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Vinson & Elkins Continues Its Focus on Diversity in the Legal Profession Through Pipeline Efforts: SEO Law and Diverse Attorney Pipeline Program

Vinson & Elkins’ leadership has long held a vision for increasing diversity in the legal profession. To aid in fueling the diversity pipeline, V&E is actively involved in a variety of external programs supporting underrepresented students, including SEO Law and the Diverse Attorney Pipeline Program (DAPP). This year, V&E welcomed three SEO Law Fellows and two DAPP participants.

Partnering with SEO

Since 2010, V&E has participated in the SEO Law Fellowship program and was the first law firm to host a fellow in the Houston market. SEO identifies and then links talented rising 1L students of color with the nation’s top law firms. Through the SEO program, these future lawyers also receive development opportunities and mentoring, with the goal of providing the best chance for law school and career success, thus increasing the pipeline of diverse attorneys.

During their time in V&E’s Summer Associate Program, SEO fellows take on many of the same tasks as summer associates, including legal research, writing and preparing documents. They also participate in the same activities and programs, including the firm’s program this year. Following the summer program, fellows are matched with a V&E lawyer to mentor them during their first year of law school.

V&E’s 2021 SEO fellows:

Ethan Moore, a fellow in V&E’s Dallas office, graduated from Trinity University with a B.S. in Finance and will attend Chicago Law School in the fall. Moore was a Portfolio Manager for the Student Managed Fund and the Social Chair and Black History Month Coordinator for the Black Student Union at Trinity University. Additionally, he was previously a Financial and Accounting Intern at another law firm.

“My experience at V&E has been nothing short of incredible. As an SEO Fellow, I was a bit concerned about how my interactions and exchanges with attorneys would be considering I had zero law school experience. However, every attorney I spoke with and worked with gifted me with amazing advice and launching points to learn from. I thoroughly enjoyed my summer at V&E and am abundantly grateful to have had the opportunity.”

Tobenna Okeiche, a fellow in V&E’s New York office, graduated from Baruch College with a B.B.A. in Economics. Okeiche was previously a Buy-Side Investment Consultant for Bloomberg L.P. and worked alongside the Board of Directors for the Equality Alliance of Staten Island. Additionally, he was the Vice President for the Pre-Law Society at Baruch College.

“The experience I had at V&E was truly rewarding. From the moment I joined the other summer associates, I immediately felt part of a community. I was challenged to develop my legal analysis, legal research and writing skills through assignments that exposed me to the different practice groups. The willingness of each attorney I met to provide me with insight into not only V&E, but also their individual careers, enriched my perspective on the opportunities that will be available to me.”

Madi Torrez, a fellow in V&E’s Washington, DC office, graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a B.A. in Psychology and will attend Georgetown University Law Center in the fall. Torrez was previously a Policy Assistant and Case Manager for the Amara Legal Center and a Hanigan Family Fellow for the Woodrow Wilson Research Fellowship. As a Wilson Fellow, Torrez researched human trafficking legislation and met with mental health service providers and survivor advocates to compare policies and assess ways to improve existing legislation.

“I am so grateful to have spent my summer at V&E. I felt supported and welcomed at every turn. The attorneys at the firm were truly invested in my success, and each thoughtful assignment I received challenged me to grow as a writer and as a researcher. Overall, my experience at V&E not only offered a glimpse into the wealth of opportunities in the legal world, but also reaffirmed my decision to pursue a career in law.”

Partnering with DAPP

In 2018, V&E’s Dallas office participated in the inaugural year of DAPP, a national program that places women law students of color in summer internships at law firms. V&E’s Dallas office has continued to participate annually, and in the summer of 2020, V&E’s Houston office hosted its first DAPP scholar.

Additionally, in 2019, V&E began partnering with in-house counsel for week-long placements to expose DAPP participants to both law firm and corporate legal work. The firm has partnered with clients such as Flowserve and Match.com in Dallas and Trace Midstream in Houston. This year, the firm partnered with clients Lone Star Global Acquisitions and Hudson Advisors in Dallas and Spire in Houston.

V&E’s 2021 DAPP participants:

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

“This summer, I gained invaluable experience while rotating through four of V&E’s practice groups and working with in-house legal counsel. Throughout my summer associate experience, V&E attorneys provided me with substantive work projects as well as meaningful feedback and mentorship. I was encouraged by the firm’s interest in my professional development. While working in-house with Lone Star Global Acquisitions and Hudson Advisors, I was warmly welcomed onto their legal teams and gained beneficial insight on how outside counsel can be most effective for clients. My summer associate experience allowed me to build professional connections and skills that will continue to serve me throughout my legal career.”

Amanda Hernandez, a student at the University of Houston Law Center, was 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. Hernandez is currently a member of the University of Houston’s Latinx Law Student Association. She was also a V&E Diversity Fellow and a former V&E intern.

“As a student intern many years ago, V&E was my first introduction to the professional world. It was an honor to return as a summer associate and personally experience V&E’s commitment to diversity, pro bono work, and the development of its associates. As a first-generation law student, this was extremely important to me. Not only did I have the opportunity to work on diverse projects, but also received mentorship from talented, world-class attorneys. Everyone at V&E was fully invested in my experience. Additionally, through V&E’s collaboration with DAPP, I was able to intern at Spire, allowing me to explore and gain a deeper understanding of what in-house work looks like, complementing my experience at V&E.”

V&E’s SEO and DAPP Success Stories

V&E has had a total of 20 SEO fellows since it began participating in the program’s pipeline efforts. Currently, four of those fellows are part of the V&E family, including Aurra Fellows, an associate in V&E’s Complex Commercial Litigation group in Houston; Rachel Crooks, an associate in V&E’s Finance group in Dallas; IIana Gomez, a member of the 2021 new associate class in Dallas; Tatiana Hyman, a former 2L summer associate who worked in V&E’s New York office; and Konadu Amoakuh, a former 1L summer associate who worked in V&E’s Washington office.

Of our past DAPP participants, four are a part of the V&E family: Rachel Crooks; Claudia Socias, a member of the 2021 new associate class in Dallas; and Jalee Blackwell and Cassandra Zarate who returned as 2L summer associates in the Dallas and Houston offices, respectively.

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

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 www.velaw.com or follow us on Twitter @VinsonandElkins or connect with us on LinkedIn.

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