SVUDL Salutes Champions of the Legal Pipeline Challenge
Volume #1, Week of September 17, 2018
With more attorneys outside the U.S. than in the U.S., diversity is literally in the DNA of the law firm of White & Case. The firm stands by their mission to build upon the strength of the diversity of their lawyers and staff in order to create an environment where everyone is encouraged, assisted and inspired to reach their potential. White & Case believes that diverse teams deliver the best outcomes and results for the client. Their goal to be a leader to increase diversity in the legal profession globally has been recognized by many, including their fifth consecutive No. 1 ranking on The American Lawyer’s 2018 Diversity Scorecard. When White & Case Silicon Valley partner Eric Lancaster learned about SVUDL and its Legal Pipeline Challenge (LPC) from SVUDL Board Chair Willie Hernandez, he was one of the first and enthusiastic members of the legal community to step up to help, and he has galvanized tremendous support from his colleagues at the firm to support the LPC every year since its inception.
A Leap of Faith
Eric participated in a peer moot court program in high school, and as he was preparing to enter law school after earning undergraduate degrees in Economics and Chemistry, he recalled his moot court experience that revealed his penchant for verbal advocacy. He has now skillfully combined all his academic interests into an accomplished career as a patent litigator. But Eric had to blaze his own path to becoming an attorney, and this is something that gives him a special way of relating to SVUDL students. Eric is from a small town “in the middle of nowhere in far northeast California” and did not have any attorneys in his family and his only exposure to law was through an undergraduate roommate whose parents were attorneys. While he was able to obtain some guidance and advice from his roommate’s parents and some limited advice from his college professors, he took a leap of faith to becoming an attorney. Eric believes the sense of not seeing yourself in a profession which often occurs when you don’t know anyone in that profession and the lack of access and exposure to career opportunities are some of the biggest obstacles to achieving diversity in the legal profession.
Each One Reach One
Programs like SVUDL are important ways to counteract this. But the work does not stop at the pipeline or law school. Retention of attorneys is also incredibly important, and sometimes that means reaching out and giving both mentorship and straight talk to new junior attorneys from diverse backgrounds. On a number of occasions, Eric has seen young, bright attorneys potentially lose opportunities to advance at work, not because they were lacking intellect or skills, but because they did not understand how to navigate a law firm environment. Whenever he has the opportunity, Eric reaches out to be a mentor and an “interpreter” who can help translate the codes and verbal cues that may help rising diverse attorneys succeed, and these are things he also had to learn by himself or through the support of his mentors.
Recognizing the powerful ways in which SVUDL can broaden the horizons of the high school students it engages, Eric reached out to his partner colleagues in his firm’s Washington, D.C. office, and that office now supports SVUDL’s counterpart in D.C. Eric’s ultimate goal is that White & Case supports the Urban Debate League in every city where the firm has an office. He can’t stress enough the importance of exposing high school students to careers and professionals as they are gaining impressive verbal advocacy and critical thinking skills through debate. If he had to give his high school self and SVUDL students considering legal careers one piece of advice, it would be to major in an undergraduate degree that is relevant to the area of law in which you want to specialize; for example, major in computer science if intellectual property law is appealing as an area of focus.
Eric embodies the “each one reach one” philosophy and he also really enjoys practicing law. We proudly salute Eric Lancaster and White & Case for their heroic support of the Legal Pipeline Challenge and the Urban Debate Leagues in Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C.!
Read more about the 2018 Legal Pipeline Challenge and visit this page every week through the end of October for a new Champion of the Legal Pipeline Challenge spotlight!