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Jonice Gray Tucker Featured in Law360's Minority Powerbroker Q&A Series

Jonice Gray Tucker

Jonice Gray Tucker was featured in Law360’s Minority Powerbroker’s Q&A series on Wednesday, February 25, 2015.

Q: How did you break the glass ceiling in the legal industry?

A: In order to break a glass ceiling, you have to accept that there is a ceiling to break! It is true that lawyers of color can face challenges that are unique, and in many instances those challenges can result in uphill battles to accomplish goals. Throughout my career, I have shied away from focusing on potential impediments to my goals that could result from the fact that I am an African-American woman in a field dominated by people who do not look like me. Instead, I have tried to live by the principle that I can do anything I set out to do with perseverance, determination and hard work.

This certainly does not mean that a person must, or should, go it alone, however. I have been very fortunate to have great mentors and sponsors throughout my career, and I still do. These people encouraged me to start building my professional profile as a mid-level associate, not just by distinguishing myself in connection with my case work, but also by networking, membership in and attendance at various industry events, getting published and looking for speaking opportunities. Many of these people supported me behind the scenes and others actively opened doors for me, with the understanding that it was my job to walk through that door and knock the ball out of the park once there. This made a huge difference for me — both in terms of my professional experiences over time and with respect to the confidence that I continued to build as a result of those experiences.

Q: What are the challenges of being a lawyer of color at a senior level?

A: One the greatest challenges I have confronted is being the only lawyer of any color at the table when issues related to diversity come into play. This happens, not infrequently, and in a variety of contexts. Under such circumstances, I may be the only person in the room who is able to opine from a personal perspective on a particular diversity issue or share a point of view, lived from experience, which may not have been considered by the group. This can be uncomfortable at times, especially where that viewpoint may be surprising or controversial — and speaking up can require some degree of courage, particularly where such views might be of little interest to the larger group or even be unwelcome to some. In these situations, I try to focus on the thought that where there is a challenge, there is usually an opportunity as well. When this has happened, I have tried to bear in mind that it is even more important that I share my viewpoint because it might not otherwise be thought of or considered — and if not mentioned, it certainly will not help shape future decisions.

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