Why did you choose to make Sidley your professional home?
I was in my second year of university and didn’t have a lot of experience in the legal profession. I knew the best way to obtain this was via a vacation scheme. Speaking with associates at Sidley and other firms at the time, Sidley immediately stood out for its diverse work offerings and collegiate atmosphere. This was reinforced during my vacation scheme, where associates and partners got me involved in several interesting matters, including an insurance syndicate dispute and legacy matters following the 2008 financial crisis. I enjoyed working on matters that I had read about in the papers, and was struck by the collegiality and graciousness of the lawyers who would take time out of their busy schedules to explain complex legal concepts to a university student. I quickly learnt these were common features at Sidley and was delighted to later join the firm as a trainee.
“Ultimately, Black History Month to me is celebrating and supporting black achievement.”
While you have been at Sidley, you have been very active with pro bono work – could you tell us a bit about what you enjoy about pro bono work and how it differs or complements your Sidley work?
I really enjoy the “human” aspect of it, despite how trite it may sound. I specialize in data privacy, so I’m usually advising companies on how to comply with data privacy regulation. Whereas with pro bono work, you’re applying the same professional skills to matters that are a little more close to home. You don’t realize how much of an impact pro bono work has on people’s day-to-day lives until you’re actually advising them — for example, on ensuring they get appropriate access to disability benefits as they may have not been previously aware of entitlement to other benefits which, as a result, has left them in precarious situations. I’m fortunate that Sidley has a real commitment to pro bono. Overall, this serves to complement my work advising companies on data privacy compliance. I’ll often think, the pro bono client was able to understand a similar point by using this method, so can I apply a similar method to help support the client’s business objectives.
What’s the biggest opportunity you see for creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace environment in the legal profession?
It’s clear that recent events in society have made the legal profession and other industries recognize the importance of having a more diverse workforce. Whilst the attention is welcome, particularly in the legal profession, there are still areas of improvement that I hope the greater spotlight can amplify. For example, the issue of retention of black associates within firms and the wider legal profession. When speaking to Maria Melendez, Sidley’s Chief Diversity Officer, she mentioned that clients were increasingly querying the diverse makeup of the counsel they instruct and making sure everyone gets a voice and a platform. This is a welcome step as clients come from all over the world and are different genders and ethnicities. Therefore, it’s important for this diversity to be reflected in the makeup of their legal counsel. Traditionally, I think the legal profession is seen in one particular image and it's encouraging to see positive changes that reflect society as a whole — not only race but different social statuses as well, both at the firm and client level.
What does celebrating Black History Month mean to you personally?
Ultimately, Black History Month to me is celebrating and supporting black achievement. I think it’s important to highlight the different success stories of black individuals in all walks of life. Given recent events, there’s been a greater focus on Black History Month this year. For me, this is welcoming and eye opening as it highlights not only black history, but parts of broader history not often taught in schools or wider society. I think this is increasingly important in today’s society as you’re often told that you have to “fit” into a certain image in order to do “well” in law firms, when it’s clear we’re not all one monolith nor do we all come from the same backgrounds. It’s encouraging to see someone who looks like you, and who perhaps has similar life experiences as you, in the workplace. It makes you think that you can also achieve the same goals.