Neena Speer (’17) urged aspiring law school students to tell their own stories, own those stories and use them to help develop leaders during a talk at The National Diversity Pre-Law Conference and Law Fair in Washington, D.C.
“I think everyone’s common goal is to be accepted and respected, so when I think about diversity I think about bringing that to the classroom,” she said.
Speer was a featured speaker at the pre-law conference, a national outreach, networking and empowerment event designed for diverse aspiring lawyers. The conference connects students with law school admissions counselors and provides information to help them succeed in law school.
Speer was invited to talk at the conference by Executive Director Evangeline M. Mitchell. During her 15-minute speech, Speer shared her own story about diversity. It begins with her parents, her role models. Her mother is from India, and her father is African-American, which she said is not a “typical combination.” Both of her parents, especially her mother, taught her lessons about acceptance and respect.
“When I go see my mother’s family, we touch every adult’s – and I mean anyone who is older than me – feet as a sign of respect,” she said.
It’s that same kind of respect students need to bring with them to succeed in law school. When students don’t respect their elders, they miss the opportunity to learn, she said.
Law school can be a humbling experience. Speer reminded students that they may not excel in every class, but there are many places where students can use their talent. For example, a student may excel in trial advocacy and participate in a law clinic.
As for diversity, it’s an asset. Those who can’t accept and respect other people may find it difficult to succeed in life and at work.
“When you are diverse, you learn how to develop leaders because you always look at different cultures, different personalities, different situations,” she said. “Diversity is not just about being black or white; it’s about learning how to deal with multiple personalities.”