Updated: Jan 8, 2021
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.
Whether you are one year into your legal career or you’ve been practicing for thirty years, make time to reach out to up-and-coming attorneys of color. Some of the ways you could support new lawyers of color include:
Become active in student outreach at a law school near you and help promising law students get fair access to internship and networking opportunities that can help them reach their full potential.
Connect with newly graduated attorneys of color to find out what struggles they’re facing and how you can help.
Bring new attorneys into your professional circle and help them gain the confidence they need to succeed.
Develop a mentorship program within your law firm as a means for cultivating young, talented attorneys of color in your specialty area.
Your personal history—both as a woman of color and as an attorney—can have a huge impact for good on both the individuals you mentor and the diversity and inclusivity of the legal community as a whole.
Becoming Active with Local Events and Groups
As an attorney and woman of color, you have the power and authority to change public perception and provide “weight” to causes that directly touch you and other minority groups. Being active in these kinds of organizations and events allows you to give back to the community, champion a great cause, and connect with those potential clients who are looking for an attorney who understands their history and culture from an insider’s perspective.
There are many ways you can engage with groups and events that are culturally diverse and community-centered. Attend and sponsor festivals, rallies, and other events in your area that celebrate or support minority groups. Participate in group marketing events that highlight diversity goals (i.e. a radio campaign or group print advertisement in favor of diverse legislation in your state). When your law firm becomes synonymous with these diverse and inclusive activities, you will find greater collaboration opportunities and build a stronger network.
By engaging in mentorship, supporting other women lawyers of color, and participating in community activities that promote diversity, everyone benefits from that connection—including your own law practice. As you offer your knowledge, experience, reputation, and legal skill to events and organizations that focus on increasing diversity, you will find that the communities you touch will become a strong “family” for your law firm, building your future business growth as well as making real change towards leveling the inequalities in the legal profession.
Meranda M. Vieyra is the owner of Denver Legal Marketing LLC. She is one of the most visible legal professionals in Colorado law with over 20 years of service in the Denver legal community. Her award-winning marketing firm has earned a strong reputation as the go-to for impactful, cost-effective legal marketing strategies. She has helped her clients secure coverage by well-known publications and has obtained local, national, and international awards on their behalf. Meranda enjoys working with solo practitioners and small law firms helping them attract recognition, promotion, and visibility to their practices. She also advises medium-sized and national law firms on business development and marketing strategy. Meranda is a lecturer and author on issues related to marketing including how lawyers can use LinkedIn effectively, how to develop a personal brand, and the promotion of legal services through community service. In 2018, she was honored to be named to the 40 Under 40 list by the Denver Business Journal and to be given the 10 Under 10 Award by the Metropolitan State University of Denver Alumni Association (top 10 alum of the decade). In 2019, Meranda was named in the Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Business by the Colorado Women's Chamber of Commerce and in the Top 100 young professionals in Colorado through the Gen XYZ Awards published by ColoradoBiz Magazine.
For more information, go to www.DenverLegalMarketing.com