profession.

The 2018 Legal Pipeline Challenge will take place from October 15-26. For more information, please contact Willie Hernandez, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and SVUDL Board Chair, at