{ "media_type": "text", "post_content": "Do partners of color actually give you work? There’s only a handful in my office and they are nice to me, even are candid about how white upper management is. But they’ve never thrown any work my way or even gotten to know me on a real professional level which is frustrating because they purport to support diversity initiatives, etc. and I’ve definitely tried to open a line of communication with each of them.", "post_id": "5ef4b0237a813100215c760d", "reply_count": 5, "vote_count": 5, "bowl_id": "5dd2006f74be32002122c4ed", "bowl_name": "Attorneys of Color" }

Do partners of color actually give you work? There’s only a handful in my office and they are nice to me, even are candid about how white upper management is. But they’ve never thrown any work my way or even gotten to know me on a real professional level which is frustrating because they purport to support diversity initiatives, etc. and I’ve definitely tried to open a line of communication with each of them.

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Yes I’m talking about being in the same practice area. I understand what you’re saying but how do we as associates of color help build our book of business if we don’t have anyone at the top willing to guide us into their shoes? Firms will complain about attrition but have done little to make sure associates have enough work.

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I’m a little confused, are these people in your practice area that you would otherwise expect to work with? Or a small office / junior staffing such that you’d expect to be getting work from them? I interviewed with and specifically accepted an offer in large part based on the one partner of color in my group, who I vibed with as a person and was also interested in their practice, so yes I actually do most of my work for them. I would think there needs to be a bit more of a substantive work “hook” for working with someone beyond “you’re also a POC”. Assuming you have that with these people, is there a way you can reframe how you’re approaching this from “why won’t they give me work” (additional effort they need to perform to engage with you) to “how can I take something off this person’s plate” (additional effort you could be making to create a working relationship)? “I’m really interested in your work on X topic, even if you don’t have billable work at the moment is there a call I could shadow or take notes for to learn more” or “I read your client alert on Y topic and it was really interesting, would you have time for coffee to discuss and see if there’s any follow up I could help with?” Create opportunities for them to support you. Keep in mind POC attorneys often are shouldering more of the emotional labor/nonbillable efforts in the workplace (affinity group work, recruiting, general exhaustion) — I would suspect it’s not that they don’t want to mentor you (unless there are other issues with your performance or personality) but that they have a lot on their plate. Make it easy for them and you may have more success.

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Personally I have always drawn a line between mentorship and working relationships. If you want a mentor and to learn, just schedule a meeting with them and let them know that. If you want a working relationship, show them what you can do by asking to do projects that expand your skills. A mentor and business relationship usually end up with you feeling used because that person is concerned about their money and not you. Choose one of the options and stick with it. You learn more in the long term if they are your mentor but you earn more in the short term in business with them. The issue is you must think about what you have to offer them.

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Excellent points from Associate 1! Unfortunately, attorneys of color are often viewed under a different lens than others. Therefore, they may not just throw work your way knowing that it may be viewed as favoritism and their motives scrutinized. However, if you approach them and reframe the ask as Associate 1 suggests, it will be easier for them to “justify” why they are working with you, especially if you then knock it out of the park. I believe you can have both the mentor relationship and working relationship with the same attorney of color. However, just as you likely do for your yourself, don’t share every aspect of that relationship with others at the firm in order to protect yourself and your mentor from being mislabeled for a relationship that would not draw any questions if the two of you weren’t attorneys of color.

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Yes. Many so give work to associates of color. It helps guide the associate and also serves as a benchmark when their is criticism of the associate of color.

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