the participants in PALS, a New York-based group that mentors
minority law students, are, from left, mentor Shea Owens '94;
PALS chairwoman Amanda Samuel '92; PALS founder and mentor
Patricia Irvin '76; mentee Elan Nieves '06; and mentor Heather
June 11, 2008:
attorneys: Mentoring minority law students
As the new hiring partner at a New York law firm in 1984, Dave
Siegfried '64 turned to his only black associate, fellow Princeton
alum Patricia Irvin '76, for help increasing diversity. To get ideas,
Irvin talked with a group of minority NYU law students to find out
what they needed in the recruiting process. Irvin realized that
many of them didn't have parents, close relatives, or friends who
had gone to college, let alone law school. What they wanted were
Irvin enlisted a dozen lawyer friends to guide law students through
school and help prepare them to land jobs. "Everybody I called said
yes," she recalls of the birth of Practicing Attorneys for Law Students
(PALS), a no-fee, multiethnic nonprofit organization offering assistance
to all law schools in the New York tristate area.
Help was welcome from wherever it came, and there was extensive
outreach to Princeton alumni. "Whenever an alum says, ‘I'm
doing something good, please help me,' it's a chance to give back
the benefit of a Princeton education," says George Hritz '69, an
international litigation and arbitration lawyer. Hritz and the other
180 PALS mentors conduct mock interviews, critique résumés,
and provide one-on-one counseling with their mentees. They cover
everything from the right classes to take to the unwritten rules
of the legal realm, like appropriate work attire.
Because first-year law school performance weighs heavily on one's
ultimate job prospects, second chances are scarce, says Amanda Samuels
'92, a lawyer at Colgate-Palmolive and current PALS president. "It's
not like college, where you can build steam. That first semester
of law school counts more than anything," she says. PALS makes a
concerted effort to pair first-year law students with mentors who
will stay with them through law school and into the early years
of their career.
One such student is Elan Nieves '06, a second-year law student
at Fordham. "She was always there for me," Nieves says of her PALS
mentor, with whom she will continue her relationship this year.
"She let me ask her every type of question. And nothing was ever
silly." Nieves has another mentor, Samuels, who hired Nieves to
work at Colgate-Palmolive last summer.
"I hope in 20 years there won't be a need for PALS," says Irvin.
"In the meantime, this work is really important."
By Iris Blasi '03
Iris Blasi '03 is a writer and editor in New York City.