I began practicing law in Nevada in 1978. I did not have a job when I graduated law school but knew that I wanted to learn to try cases. I managed to talk the district attorney into hiring me and spent four years trying cases ranging from casino gaming violations to homicides. I was then offered and accepted a position with the Nevada U.S. Attorney’s Office which I believe was the springboard for the rest of my career.
In 1985, I transferred from Nevada to the U. S. Attorney’s Office in Phoenix and subsequently found offers and opportunities in the private sector. Initially, I spent time in-house with APS where I enjoyed both the work and my colleagues. I transitioned from there to private practice where I have been fortunate to work in several firms allowing me to maintain a practice in both Arizona and Nevada.
I was Nevada’s seventh black lawyer and, in 1983, when we had “grown” to 12, we formed a local chapter of the National Bar Association (NBA). I had been a member of the NBA as a law student and had attended annual conventions in Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta as a lawyer. The conventions were important to me because there was an opportunity to interact with lawyers who were similarly situated. We were trying to figure out how to succeed (not just survive) in a profession that seemingly created ways to limit and exclude us.
A small group of us got together once a month for breakfast just to talk and to try and understand the obstacles that each of us might be facing in our practices.
When I arrived in Arizona in 1985, there were more black lawyers than in Nevada and the few who were working in law firms were beginning to have success. A now deceased lawyer named Sidney Marable and Judge Cecil Patterson regularly attended annual NBA conventions and there was core of black lawyers who worked to keep the local group active and viable. A small group of us got together once a month for breakfast just to talk and to try and understand the obstacles that each of us might be facing in our practices. This provided an open forum for free discussion of issues. All of us wanted to see our numbers grow and to see doors open in the private sector. Without decision making power, it turned out that the best way to accomplish that was for us to do good work.
The ABB provided an opportunity to discuss cases, share strategies and develop approaches to working on matters and cases. It also allowed for the free discussion of each of our work places and the expectations those supervising us held. As important as our individual success might be, the most important benefit of the ABB continues to be that it allows for us to collectively interact with the community. It lets the community know that we are here and available while providing role models for young people who might be interested in pursuing careers as lawyers, judges or other law related jobs and professions. I have enjoyed participating in mentoring programs; undergraduate recruiting programs; and of course, law school recruitment. These things are an integral part of the ABB.
The question remaining is how do we increase our numbers in the legal profession? From the time I arrived here in 1985, I have seen marginal growth. There will be continuing efforts by the ABB to inspire more young people to consider law as a profession. The efforts start with mentoring programs. Locally, the ABB has made concerted efforts to be available to schools, churches and organizations like the Boys and Girls Club to share information about the benefits of education and to encourage young people to consider law as a career. In many instances, our members presence in law firms and other work places have resulted in the creation of relationships with schools and organizations with significant minority populations.
Although in their infancy, a few of the programs that I am familiar are beginning to bear fruit. The ABB is in the forefront of this effort, but it is essential that the people and the organizations that are in power take part in it. From the beginning of my career, I have heard how important diversity is to the legal profession. It will take a unified effort to achieve it. Booker T. Evans