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V&E Awards Five Diversity Fellowships to 1Ls

Vinson & Elkins has awarded five first-year law students 2019 Diversity Fellowships. Recipients Natalie Willis, George Smith IV, Rebekah Mercer, Tania Pinon Venegas and Mo Zia were selected from nearly 100 candidates who applied from U.S. law schools.

Each V&E Diversity Fellow receives $10,000 and a clerkship 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 year of law school.

V&E’s diversity pipeline efforts began in 1990 with scholarships for diverse high school students. In 2007, 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 54 Fellowships to underrepresented students, including racial/ethnic minorities and LGBTQ individuals.

Natalie Willis is a first-year student at The University of Texas School of Law. She received her B.A. in East Asian Studies from Yale University with distinction in the major. Willis continued her work on Japanese history as a visiting researcher at The University of Tokyo. Before attending law school, Willis worked in publishing and sales. She will be a summer associate in V&E’s Washington, D.C. office in May 2019.

“I am thrilled to receive such a warm welcome to V&E. I am excited to spend the first summer of my legal career at a firm that has both a sterling reputation and an amiable group of attorneys. I look forward to working with them on complex litigation in our nation’s capital.”

George Smith IV is a first-year JD/MBA student at Columbia University. He received his B.A. in English, cum laude, from Georgetown University in 2014. Prior to law school, Smith began his career in the finance and tech industries where he worked at Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo in investment management operations and at LinkedIn in business development. Smith is also an alumnus of the SEO Law program where he clerked at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. Smith will be a summer associate in V&E’s Houston office in May 2019.

“V&E is a special place. The combination of complex matters, intellectually curious lawyering, hard workers and genuine people distinguishes V&E within the industry. Its commitment to diversity is apparent. It is evident that the firm is working diligently to enhance the quality of its client service through increasingly diverse perspectives while strengthening the capabilities of its diverse attorneys through development and retention efforts. I am excited to be joining V&E this summer as a diversity fellow, and I look forward to diving into the firm’s sophisticated work and contributing to its diversity initiatives.”

Rebekah Mercer is a first-year student at Stanford Law School. She received her B.A. in Political Science with a minor in Business Administration from Baylor University. Mercer worked as a Research Fellow for one year before attending law school. She will be a summer associate in V&E’s Dallas office in May 2019.

“As a 1L, it was my dream to clerk this summer at a firm back in my home-state of Texas—specifically in Dallas. I am grateful that V&E, as one of the most reputable firms in Texas, values facilitating a diverse workplace that is full of a broad range of perspectives and experiences. I am truly humbled to be selected to help continue to facilitate in this mission as a diversity fellow this summer, and I look forward to enhancing my own perspective from the diversity that I encounter from my summer colleagues at the firm.”

Tania Pinon Venegas is a first-year student at The University of Texas School of Law. She received her B.A. in Economics from Rice University. Pinon Venegas was a Research Intern for the Baker Institute Mexico Center in the summer of 2018. Pinon Venegas will be a summer associate in V&E’s Houston office in May 2019.

“I feel very blessed to have been chosen as a V&E Diversity Fellow. V&E is an outstanding firm and I am humbled by the opportunity to begin my legal career in their Houston office. It is a privilege to be working alongside such distinguished individuals who are not only industry leaders, but also exemplary people who genuinely care about those around them. I am excited to learn and work at a firm that truly values an inclusive and innovating work environment and look forward to an amazing summer program!”

Mo Zia is a first-year law student at Harvard Law School. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a B.A. from the University of Maryland and he holds an MPP focusing on energy policy from the University of Oxford. Prior to law school, Zia worked on energy research and policy as a Fulbright Scholar in Morocco and as a Luce Scholar in Indonesia. Zia will be a summer associate in V&E’s Houston office in May 2019.

“I am humbled and grateful to be chosen for a V&E Diversity Fellowship in the Houston office. I am looking forward to joining the V&E team this summer.”

Nine former Diversity Fellowship recipients currently practice full-time at V&E, including Danial Abbasi, Michelle Arishita, Desi Baca, Eric Hernandez, Arthur Munoz, Tukeni Obasi, K.J. Pedersen, Analiza Rodriguez and Caroline Stewart. Additionally, in September 2019, current third-year law students and V&E Fellows Shelby Hart-Armstrong, Lauren Lundy, Elizabeth Matthews and Seth Yost will join V&E as full-time attorneys.

“Through V&E’s 1L and 2L Diversity Fellowship programs, we meet and hire brilliant law students, giving us the opportunity to strengthen the firm with top legal talent,” said Steve Gill, V&E Talent Chair. “We are excited they are choosing to join V&E and we look forward to having them here this summer.”

About Vinson & Elkins
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 or follow us on Twitter @VinsonandElkins or connect with us on LinkedIn.

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