The Law Preview Lawyer Roundtable Series gives you a look into the minds of diverse lawyers from across the country. Get advice on everything from your 1L year to how to leverage a mentorship opportunity in law school, and throughout your legal career.
In celebration of Black History Month, we’re highlighting seven accomplished African American lawyers in this month’s edition of the Law Preview Lawyer Roundtable Series. Check out the interview below!
Rukayatu “Ruky” Tijani
Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan, Associate
Attended UC Berkeley School of Law
Law Preview Alumni
Rukayatu Tijani, or “Ruky,” is an associate in the Silicon Valley office of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan, where she practices corporate litigation. Before this, Ruky served as a federal judicial clerk in the Eastern District of California. Ruky Tijani hails from Brooklyn, New York and is a graduate of UC Berkeley School of Law. During her free time, Ruky mentors and advises young people of color who are interested in pursuing a legal career. She hopes to use her platform to increase diversity in the legal field in general, and in law firms and the judiciary in particular.
Knowing what you know now about the legal profession, what advice would you give to students (particularly young men and women of color) who are about to begin their 1L year?
Take time to find a community that “gets” you. As you navigate 1L year, it may feel like you’re a fish out of water. Find a community of friends or extended family that simply will embrace you when needed. During my 1L year, that community was my church. Find your community.
In what is clearly a very impressive legal career to date, list one job, a specific project or a case you that you are most proud of, and describe why. If you can’t pick just one, it’s okay to list a few!
During my clerkship, I was able to convince my judge to deny summary judgment on a case in which I felt the plaintiff was subject to racial discrimination during his employment. My advocacy made the difference. This reminded me that I truly needed to be in these spaces, that diversity is important, and that I can make a difference.
Giving back is important. Provide one organization (legal or otherwise) you have volunteered with and what made that experience so meaningful to you.
I sit on the board of directors for Practice to Pipeline, and I love the difference the organization makes in the lives of young adults and soon to be attorneys! I also volunteered at a center for foster girls. That really opened my eyes to how blessed I truly was.
We all need to ask for help at some point. Did you ever ask someone to mentor or sponsor you as a law student or early-stage attorney (or have you served as a mentor)? If so, given your experience, what is your best advice for leveraging that type of relationship?
My advice? Figure out ways you can help your potential mentor. It might sound counter-intuitive, but hear me out. As students, it’s so easy to see where we are “lacking,” whether it is lacking in “connections” or “social capital,” it’s far too easy to see ourselves as not having what’s needed for our career.
But you bring so much to the table. With a diversity of experiences and unmatched tenacity, we have so much to give and contribute to your mentor’s life.
So find ways to help your mentor.
What projects are they working on? What are their needs? It never hurts to simply ask how you can help them. It’ll make you stand out in a sea of people vying for their time.
Indeed, my biggest advocate and mentor at the firm is a rockstar partner that I connected with by simply researching projects related to a case she was working on.