Cultural houses host panel on law careers

Four members of different minority groups discussed their experiences as legal professionals at the panel held Tuesday.
Four members of different minority groups discussed their experiences as legal professionals at the panel held Tuesday. Photo by Sohara Mehroze Shachi.

Minority students worried about succeeding in a law career can look to the experiences of others who have forged the way, according to the organizers of Tuesday’s “Minorities in Law” panel.

Five cultural centers, two undergraduate groups and three minority student groups at the Law School sponsored the panel Tuesday — the first in a sequence of panels designed to showcase the success of minorities in several professional areas. Four speakers representing the African-American, Asian-American, Latin American and Native American communities spoke to an audience of 70 students about their experiences and answered students’ questions. While the Undergraduate Career Services offered resources to the organizers and advertised the panel, they declined to co-sponsor the event.

“We hope that students will gain insight concerning what it takes to get ahead in the field,” said Alberto Navarro ’13, one of the student organizers. “In addition, the intimate reception will allow students to form meaningful connections with the panelists and current graduate students.”

Krystal Flores ’10, one of the main coordinators of the event, said that she hatched the idea after a former boss, Francisco Leal ’83, who was one of the panelists Tuesday, expressed interest in coming back to Yale and sharing his experiences as a minority in the field of law. Flores, a student coordinator for La Casa Cultural, said she reached out to the other cultural centers to begin planning in July.

The speakers talked about their experiences, focusing more on their career paths than on issues of race, and then held a question answer session with the students.

Jean Koh Peters, a clinical professor at the Law School, said that her father had decided she would become a lawyer when she was 12 years old. He envisioned her living at Yale, in a house next door to him and teaching corporate law. She has now taught at Yale for 20 years and lives in a house next door to her father, she said, but instead teaches child, refugee and asylum law.

Francisco Leal ’83 talked about veering from the traditional path his parents set for him. He said that not until after hearing about his acceptance to Harvard Law School did his father know he was not going to be an engineer.

“I forgot to tell him I changed my major,” Leal said, sheepishly.

Sam Deloria ’64, director of the American Indian Graduate Center, said he abstained from practicing law after a brief stint in the corporate world because he did not want to cater to his clients’ views.

“I didn’t want to deposit a paycheck then worry about the self-esteem part later,” he said.

Skawenniio Barnes ’10 said she hoped the event could supplement services offered by UCS. Flores said that at first, UCS representatives declined her request that they publicize or co-sponsor the event.

Director of Undergraduate Career Services Phil Jones said Tuesday afternoon that when a student first approached a representative of UCS, the student did not make clear that the event was sanctioned by the cultural centers, leaving UCS under the impression that the event was being coordinated by a student organization.

UCS is often approached by student organizations wishing to run a career-related event, Jones explained, and UCS will often advise these groups but does not advertise their events. Because UCS was uninvolved in the planning of the event, he said, he did not want to co-sponsor it.

“Until I spoke with [Director of La Casa Cultural Rosalinda] Garcia, and [Director of the Asian American Cultural Center Saveena] Dhall today, we were under the impression from the messages that we had received that these events were being planned by a student group,” Jones said.

After confirming the event with Garcia Tuesday, UCS immediately decided to publicize the event and sent out an e-mail Tuesday afternoon.

Flores said that the “Minorities in Medicine” panel is slated to be held in January.

Comments

  • Sally

    Why is there nothing about the 4th panelist?? SAM MENDENHALL: Senior Partner for Winston & Strawn. That the authors did not even mention his name, much less his incredibly inspiring story (the most inspiring, in my opinion) is plain ridiculous. Please acknowledge/apologize for the mistake in tomorrow’s paper.