One day before class during their 2L year, Jose Sierra ’85 turned to Emilio Estela ’85 and said, “It’s time.” They’d been thinking about creating the Latino American Law Students Association (LALSA) since arriving at Cornell, but it took until that moment to decide they were ready.
“It started as just the two of us,” said Estela, thirty-two years later, after giving one of two keynote addresses at the fifth annual Professional Development Boot Camp, sponsored by LALSA, the Black Law Student Association (BLSA), and the Native American Law Students Association (NALSA). “We saw a need, and from those humble beginnings, to stand at the podium yesterday and see how big it’s become, I was just floored.”
It was that kind of weekend.
It started with a networking reception at the Hilton Garden Inn on Friday night, March 11, before moving to campus on Saturday morning, waking up with a Law School breakfast and a day of panel discussions on how to build a career in big law, government, corporations, and public service. There were workshops on “How to Succeed as a Summer Associate,” “Acing Your Big Law Interviews,” and “How to Make the Most of Your Summer Recruiting Event,” complete with networking, strategy sessions, and mock interviews by alumni attorneys and legal recruiters.
For the three presidents—Krsna Avila (LALSA), Shamara James (BLSA), and Merritt Steele (NALSA)—the reasons for hosting a boot camp are clear: to provide an opportunity for students to ask their most difficult questions, to foster a network between current students and alumni, and to make the legal profession more accessible to a new generation of attorneys. That’s why Markeisha Miner used the metaphor of “lifting as we climb,” and why Gerald Torres followed with his own story of opening doors.
“It’s not just about taking ownership of your career, or succeeding on your own, but making sure that other members of your communities succeed as well,” said Miner, the dean of students, speaking at the closing lunch at Willard Straight Hall. “As we climb to higher heights in our careers, it is incumbent upon us as Latinos, African Americans, and Native Americans to pass on the lessons we have learned and the knowledge we have acquired to those who are coming after us.”
“It’s not enough to get a foot in the door,” said Gerald Torres, the Jane M.G. Foster Professor of Law, who gave Saturday’s keynote speech. “You have to maintain relationships with the people who helped direct you to law school, reaching all the way back to high school. You have to work with people in the Law School to make those connections back in your community. You have to keep pressure on people to make sure there are enough resources available so that people can afford to go to school. You have to do everything in your power to keep that door open.”
The LALSA, BLSA and NALSA Professional Development Boot Camp was sponsored by Shearman & Sterling, Paul Weiss, Baker Botts, Simpson Thacher, Cleary Gottlieb, Gibson Dunn, Latham & Watkins, Davis Polk, Weil, Perkins Coie, Cadwalader, Kirkland & Ellis, Willkie Farr & Gallagher, Proskauer, Kaye Scholer, Bond Schoeneck & King, Cravath, White & Case, Morrison Foerster, Freshfields, and Winston & Strawn.