Law student affinity mentoring forges the path to diversity and inclusion in Boston

Issue January/February 2017 By Alvin Benjamin Carter III

Mentoring is important in any profession. This is especially true in the legal profession because there are specific sectors and practice areas that have unique politics, issues, and norms. I am happy to learn from anyone who wants share their insights, but I also find it important to learn from professionals who have an interest in or a relation to the affinity group(s) that I identify with. This is important because law students have to deal with more than exams and making the best of internship opportunities. There are specific issues facing law students who are of color, women, part of the LGBTQIA community, of various faiths, or any combination of the above. Being able to talk candidly with professionals who understand your scenario at a level past empathy forges pathways to a sense of belonging and community.

It is important for attorneys that are members of affinity groups to make themselves available not only to help law students understand the profession, but also help them learn about and form strategies for the realities they will face when they become attorneys. Law students are less likely to leave the region if they can see what they are getting into in a given market. Advice combined with having an idea of the potential peaks and valleys of being a lawyer in Boston is beneficial because it lessens professional uncertainty and allows room for good will to build in the legal community.

Mentors also benefit from this because they are increasing their own demographic and diversifying the profession in the Greater Boston Area. I am lucky to have mentors that are like me and able to help me, and I am attempting to do my part by mentoring three 1Ls through the Black Law Student Association at Northeastern. One of my mentees, who is not struggling academically, contemplated leaving Boston because of the lack of diversity. She later told me that my advice (along with the advice of others) on where to seek community helped decide to stay Boston.

Boston law firm diversity and inclusion demographics from the NALP Directory suggests it may be difficult to place attorneys that are part of an affinity group with every law student that is open to their guidance. That is why it is important for attorneys who may not identify with a specific group to find a way to support diversity and inclusion efforts at their firm or company. Take the time to become educated ("get woke") on the affinity group specific needs and situations. Take that knowledge and become a resource and, as a result, a legal community builder. Think about the intersection of these groups. Everyone can benefit from a mentor, but the legal community can reach its diversity and inclusion goals if everyone steps up and helps to forge a path for their future colleagues.

Alvin Benjamin Carter III is a second year law student at Northeastern University School of Law, Co-chair of the MBA Law Student Section Council, First Circuit Executive Lt. Governor for the ABA Law Student Division, Innovation Director at Hiphop Archive and Research Institute at Harvard University, and an independent museum and gallery consultant. He is currently on winter co-op at Sennott & Williams in Boston.

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