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Meet 2023 Diversity Fellow Iesha-LaShay Phillips

Meet 2023 Diversity Fellow Iesha-LaShay Phillips

Iesha-LaShay Phillips, a 1L at Yale Law School, joins the firm this summer as one of our 2023 diversity fellows.

At Yale Law, Iesha serves as the lead founding editor of the  Yale Journal of Law & Liberation  and the lead editor of the  Yale Law and Policy Review. She also volunteers with the Yale Civil Rights Project, helping the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls advocate for the compassionate release of incarcerated women vulnerable to COVID. Previously, Iesha was a summer associate at Jones Day through the SEO Law Fellowship, a national program that places high-performing, underrepresented law students at top firms before the beginning of their first year. She graduated from Oberlin College with a B.A. in Law & Society and Africana Studies.

When did you become interested in pursuing law?

I am a low-income Black woman who experienced the criminal justice system first-hand at a young age. Seeing how the law could affect my communities made me want to pursue a career where I could advocate on behalf of them as well as other marginalized people who aren’t well-versed in legal matters.

You’ve done a lot of work in community organizing and social justice advocacy. How do you think this experience enhances your lawyering abilities?

It makes me a better advocate for clients. I’ve had to connect with people from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds and really understand what they’re going through, which is a skill I can bring to any sort of corporate legal work. It’s especially important in litigation, where you need to appeal to a diverse body of jurors as well as the judge. At Hicks Johnson, I’ll be able to see how experienced litigators approach the process of developing a narrative and presenting it to an audience in the courtroom.

What were your first impressions of Hicks Johnson?

I knew Hicks Johnson was the best choice for me because I could get hands-on experience from the very beginning. The firm’s lawyers see you as someone they can eventually promote and make partner, not just someone who’s there to push papers, and that’s reflected in the autonomy you’re given early on. I talked to one associate who told me about how they led a litigation case just two months after they joined the firm, which is incredible. You get to make a huge impact here.

Adam Dinnell was my point person during the interview process. We had a great conversation. I liked how genuine he was, and how passionately he talked about his work. He also painted a vivid picture of the firm’s environment: warm, inviting, a place where people meaningfully connect to produce the best solution for the client.

What’s one thing you hope to get out of your time at the firm?

Definitely an improvement in my legal writing skills. While I’ve done a lot of it in law school, I’d like to get feedback from someone who’s a practicing lawyer and doing the work I want to do. That kind of expert advice will help shape my written advocacy skills and the way I present arguments.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I hope to be doing complex commercial litigation while also devoting substantial time to pro bono work. Continuing to advocate for Black and brown communities is so important to me—I want to make sure I’m involved with local organizations and using my privilege as a lawyer to make a difference.

What does diversity in the legal profession mean to you? Why do you think programs like the diversity fellowship are important to implement?

Programs like the diversity fellowship are helping to make huge strides in the profession. They make it possible for more underrepresented students to enter the legal field and learn about what it’s really like to work as a practicing lawyer. They also ensure that these students—who often come from backgrounds that aren’t necessarily plugged into the corporate law world—build the networks that create a strong foundation for a successful legal career.

Hicks Johnson’s diversity fellowship offers two-weeklong summer fellowships to 1Ls from historically excluded backgrounds. Fellows work closely with our legal team on substantive matters, gaining firsthand insight into life at a boutique litigation firm.