Wednesday, July 8th marked the 17th annual “Strategies for Success Luncheon for Diverse Summer Associates, Summer Interns, and New Lawyers,” where a diverse panel of Boston-based lawyers met and spoke with an audience of seventy new and future attorneys about their own individual journeys and experiences within the legal profession.
The panel offered encouragement and valuable insight to these undergraduates, law students, and new lawyers as they face difficult career decisions. This year’s panelists included Adrian Bispham, an Assistant District Attorney in the Major Crimes Unit of the Suffolk County DA’s office, Christina Chan, an Assistant Attorney General, Salomon Chiquiar-Rabinovich, an attorney at HUD and also the current President of the Massachusetts Association of Hispanic Attorneys (MAHA), Jennifer Fang, an Associate at Goodwin Procter LLP, and Jennifer Watson, who serves as Corporate Counsel at Liberty Mutual. Kevin Nolan of Proskauer Rose LLP chaired the program for the BBA’s Diversity & Inclusion Section. The lunch and discussion was expertly moderated by Marguerite Fletcher of Fletcher Legal Consulting. Those in attendance learned that despite the challenges sometimes associated with the expression of one’s personal identity; including race, gender, and sexual orientation, each one of the panelists have been able to find success as lawyers in the Boston area.
The first topic to be discussed by the panel was to describe why the Boston area is a great place to practice. Since none of the panel members were native to the city of Boston, the audience was introduced to diverse opinions and point of views on their adopted city. Each panelist happily agreed that Boston is now much more diverse than they could ever have imagined and that the size and culture of this city has created an appropriately-sized legal community where reputation, connections, and personality truly matters. Jennifer Fang pointed out that Boston’s pace matches extremely well with the legal profession when compared to the laid-back lifestyle of California or the stress-filled life of New York City. Christina Chang made a note that Boston has always been at the forefront of education, innovation, and legislative changes, making it “a truly exciting place to be an attorney.”
When asked to discuss the challenges associated to their personal identities within the legal profession, the panel opened up about personal obstacles they have faced and the best way to overcome them. Whether these challenges related to race or gender, the entire panel agreed that making as many connections as possible is the best course of action to feel less isolated in the workplace. “Talking to people allows you to get to know someone on the individual level,” Adrian Bispham pointed out, “try not to perceive people a certain way without first getting to know them. You never know, you might have more in common than you can believe.” Moderator Marguerite Fletcher explained that while equality has been improving and will continue to do so, it is up to each individual to make the difference by networking and communicating about perceived social injustices with people similar to you in an attempt to help fix them.
Since most in attendance had yet to graduate from law school, Fletcher took time to ask the panel to give advice on the transition from school to practice. In general, the panel discussed that you truly need to understand what part of law you want to focus on. Christina Chan who graduated from Northeastern University School of Law described that Northeastern’s unique Co-Op program, which allows law students to participate in four paid or non-paid internships, allowed her to gain a sense of direction. Her advice: no matter which law school a student attends, apply to as many internships as possible—even if it extends the time it takes to graduate. Networking in and out of school was also heavily discussed.
As the event came to a close members of the audience began to ask their questions. With no surprise the students and recent-graduates all asked questions revolving around the same topic: How exactly do I get a job? Salomon Chiquiar-Rabinovich explained that while grades are extremely important to an interviewer, job-seekers need to act calmly and be themselves while interviewing. Extracurricular activities, Fletcher pointed out, are great ways to connect with the interviewer since they can provide potential discussion topics. Fang, who has served as an interviewer herself for some time, explained that “if you cannot advocate for yourself, how can I expect you to do the same for your clients?”
The 17th annual Summer Associates Luncheon was a great success and the guests left with useful and encouraging tips for taking on a legal career in Boston.