The NEW Roundtable: Empowering Black Women Lawyers
I am passionate about seeing Black women attorneys thrive in their careers. Despite diversity and inclusion being a daily topic in the legal community, the needle is barely moving, particularly for Black attorneys, and even more particularly for Black women at large law firms. To combat this consistent problem, five years ago a group of law school friends and I cofounded The NEW (Network of Empowered Women) Roundtable, a nonprofit organization, to focus on influencing, empowering, and impacting members’ careers.
The NEW Roundtable’s mission is to empower Black women lawyers, enhance our careers, and influence the wider legal profession to improve the hiring, retention, and promotion of Black women. The members, who are in-house and outside counsel, and government employees, are intentional and strategic about developing each other’s careers through hiring, business development, professional promotion to board appointments, and public relations opportunities through speaking and publishing. The group also holds members-only events with general counsels, judges, and senior partners in the local legal community.
From the beginning, we decided to be unapologetic and public about supporting each other. Rarely a week goes by that The NEW Roundtable is not celebrating a success of one of its members. Our goal was to see each member flourish in her organization, enjoy longevity in the organization, and help create a pipeline.
The NEW Roundtable has had extraordinary success. It has seen numerous members promoted to partner (or equity partner); promoted in-house, including to the role of general counsel; win countless awards; and refer and hire each other for business opportunities. The NEW Roundtable’s members were instrumental in bringing the Diverse Attorney Pipeline Program (DAPP) to Dallas, which paired law firms with in-house legal departments to provide summer clerkships for women of color.
As the current social atmosphere demonstrates, allies are important and play a critical role in progressing Black women’s careers. The NEW Roundtable has worked to create a network of influencers (general counsels, members of the judiciary, and senior partners) who have bought in to the organization’s mission and are working together to enhance and grow the careers of Black women attorneys.
I remain hopeful that improvements will occur. I have many years (or decades) left in my career, and I believe we will see a day when it is normal to have more than one Black woman at the table.