One of the most distinctive characteristics of New England Law alumni is the extent to which they carry the school’s mission with them into the world. A new initiative launched in 2021, the Portia Pipeline to Practice Program, offers yet another opportunity for alums and their firms to expand that commitment. Specifically, the Portia Pipeline brings extraordinary students from backgrounds that are historically underrepresented in legal practice together with law firms and organizations that are eager to help diversify the profession.
The firm of Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott helped conceptualize the kinds of experiences that would be most productive for law students, including components that support them during each phase of their career-readiness training. In addition to meaningful summer employment experiences, participating firms provide targeted mentoring, mock interviews, resumé prep sessions, and more. “The spirit and activities of the Portia Pipeline are already in New England Law’s DNA,” says Dean Lisa Freudenheim. “This program provides the institutional structure to grow such opportunities to include more students and organizations.”
2021 Portia Pipeline Program Fellows
2L Oviya Sivasangary
MG+M The Law Firm
I didn’t grow up dreaming of becoming an attorney. I was a shy kid with a speech impediment, so it wasn’t exactly a fit. Thanks to speech therapy and a mock trial experience in high school, my dream completely changed. I played the defense attorney role, and it was exhilarating. I wanted to do it again and for the rest of my life.
When I learned about New England Law, I fell in love with its history, its alumni, and the school’s commitment to underrepresented groups in the legal profession. A full scholarship convinced me not to take a year or two off before graduate school, and I couldn’t be happier with that decision. In addition to having one of the best academic experiences of my life, I’m receiving the coaching and career-skills training that enable me to be the best version of myself.
Participating in the Portia Pipeline Program fulfilled one of my greatest expectations in coming to New England Law—a summer job doing substantive legal work in a well-known firm. It’s an experience I couldn’t have landed on my own. My mentor was a New England Law alumna, and she made it her mission to give me experiences that not only contribute to the work of the firm but also helped me grow my skills and home in on a future career path.
2L Lucas DeBarros
Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, LLC
I was a business major in college and went straight from Bentley University into the corporate world. After a few years, I was yearning for a change that would give me a greater sense of purpose. I found my way to the Massachusetts State House, serving first as a legislative aide then as Executive Director of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus. It was through this work that I saw what effective lawyers could bring to politics and policymaking—realistic assessments of needs and credible pathways to workable solutions.
The one thing that scared me about law school was the thought of taking on debt, but New England Law took that out of the equation with a generous scholarship. The school is a great fit for me because it’s a purpose-driven community—coursework, clinics, professors, staff, classmates—oriented toward developing the ability to make a difference and be successful.
The Portia Pipeline Program gave me a window into the world of corporate law that took me by surprise. Many of us who are new to the legal profession imagine it as a high-pressure, cutthroat environment—especially if we have some prior experience in the business sector. My experience at Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott couldn’t be further from that stereotype. The firm made it very clear that I was a welcome addition to their operation, and they gave me a wide range of assignments that helped me see myself in this type of legal environment after graduation. I’ve developed a strong interest in transactional work, and I now know there’s a place for me in that niche if I want it.
2L Cindy Lee
Laredo & Smith, LLP
Like many of my classmates, I’m a first-generation college student. My undergraduate degree is in political science, and my plan was always to attend law school. I chose New England Law over several other schools because it was clear to me that this was going to be the kind of tightknit community in which I would thrive. I felt so confident about the decision that I never even visited. I just packed up my six suitcases and made the move from Seattle to Boston. I love it here—except for the summer heat.
The opportunity to be mentored in-person by a partner in a Boston firm in the financial district was the perfect capstone to a rewarding 1L year. The fact that she’s a fearless woman in a profession that still retains a bit of sexism was a huge plus. She brought me into courtroom settings where I could experience litigation firsthand and observe different approaches to being a good lawyer. I also saw that some opponents still try to throw a woman off her game by exhibiting outdated attitudes and behaviors. Learning how to handle such situations was just as important to my development as what I gained from the research I conducted on employment law or the memoranda I wrote on attorney-client privilege.
2L Bahadar Panhwar
Tentindo, Kendall, Canniff & Keefe, LLP
I worked in tech-sector sales after graduating with a BA in philosophy, but law school was my ultimate objective. After I took the LSAT, New England Law reached out to me and encouraged me to apply. Within a week of submitting my application, the school offered me a full scholarship. The confidence and security of such an opportunity was irresistible.
My first year was challenging—as a 1L experience should be—but also very rewarding. I fell in love with torts, so I was eager to find a summer position that offered real-world experience in that area. By March of my first year, I’d sent my resumé out to many firms but wasn’t finding what I wanted. That’s when I learned about the Portia Pipeline Program. One of the first activities I participated in was a resumé and cover letter workshop. My revised materials yielded twelve offers in short order, and I chose TKCK because it promised a lot of exposure to torts.
The experience of conducting professional-level research into workers’ compensation cases in Massachusetts was a revelation. So was attending conciliation hearings in front of judges. Watching and working with veteran attorneys in a large firm added an invaluable dimension to my legal education. I still love torts, but I have a much deeper appreciation of what it will be like to practice in this area. I hope more New England Law students can have access to such a beneficial starting point for their careers.
Learn More: Summer Fellowship Opportunities at New England Law