By Aleksandar Djuricic,Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law
As March 1, 2019, marks the beginning of the registration period for the 2019 Indianapolis Bar Association’s Diversity Job Fair from August 5-6, I want to reflect on my wonderful experience at last year’s fair and express my gratitude to all the organizers and participants who made the experience memorable.
The IndyBar Diversity Job Fair is much more than a day of interviews with public and private employers seeking to hire clerks or interns for the following summer. As a full-time 2L law student at the time, the two-day fair was an opportunity for me to learn, to grow and to connect, both personally and professionally, with not only other diverse students but also some of the elite legal professionals that Indy boasts.
The fair encompasses everything that brought me to Indianapolis in the first place: a major metropolitan city full of opportunity at the “Crossroads of America” and a close-knit legal community that recognizes the importance of networking, mentorship and expanding opportunities for individuals coming from diverse backgrounds and experiences.
I moved to Indianapolis from the Chicago area with my spouse in the summer of 2017 to pursue the next phase in our professional careers. Mine was to obtain a J.D. from IU McKinney and my spouse a Pharm.D. from Butler. We both had our trepidations about our new home and the difficult prospect of meeting new people and making professional connections. However, with the law school gods on my side, I was able to find some incredible mentors in my professors at McKinney who have helped me immensely in the last year and a half.
One of those professors was my Legal Communication and Analysis professor, Roxana Bell, who is now an Assistant Professorssor of Law at Detroit Mercy Law. During our discussions, I told her about the immigrant experiences that my wife and I shared and about our adjustment to living in a new home away from our family and friends. It was during these discussions that Professor Bell told me about her previous involvement in the Indianapolis Bar Association and the many great programs that I should take advantage of as a new law student to the Indianapolis area, including the Indy Attorneys Network Monthly Match program. Most importantly, she told me about her participation in the IndyBar Diversity Job Fair as a law student and the meaningful purpose that the fair has served since 2008. Professor Bell recommended that I participate in the fair as a way to meet diverse people in the Indianapolis legal community with the added benefit of potentially securing a clerkship or internship for the following summer.
Coming from a family of non-attorney, immigrant and blue-collar workers striving for the American dream, I am glad that Professor Bell recommended the Diversity Job Fair because the lessons I learned and the connections I made during the IndyBar Diversity Job Fair will long endure the experience of those two days last August.
One of my favorite events of the program occurred the evening before interviews where law students attended a training session featuring a panel of attorneys coming from diverse backgrounds and experiences themselves. During this training session, the panelists discussed their path to the legal profession, provided tips on networking outside of the classroom, advised us on seeking out mentors, explained the pre- and post-interview process and provided sample questions we would be asked by legal employers during interviews the next day and beyond.
After the training session, the IndyBar held a reception with the fair’s sponsors, panelists, and many of the employer participants who would conduct interviews the following day. At the reception, we were encouraged to apply the strategies we discussed during the training session. What I found most beneficial that night was the opportunity to “break the ice” and ease some of the anxiety that I had about the upcoming interviews because I had the chance to approach several attorneys in a laidback environment, including attorneys who would be interviewing me the following day.
On the day of the fair, the IndyBar scheduled a full day of 20- to 30-minute interviews with the 29 employers to whom we submitted our resumes, cover letters and writing samples a few weeks before the fair. Of those 29 potential employers consisting of judges, law firms, government agencies and businesses, we had a maximum of seven interviews, with most interviews being pre-selected by the employers, while at least two interviews were assigned by the IndyBar based on our area of interest. To provide a break between morning and afternoon interview sessions, all of the fair’s participants, interviewers and law students alike were invited to a keynote lunch that honored the members of the Indy legal community dedicated to diversity and inclusion, discussed the importance of the fair to our community and recognized the well-deserving diverse students who were awarded employer-sponsored tuition scholarships. During the lunch, law students were also able to interact with attorneys from other firms that they may not have had the opportunity to interview with that day.
Although the prospect of seven interviews in one day may seem intimidating, the benefits of attending and participating in the IndyBar Diversity Job Fair as a law student are innumerable. For one, I found this one-day format more preferable and convenient than the standard on-campus interview (OCI) process organized by law schools where interviews are conducted over several weeks. As an added benefit, the IndyBar Diversity Job Fair occurs before law school OCIs. Accordingly, the Diversity Job Fair experience allows you to hone your interview skills by interacting with different interviewer styles and personalities, thereby preparing you for the law school OCI process and any future interviews that you will inevitably have, including the callback interviews of a similar format.
Most importantly, aside from the connections you can create at the Diversity Job Fair, the employers that participate are truly dedicated to the values of diversity and inclusion and are interested in showing law students that they are respected, valued and vital members of the Indy legal community. Speaking from my experience at the fair, of the seven interviews that I had that day, I received four callback interviews. Ultimately, I received an offer from Lewis Wagner LLP to be a summer associate at their firm this summer, and I could not be happier! However, even if I did not receive a job offer, the connections I made with several attorneys and colleagues was worth the experience alone.
Looking back, I cannot stress enough how grateful I am that Professor Bell told me about the IndyBar Diversity Job Fair because it represents values that I hold dear to my heart: individuality, diversity and inclusion. As an ethnic Serb from Croatia who immigrated to the United States to escape the conflicts in former Yugoslavia, my family has the firsthand experience of what a culture of preferential and disparate treatment driven by animosity can do to a society and nation. From a young age, my grandparents — who survived the horrors of the Jasenovac World War II concentration camp — and my parents — who came to this country in search of a better life — and my wife — who endured 78 days of bombing and a decade of embargoes and sanctions — have taught me to judge people solely by the content of their character.
They stressed, and continue to stress, the importance of respecting every individual regardless of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, ideology, or socio-economic status. These are the principles that we should all aspire to, as attorneys, as law students, as citizens, as humans. As the flow of information, commerce, and people rapidly advances across borders, we all benefit from having diverse problem-solvers, influencers and perspectives. In an increasingly globalized world, attorneys will represent even more diverse clients. Therefore, it is critical that members of the legal community in Indy and across the nation can sympathize with their clients. Only in that way can we better recognize the solutions to the complicated legal issues we will be confronted by in an inevitably technologically and culturally disruptive century ahead.
At the “Crossroads of America,” Indianapolis will play a vital role in bringing our nation together during increasingly divisive times. The IndyBar Diversity Job Fair represents the values that all legal and business communities should aspire to: the respect for individual rights, the recognition that diverse backgrounds and inclusivity bring prosperity, the significance of mentorships for those seeking it, and most importantly, equality of opportunity for all. The IndyBar Diversity Job Fair brings together the current and future leaders in this community who appreciate the importance of these values. I am honored to have participated in the 2018 IndyBar Diversity Job Fair, and I look forward to being a part of it in whatever capacity I can in the future.
Whether you are a law student with a diverse background or experience, a professional in the Indy legal community, or a public or private employer seeking to discover rare talent that will enrich the culture of your workplace and the quality of your output, I urge you to participate this summer in the 2019 IndyBar Diversity Job Fair because law students like me are grateful for your time, mentorship and dedication to diversity in the 21st century and beyond. You can get more details and register for the Diversity Job Fair at indybar.org/diversityjobfair.•