Editor's note: Read about Sydney Gaskins, who participated in MoFo’s 2023 Summer Associate Program in our Los Angeles office, in this installment of our MoFo Stories series.
When I was first researching MoFo, I came across a pamphlet titled “MoFo Diversity: Trial Lawyers” that consisted of 10 thoughtfully written pages celebrating diverse trial lawyers at the firm. As an aspiring Black trial lawyer, I knew I had found a firm that shared my values. It would be easy in high-stakes litigation to provide representation that is considered “safe,” but my style of advocacy is passionate, and I look different than the lawyers whom judges are used to seeing at the counsel table. I have been competing in mock trial tournaments in front of practicing attorneys and judges for the past eight years. Despite winning two National Championships at the college and law school levels, I have already been challenged by the legal industry with microaggressions, racist comments, and misogyny. At one point, I wondered if the legal industry I love would ever provide me with an equal opportunity to succeed. Now I know identity is intertwined with my legal talent; one cannot exist without the other. I needed a firm that not just hired diverse people, but also invested in me because they knew diverse perspectives provide an invaluable asset to any trial team.
I am grateful to be a part of the Wetmore Fellowship, which has provided me with the opportunity to network and build meaningful connections with other diverse summer associates, associates, and partners. After I joined the LA office, the D+I team reached out to connect with me about my experience at the firm and to provide mentorship. At the Wetmore Fellowship retreat, I attended a panel with one of MoFo’s top diverse trial lawyers, Arturo González, who gave advice on how to succeed as an associate. At the retreat, I bonded with other Black and Brown summer associates and SEO Fellows in a deeper way than the office environment allowed. Since then, the Black Affinity Group at MoFo has had the opportunity to connect over lunch, at a Diversity Brunch, and at a game night. I appreciate that the firm is dedicated to providing a network of support for its lawyers.
When I asked for trial exposure, MoFo delivered. My first summer I flew to Texas to shadow a post-bench trial hearing for a complex patent case. This summer I was immediately given the opportunity to shadow an attorney in a criminal misdemeanor hearing. Then, when I asked for more, I found myself sitting in the jury box of a post-trial hearing watching trial advocacy at work. Next, I drafted a deposition outline for a third-party witness in a lawsuit against one of MoFo’s biggest clients. The feedback session I had for that deposition with LA partners Purvi Patel and Whitney O’Byrne was the most valuable experience of both of my summers combined. I am returning to law school for my 3L year feeling inspired by MoFo trial lawyers and excited about my future with the firm.
Being able to be a part of the diversity and inclusion efforts at MoFo through the Wetmore Fellowship and Black Affinity Group, while being empowered to ask for and receive exposure to trial work, has resulted in two incredible summers at the firm. I am proud to be a part of the MoFo community, and I hope to continue using my trial advocacy and legal skills to contribute to the firm’s celebration of diverse trial lawyers.