A Rich Legacy of Diversity
Alumni profiles compiled by Madison L. Miranda, 3D
As a fourth-generation lawyer, Phoebe A. Haddon, L'77, always wanted to be a lawyer but knew she never wanted to practice. As most of her family was made up of lawyers and a social worker, she was always in tune with constitutional issues happening throughout the country. This experience enabled her to address the issues she felt so passionate about. This passion allowed her to accomplish her long-term goal of becoming a leader of a university. She became chancellor of Rutgers University-Camden.
While at Duquesne Law, she had several professors that left an imprint on her future legal career. However, she truly loved constitutional law. Her professor at that time spoke to her about teaching law, which guided her on her path toward academia. She also was the editor in chief of the Duquesne Law Review, where she wrote her published note on the subject of constitutional law. During this time, women were not often given this type of leadership position, so it was truly quite an accomplishment. However, this experience allowed her to build friendships with people she may never have been friends with.
Haddon says the rigor of the classroom experiences at Duquesne Law and the opportunities the faculty offered enabled her to have great work opportunities. Because of these opportunities, she was able to obtain positions as a law clerk and summer associate at an international law firm during her time at Duquesne Law. She cannot emphasize enough the importance of networking. It is critically important to interact with others in a way that they can imagine themselves in that position.
Haddon became a law professor and did not necessarily want to be a dean of a law school, but her goal was to become the president of a university. While trying to accomplish this goal, she acknowledges many people did not imagine a woman as president of a university. She would often make it to the second or third round of interviews before being rejected for the job. She took the advice of interviewers and used it in continuing her goal to become president.
Because of her experiences, she reiterates the importance of giving others opportunities and allowing them to see themselves in positions in which they may not feel "worthy" enough to obtain. While she was the dean of the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, she obtained the largest grant the school has ever received. She did this through networking and gaining invaluable connections. She cannot stress enough the importance of helping others. Without the help of others, she would not have accomplished this highlight in her career.
For many years people did not see women in leadership positions, thus Haddon has tried to make opportunities for women, people of color, and first-generation lawyers. She does this through having events to show them it is possible to obtain leadership positions. She often quotes Martin Luther King, Jr. in her discussions, saying, "Justice bends wide, but it always leads to justice. You cannot define the width of the arc until you are looking back. Therefore, if you work hard you will achieve your goals."
After discovering the collegial and studious environment Duquesne's campus had to offer, Tynishia Powell, L'16, knew Duquesne Law would be a comfortable fit for her. So much so she became president of the Black Law Students Association here at Duquesne Law, as well as a member of Arbitration Moot Court and the Indigenous Law Society. She credits her professors in helping her hone her legal writing and other practical skills so that she felt very prepared to hit the ground running upon graduation.
Since graduation from Duquesne Law, Powell has worked at numerous places, but she just began a new position at Arconic as associate counsel. This change came after a long tenure as a senior associate counsel and compliance manager with the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh. Powell is the recipient of the 2019 Allegheny County Bar Association's Homer S. Brown Young Leaders Award and just finished working on the Lower Hill Development for the URA, a very historic development for the city.
Being a woman of color in the legal community has presented many obstacles for Powell. She says there is an "inherent anxiety" in being a diverse member of a mostly homogenous legal community. Her advice is to continue working on networking skills and building genuine relationships with diverse and non-diverse attorneys. She also notes studying the law from a diverse perspective can be very disheartening at times, but there's hope for the future when diverse attorneys join the field. Duquesne Law's diverse alumni are a valuable resource and support system during law school and after graduation.
Duquesne Law was the perfect choice for Eric R. I. Cottle, L'96, when he relocated from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh. He needed to find an evening legal education program that would allow him to continue to work so he could provide for his wife and two young daughters. Luckily, Duquesne Law's evening program provided Cottle with the ability to continue working full time, as well as providing a quality legal education. While at Duquesne Law, Cottle was also involved in the Black Law Students Association and the Appellate Moot Court Board and Team.
Cottle has stated Duquesne Law was integral in beginning his career in law. The Law School offered networking opportunities, which helped develop meaningful relationships with Duquesne alumni who were in private practice and members of the judiciary, as well as other practitioners who provided valuable insight into the legal practice. Even to this day, former Dean Maureen Lally-Green, one of his favorite professors, remains a close friend and mentor. Relationships made at Duquesne Law are not only invaluable but can last a lifetime.
After Duquesne Law, Cottle went on to work at Meyer Darragh and made partner in five short years. Following his tenure at Meyer Darragh, he continued his practice as a trial attorney at K&L Gates, LLP. He has furthered his career at K&L Gates, becoming a litigation partner in the firm's Pittsburgh and New York offices. He represents clients across the country in multiple jurisdictions and in high volume and high-stakes litigation. One of the highlights of his career was when he was first chair and lead trial attorney in a high-profile and high-stakes trial, on a team that obtained a major defense verdict for global industrial manufacturer of commercial equipment after a three-week consolidated trial in a wrongful death suit.
Despite these accomplishments, as a diverse attorney, Cottle has dealt with many obstacles. These obstacles range from general perceived stereotypes to having his talents and skills likely overlooked. While he was always conscious of those stereotypes, he was never self-conscious about them. He makes it a point to always stay prepared and competent, treat people with respect and learn to be measured in responses to adverse situations. He believes it is always important to maintain a positive and strong professional reputation and provide excellent service to clients and partners.
Cottle believes that a law degree is one of the most versatile and rewarding degrees obtainable. He emphasizes that the legal community needs diverse lawyers. To promote the advancement of diverse lawyers, Cottle became a board member and secretary of Pittsburgh Legal Diversity & Inclusion Coalition, board member of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association in New York City, and executive committee member of the National Black Lawyers Top 100.
As a recent graduate, Nicole Prieto, L'18, stays involved with Duquesne University School of Law's community. During her time at Duquesne Law she participated in the Unemployment Compensation Clinic, which so happened to be her favorite practical and classroom experience. She felt working with clients firsthand and collaborating on how to better address their issues really gave them good insight on real world practice. She also edited for the Duquesne Law Review and served on the executive boards of BLSA and DIPLA. Moreover, Prieto points to Duquesne's strong emphasis on legal research and writing for preparing her to succeed in her legal career. Research and writing are foundational to what so many attorneys do, thus being given the tools to do it well is extremely important.
While at Duquesne Law, Prieto built herself a large network. This was something she deemed important coming from a different state and having no personal connections prior to law school in Pennsylvania. Due to the relationships she had built, she applied to Reed Smith through the 1L Leadership Council of Legal Diversity (LCLD) Scholars Program. This allowed Prieto to work full time at a firm committed to supporting its diverse attorneys and staff. Her time as a summer associate at Reed Smith inevitably led to her being offered an associate position at the firm, where she still works. She gives back to Duquesne Law by volunteering her time as a mentor for the LCLD mentoring program. Thus far she has had the opportunity to mentor two remarkable Duquesne students during their 1L years. She hopes to continue participating as a mentor to law students within the area in the future. She believes the best way to give back is to always "pay it forward."
Advice she gives to individuals interested in a legal career is to always ask questions about something you do not understand or are curious about, because you may be surprised by what appeals to you. As for individuals considering Duquesne Law, she advises them to go somewhere that feels like home. That is how she made her choice on Duquesne Law: It felt like home.
From being a Duquesne Law graduate to a McGuireWoods' "lifer," Bryan Brantley, L'04, has continued advocating for having more diverse attorneys in the legal arena. During his time at Duquesne Law, Brantley formed lifelong bonds, involved himself in Trial Moot Court, and was an active member in the Black Law Students Association. His time at Duquesne Law prepared him for his legal career by providing a practical approach to engaging in the actual practice of law. Since Duquesne Law, he has become a major partner at international law firm McGuireWoods, LLP.
As a diverse attorney, Brantley faced the specific obstacle of inclusion. He places an emphasis on people focusing so much on defining diverse characteristics that the focus of inclusion is lost. For diverse attorneys it can often be hard to find one's place, particularly in a big law firm. Brantley notes "performing at a high level in isolation is not sustainable." Thus, in order to counter that, Brantley had to broaden his network both inside and outside of his firm and city. He did this by reaching out and locating others who were experiencing similar feelings of isolation due to lack of inclusion. It is always important in one's journey as a diverse attorney to find community in others, and that is why Brantley has formed a large network of lawyers around the country who check in on him regularly.
In his attempt to help diversify the legal community, Brantley serves on McGuireWoods' Diversity and Inclusion committee and commits time to speaking to lawyers of color around the country. In a recent panel he was on, a co-panelist said something as simple as three very calming words: "You are enough." Brantley reflected on those three words and believes "sometimes we find ourselves wondering if we are doing a good job, or if we are cut out to practice law." He reminds us: You are enough.
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