Originally posted on the Colorado Women's Bar Association blog.
Being an attorney is about connecting. Whether it is with other lawyers, a judge, or a potential client, the best lawyers know how to find common ground and build trust. Women attorneys of color have a unique depth of empathy in this regard, often because they have felt the sting of being an “outsider” at some point in their life. Combating the stereotypes, generalizations, and implicit bias many well-meaning people have towards your gender, skin color, race, or native language can be daunting but it can also be empowering.
This struggle can lead to an inner strength that is both captivating and powerful. Identifying how your culture has formed you and using that knowledge to connect and help people from diverse backgrounds is key for maximizing the power of your personal story within the legal community.
Thriving in Diverse Organizations
As a person of color, I have found that professional organizations focused on heritage, cultural, and sexual identity to be some of the most inclusive and interconnected organizations I am a part of. Why is this? Oftentimes people of color and those who are underrepresented in the legal community find a “family” in these kinds of organizations.
This is both good as a networking tool and as a means for personal growth.
Although there are many marketing tools you can use to build your brand awareness, recent research from Clio indicates that 59% of clients seek out referrals when selecting a lawyer. This makes establishing a network vital for building your law firm. By becoming an active member of organizations like these, you not only connect with lawyers from diverse backgrounds, you can build relationships to help mentor younger attorneys, find mentors for your own law firm, and find a safe place to learn and grow as a lawyer.
Building on Common Ground
Some women of color struggle to determine which organizations are appropriate for them to join as they seek to expand their community and reach. While the struggles faced by minorities differ slightly from group to group, remember this basic fact of humanity: there is more that unites us than divides us. Only 6.9% of equity partners in law firms are racial or ethnic minorities, according to the National Association for Law Placement and that number is smaller for women attorneys of color. This inequity impacts everyone in a racial or ethnic minority group, and we all have a stake in changing it.
You do not have to limit yourself to associations and groups that serve your minority and background only—look beyond the limits of your own circle. As an Asian attorney, do not be afraid to reach out to the African American Bar Association to find out how you can support their efforts and lift them up. If your city has an active branch of the South Asian Bar Association, consider becoming an active participant even if you are Latina. When we lift up others, we lift up ourselves at the same time.
Supporting New Attorneys in Your Community
Establishing yourself as a new attorney is intimidating, and the journey becomes even more overwhelming when you are trying to get your foot in the door of a profession that seems to have limited space. This is one of the key areas women lawyers of color should be supporting and lifting each other.
Read the full article on the Colorado Women's Bar Association blog.