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Vinson & Elkins Awards 26 Diversity Fellowships to First- and Second-Year Law Students

Twenty-six first- and second-year law students received Diversity Fellowships from Vinson & Elkins this year. Recipients from 14 law schools were selected from over 1,000 candidates who applied from top U.S. law schools.

For 2021, each V&E 1L Diversity Fellow receives $10,000 and each 2L Diversity Fellow receives $25,000. Each Fellow also clerks as a summer associate in one of the firm’s offices in Austin, Dallas, Houston, New York, Richmond, San Francisco, or Washington, D.C., following the student’s first or second year of law school.

V&E’s diversity pipeline efforts began in 1990 with college scholarships for diverse high school students. In 2008, the firm launched its Diversity Fellowship Program to attract and retain the finest lawyers from all backgrounds and perspectives. Since the program’s inception, V&E has awarded 97 Fellowships to underrepresented students, including racial/ethnic minorities and LGBTQ+ individuals.

The following students are this year’s 1L Diversity Fellowship recipients who are currently V&E summer associates:

Kayla Ahmed, a student at Georgetown Law School, is a summer associate in V&E’s Dallas office. Prior to law school, Ahmed taught social science in California through Teach for America. Ahmed is currently a member of the Women of Color Collective at Georgetown and is also a V&E participant in the Diverse Attorney Pipeline.

Tyler Alabanza-Behard, a student at Harvard Law School, is a summer associate in V&E’s Houston office. Prior to law school, Alabanza-Behard taught high school English in Houston through Teach for America. He is currently a Senior Editor at the Harvard Business Law Review and a member of the Black Law Students Association.

Konadu Amoakuh, a student at Stanford Law School, is a summer associate in V&E’s Washington, D.C. office. Prior to law school, Amoakuh worked as a consultant for Mercer Digital. Amoakuh is currently the Co-President of the Women of Color Collective and the Vice President of the Black Law Students Association at Stanford and also was a V&E SEO Pre-Law Fellow.

Yusuf Bavi, a student at Columbia Law School, is a summer associate in V&E’s Houston office. Prior to law school, Bavi was an instructor at the University of Moulay Ismail and the National Superior College of Engineering in Morocco through the U.S. State Department Fulbright program. He is currently a member of the Black Law Students Association and First Generation Professionals at Columbia.

Dasha Brotherton, a student at The University of Texas School of Law, is a summer associate in V&E’s Houston office. Prior to law school, Brotherton was the Managing Editor and a writer for the Texas Undergraduate Law Review. She is currently the Community Engagement Director for the Women’s Law Caucus at The University of Texas.

Courtney Cater, a student at The University of Texas School of Law, is a summer associate in V&E’s Houston office. Prior to law school, Cater taught pre-K though Teach for America in Houston. Cater is currently the Secretary of the Thurgood Marshall Law Society and a member of the Women’s Law Caucus at The University of Texas. She is also a Dean’s Fellow in the Society Program and a former V&E Law Preview Scholar.

Rachel Chung, a student at The University of Texas School of Law, is a summer associate in V&E’s Houston office. Prior to law school, Chung was an Associate for a Tax Consulting firm in Houston. She is currently a 1L Representative for the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association at The University of Texas.

Tayler Daniels, a student at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, is a summer associate in V&E’s Dallas office. Prior to law school, Daniels worked with Deloitte as an Executive Coordinator. He currently serves as the Vice President of the Black Law Student Association and the President of the Lambda Student Association at Penn.

Drew Gehman, a student at the Washington University School of Law, is a summer associate in V&E’s Houston office. Prior to law school, Gehman taught elementary school in Pennsylvania. He is the Founder and current President and of the Family Law Society at Washington University.

Amanda Hernandez, a student at the University of Houston Law Center, is a summer associate in V&E’s Houston office. Prior to law school, Hernandez returned to her alma matter, YES Prep Public Schools, and served as a Spanish and Math teacher. She is currently a member of the University of Houston’s Latinx Law Student Association, as well as a V&E participant in the Diverse Attorney Pipeline and a former V&E intern.

Liviya James, a student at the Fordham University School of Law, is a summer associate in V&E’s New York office. Prior to law school, James worked for Waxman Strategies as a Senior Associate. She is currently the Treasurer for the Student Bar Association and a member of the Black Law Student Association at Fordham.

Camryn McGinnis, a student at Georgetown Law School, is a summer associate in V&E’s Dallas office. Prior to law school, McGinnis was an Analyst at Sendero Consulting. She is currently a member of the Women’s Legal Alliance at Georgetown.

Jason Onyediri, a student at The University of Texas School of Law, is a summer associate in V&E’s Houston office. Prior to law school, Onyediri was a Legal Intern at the Austin Community Law Center. He currently assists incarcerated individuals through parole packet representation with the Texas Law Parole Project. Onyediri is also a former V&E Law Preview Scholar.

Pi Praveen, a student at the University of Virginia School of Law, is a summer associate in V&E’s Houston office. Prior to law school, Praveen served as Acting Chief of Staff in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy. She is currently the Vice President of Mentorship for Lone Star Lawyers at the University of Virginia and a member of the Virginia Journal of Law & Technology’s Managing Board.

Jas Sethi, a student at Northwestern Law School, is a summer associate in V&E’s Austin office. Prior to law school, Sethi was a legal intern at SALI Fund Services, LLC. He is currently a volunteer for StreetLaw, which educates Chicago youth and provides them with a basic foundation of law and legal institutions.

Mina Shi, a student at the Fordham University School of Law, is a summer associate in V&E’s New York office. Prior to law school, Shi was the Associate Vice President for Client Relations at LOGON. She is currently a member of the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association and Fordham Law Women, and a staff member for the Fordham Journal of Corporate & Financial Law.

Sarah Smati, a student at the University of Houston Law Center, is a summer associate in V&E’s Houston office. Prior to law school, Smati attended Rice University where she worked as a Research Assistant at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. She was also a Research Scholar at the Baylor College of Medicine.

Larry Taylor III, a student at Columbia Law School, is a summer associate in V&E’s Houston office. Prior to law school, Taylor worked as a Legal Assistant and Documentarian on the documentary Making an Exoneree, which focused on the innocence of a client who was wrongfully convicted and placed on death row. He is currently the Chair of the Social Consciousnesses Committee for the Black Law Student Association at Columbia.

“Being a V&E Diversity Fellow has been the highlight of my budding legal career. The values embodied by the firm and its program have allowed me to grow and connect with authentic individuals not only in their practice but also in their character. I am truly honored and inspired to be a part of a firm that values both one’s uniqueness and innovation when it comes to navigating the legal field,” said Taylor.

Barbara Tsao, a student at Harvard Law School, is a summer associate in V&E’s Houston office. Prior to law school, Tsao taught high school physics in Texas. She is currently a subciter for the Harvard Environmental Law Review and is a member of the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association.

The following students are this year’s 2L Diversity Fellowship recipients who are currently V&E summer associates:

Amber Aspinall, a student at Harvard Law School, is a summer associate in V&E’s Houston office. Prior to law school, Aspinall was a University Talent Program Manager for Anheuser-Busch. She is currently the President of the Caribbean Law Students Association and an editor for the Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review at Harvard.

Nataly Farag, a student at The George Washington University Law School, is a summer associate in V&E’s Washington, D.C. office. Prior to law school, Farag worked as an Advisor and Youth Manager for Caritas-Egypt. She is currently a member of the George Washington Law Review and a Legal Writing Fellow.

“As a returning summer associate at V&E and a Diversity Fellow, I am constantly encouraged and supported by some of the most knowledgeable and passionate attorneys in the country. Not only are summer associates given the opportunity to work on complex legal issues alongside a unique team, but their work is valued and respected. I look forward to learning more from V&E’s impressive attorneys and contributing to V&E’s challenging projects,” shared Farag.

James Payne, a student at Harvard Law School, is a summer associate in V&E’s Houston and London offices. Prior to law school, Payne was an Alternative Capital Markets Structuring Summer Analyst for J.P. Morgan. He is currently an editor for the BlackLetter Law Journal and a member of the Board of Student Advisors at Harvard.

Eva Shen, a student at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, is a summer associate in V&E’s San Francisco office. Prior to law school, Shen founded and managed Impresso Café in Los Angeles. She is currently the Founding President of the Chinese Law Student Society at the University of California, Irvine.

Sandeep Somisetty, a student at Columbia Law School, is a summer associate in V&E’s Houston and New York offices. Prior to law school, Somisetty worked for several years in business leadership roles across multiple organizations. He is currently an ambassador for the Columbia Law Women’s Association through Men as Gender Allies.

Hannah Thai, a student at The University of Texas School of Law, is a summer associate in V&E’s Houston office. Prior to law school, Thai was a Paralegal with Ritz Clark & Ben-Asher LLP. Thai is currently an Associate Editor of the Texas Law Review and a Teaching Quizmaster for the Texas Law Legal Research & Writing Program. She is also a member of the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association and Women’s Law Caucus at UT.

Janae Wilson, a dual degree student at Vanderbilt Law School and Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management, is a summer associate in V&E’s Dallas office. Prior to law school, Wilson was a Financial Analyst for Abbott Laboratories. She previously served as the Treasurer for Law Students for Social Justice and is currently the Black History Month Chair for the Black Law Students Association at Vanderbilt.

Sixteen former Diversity Fellowship recipients currently are attorneys at V&E, including Funmi Anifowoshe-Manning, Michelle Arishita, Shelby Hart-Armstrong, Elizabeth Matthews and Seth Yost (all Complex Commercial Litigation); Sebastian Devora and Kene Obi (both Energy Transactions/Projects); Jyra Bickham, Natalie Harrison and Arthur Muñoz (all Finance); Desi Baca, Jennifer Chacon, K.J. Pedersen, Bo Shi and Natalie Steen (all M&A/Capital Markets); and Lauren Lundy (Restructuring & Reorganization). Additionally, seven 2L Diversity Fellowship recipients from 2020 and one 1L Diversity Fellowship recipient from 2019 will be joining V&E as new attorneys in the fall of 2021.

“V&E’s 1L and 2L Diversity Fellowships have enabled us to meet and hire some of the brightest law students from across the country. This helps us further strengthen the firm with top, diverse talent,” said Steve Gill, V&E’s Talent Management Chair. “We are excited to have these twenty six students at V&E this summer and are enjoying getting to know them through our summer associate program.”

To learn more about diversity scholarships and fellowships available from Vinson & Elkins – from high school seniors to rising second-year law students in the U.S. – visit the Diversity & Inclusion section of our website. 

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For more than 100 years, Vinson & Elkins has provided deep experience in handling transactions, investments, projects, and disputes worldwide. The firm is a trusted adviser to clients in the most important industrial and digital industries. Learn more by visiting www.velaw.com or follow us on Twitter @VinsonandElkins or connect with us on LinkedIn.

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