ND Law implements new DEI programming series to connect students and law firms

Author: Denise Wager

Includingyou 2022

This fall, Notre Dame Law School debuted a new series of events called “Including YOU!” to create more opportunities for law students from communities underrepresented in the legal profession to network with leaders of law firms and other legal employers from across the country.

The series featured a variety of social events such as business dinners, cocktail receptions, and breakfasts to connect students and employers. Each event was sponsored by a different legal employer and included Johnson & Johnson, Jackson Walker, Bricker & Eckler, Faegre Drinker, Dinsmore & Shohl, Waller Law, Reed Smith, Benesch, Polsinelli, Locke Lord, and Ropes & Gray among others.

These intimate events provided a unique chance for employers to come to Notre Dame and network with students from the Law School’s many affinity student organizations.

The affinity groups include the Black Law Students Association, Hispanic Law Student Association, Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, First Generation Professionals, LGBT Law Forum, Women’s Legal Forum, Native American Law Students Association, Middle Eastern Law Students Association, and the Military and Veteran Law Society.

Max Gaston, the Law School’s director of diversity, equity, and inclusion, said, “The networking opportunities were a way to strengthen our shared DEI goals with our law firm partners, and promote efforts to increase diversity among top law firms by directly connecting firms with top-tier candidates from communities underrepresented in the legal profession.”

The series began with a business dinner organized by the Law School’s Career Development Office and sponsored by Ropes & Gray during Welcome Week for incoming first-year law students in August.

Another event featured Kevin Cokley, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, who gave a presentation on his research on the imposter phenomenon and the impact of imposter feelings on attorneys and students of color in higher education.

Cokley discussed his research further with Gaston on an episode of the Law School’s DEI Podcast.

The “Including YOU!” series also featured an affinity group student lunch organized by Bricker & Eckler during the Black Law Students Association Homecoming Weekend in September.

Rhonda Talford Knight, chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer at Bricker & Eckler in Columbus, Ohio, said, “It was an important opportunity for us to connect with students and share our DEI efforts to drive increasing representation in the legal industry amongst mid-size firms and with a stellar university that is not in our backyard.”

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The largest event in the series was the Meet the Employers Diversity Fellowship networking event in October. Thirty-seven law firms from across the country participated, and firm representatives, including many Notre Dame Law School alumni, engaged with students and discussed their diversity initiatives and fellowships.

Caroline Capili, a graduate of ND Law’s Class of 2022 and an associate with Jackson Walker in Houston, said that the firm’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is seen through its internal and external initiatives that help shape the legal profession’s future by participating in events such as the “Including YOU!” series.

“We connected with current students to discuss the importance of diversity and our shared goal of creating a more inclusive environment for all attorneys,” Capili said. “As a recent graduate of the Law School, it has been a joy to watch the impactful programming we have to prepare our students better to become ‘a different kind of lawyer.’”

First-year student Aisha Bah attended events for Reed Smith, Jackson Walker, and Dinsmore & Shohl.

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“I found that the low-key mingling atmosphere helped relax things. The people at the firms were super forthcoming, and I could tell they wanted to give us genuine insight into the practical considerations we should have in mind as we embark on our professional journeys,” said Bah. “The most valuable part is that I’ve kept several of the connections I made. It was a great opportunity to find out if you mesh with a firm and get your foot in the door if you can see yourself there in the future.”

Dekan Ekpo, a first-year student who attended events with Dinsmore & Shohl and Ropes & Gray, said, “I found the ‘Including YOU!’ events extremely valuable. It was great to network and meet with prospective employers and I am thankful Notre Dame facilitated this opportunity for students. As we prepare to launch our careers, it was helpful and a phenomenal experience.”

Employers interested in collaborating with the Law School to advance efforts of diversity, equity, and inclusion and connect to Notre Dame Law students should contact Max Gaston, Director of Law School Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, at mgaston1@nd.edu, or Heidi Baguer, Recruiting Program Manager for the Law School Career Development Office, at hbaguer@nd.edu.

See the full album of photos from the “Including YOU!” series.