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Twin Cities Law Firms being Diversified
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The law firm of Dorsey & Whitney, located in Minnesota, recently hosted a Twin Cities Diversity in Practice event for students from law schools in the area. The event allowed the law students to meet their mentors for the next six months. One of the newest mentors, Jennifer Coates, was waiting to meet her new mentee. Coates is a first-time mentor in the program, but went through it as a mentee of Dan Schulman. Schulman is the chief counsel of antitrust litigation at Gray Plant Mooty .

Coates has been a member of Diversity in Practice for three years now and she claims that the association between Twin Cities law firms and legal departments in corporations offer unique experiences for attorneys of color from the area’s four law schools. Those schools are Hamline University, William Mitchell College of Law and the universities of St. Thomas and Minnesota.

  
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Coates said the following, “The question is not ‘How do you help an attorney step through the door?’ It’s ‘How do you make an attorney successful once through the door?’”

In Minnesota, only 13 percent of attorneys are minorities, which is barely better than the national percentage of 11.6 percent, which was released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The majority of mentor programs are run through law firms according to Coates, although she says Diversity in Practice targets a specific demographic than attorneys given in law firms.
“The clear advantage is you get a look at multiple firms and can meet more people within different settings,” she said.

Valerie Jensen is the executive director of Diversity in Practice, who was one of the hosts of the event.

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“We really want to build a community outside academic life,” Jensen said. “We want to build the organic, informal relationships that will help practicing attorneys through law school.”

A third-year law student at St. Thomas, Touch Thouk, struggled through her first year of law school but had the following to say about the program:



“During my first year in law school I had overloaded my schedule and began to really lose confidence in myself,” Thouk said. “Then I went to an event between my first and second year where they reviewed my resume, and I was told I was ahead and doing really well. I was relieved.”

The mentor looking over her resume was Jackie Gunstad, an attorney recruiting coordinator for Oppenheimer Wolff & Donnelly. Gunstad would become her mentor within the program, helping Thouk become a mentor herself at both St. Thomas and Diversity in Practice.

“Multiple mentors gives me further perspective and experience along with more advice,” she said. “I sent Jackie a thank you letter a month back. We reconnected and met for coffee. It was funny; we both ended up saying we made each other’s day.”



 

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