March 05, 2024 Category: Our Impact Partnerships

Black Excellence in Law: A Discussion on Legal Career Paths 

In celebration of Black History Month, The Fresh Air Fund in partnership with Winston & Strawn LLP hosted their Fourth Annual Black Excellence in Law event. The afternoon included a discussion with moderator Luxon Glor Assistant Corporation Counsel at the NYC Law Department and three lawyers from different areas of expertise: Alicia Holden of the National Basketball Association, Austin Leach of Winston & Strawn and Stephanie Siaw of NYC Health + Hospitals. Students asked questions and gained insights into different career pathways within law, as well as the process of applying to and attending law school. 

“The panel was really interesting. It was helpful to understand that there’s more than one type of law,” shared Joannie, a high school senior who attended the event. “I’ve been interested in law since I was in fifth grade.” 

The event allowed students to gain a clearer perspective of the different types of legal careers. Joannie felt that a common perception of lawyers is of criminal lawyers defending their clients in court; however, the event highlighted more of the behind-the-scenes of a full range of legal careers. 

“I learned that every type of company needs lawyers. I never really realized that,” said Joannie. 

Stephanie Siaw, an associate counsel for NYC Health + Hospitals, works to advise on employment matters and uphold equal employment opportunity policies. She shared that there are a variety of trajectories one can take to become a lawyer and that it is common for people to shift the type of law they practice throughout their career. 

“I was delighted to talk about my law school experience and career path and hope the students left knowing that a law degree is attainable and that there is not any one correct path for a legal career,” said Stephanie. “For anyone considering a career in law, I’d advise them to seek out attorneys to network with and to seek mentorship from.” 

Joannie (left) and Phoenix (right) enjoyed learning more about the various career paths in law.

Panelists shared advice with attendees for navigating the world of law and emphasized the importance of asking for help. Their advice was for prospective lawyers to maintain a strong curiosity in learning more about the sector and not be afraid to ask questions. All three lawyers agreed that even after passing the bar exam, there was still a lot to learn in the industry. Future lawyers should feel comfortable not knowing the answers to everything and using their resources to solve problems. 

Representation has always been really important. Having a panel of people that you can see your reflection in them racially, it’s really inspiring.

Phoenix, 17

Between her passion for watching “Suits” and her participation in mock trial, Phoenix, a high school senior is interested in a career in law. Despite having a cousin working in corporate law, she explained that the panel clarified the different types of lawyers and legal career opportunities. Her experience with The Fresh Air Fund has played a role in her current career aspirations for a career in the law.

“The Fresh Air Fund has been a big part of my life. That makes me want to consider pursuing nonprofit law,” Phoenix shared. 

A big Fresh Air thank you to the panelists and our partner, Winston & Strawn LLP, for hosting the event!