When I started my first job as an attorney eight years ago, I was full of excitement. I had managed to secure the position despite a significant reduction in entry level positions due to the 2009 financial crisis. The summer before landing my role, I was an intern at the firm, where I researched case law and was showered with lush perks like tickets to the Tony awards and front row seats to the NBA draft. Those perks continued in my full-time role, a position that paid more than I — or frankly anyone in my family — had ever made. I was also one of four Black women in an entry level class of over 60 associates.
The first year sped by in a blur of billable hour requirements. When I stopped to reflect on my career development at the end of 2012, I recognized a disconnect. I was well-liked by the partners, but I was falling behind in gaining respect around the office and, as a result, I was unable to secure more substantial work. I was saddled with document review, a tedious task of reviewing emails to see if they qualified as potential evidence in a litigation, or working on nonbillable marketing projects while my White peers were billing hours by drafting motions and taking the depositions of expert witnesses.
I went to the manager of my department and the head of diversity and expressed my desire for bigger assignments, but I was repeatedly told to be patient. Eventually, I began to wake up every morning with a mix of resentment and depression. I was resentful that I was facing a long day of work that I was overqualified to do and depressed that I seemingly couldn’t do anything to improve the situation. I also began to question my abilities. Although the rational part of my brain knew that racial bias was likely at play, I still felt that I would be getting better assignments if I were more capable.
After another 12 months of being underutilized, I decided to look for a new opportunity to get the litigation opportunities I had been missing out on. The process of giving notice and the conversations that unfolded during my final two weeks were miserable. There was a general attitude from my…