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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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Lecture series event inspires conversations about women in law

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ILLUSTRATION: CASEY WOOD ’23/THE HAWK

Doneene Keemer Damon ’89, the first Black woman president and director of the Delaware law firm Richards, Layton & Finger, spoke about her law career via Zoom to St. Joe’s students, faculty and staff on Oct. 14. 

As part of the university’s 2020 Focus on Women lecture series, Damon offered advice to St. Joe’s students who are interested in attending law school after graduation.   

Damon said, as a Black woman, she is often troubled when identified as a trailblazer because it’s disheartening that there are still firsts of anything in recent years.

“I’m humbled by it, but I also feel a tremendous degree of responsibility because of it,” Damon said. “I have a greater degree of responsibility to mess it up. From that perspective, it’s not about you, it’s how you are preparing the next generation behind you.”

Damon was an accounting major at St. Joe’s, but always knew she wanted to be a lawyer. She said she struggled because no one in her family worked in law, so she felt like she did not have someone to look up to. However, Damon  knew she had the skills to pursue a career in law. 

“No career that you follow is going to be easy, and I’m a true believer that when you want to do it, you do everything necessary to achieve your goals,” Damon said. “Having the diligence to work hard and not to take a superficial approach, but a deep dive approach is critical to success.” 

Kayla Evans ’23 was relieved to hear Damon say it is okay not to have specific career plans.

“She candidly shared her experience,” Evans said.  “To know that someone so established didn’t even have an initial interest in law, but accounting, made me feel like I wasn’t failing.” 

The moderator of the event, Susan Liebell, Ph.D., associate professor of political science and pre-law advisor, said that when people think about law school, they often think about TV law, like attorneys speaking in front of judges in criminal cases, but there are so many different routes law students can take. 

“It’s tough for students to imagine all the different fields of the legal industry,” Liebell said. “Hence, it’s incredibly valuable for someone like Damon to offer her advice to young students who are considering going into the law industry.”  

Aidan Tague ’22, member of the Hawk Hill Law club, said the event was an excellent opportunity to hear from an actual lawyer.

“There are so many areas of law that you can get into,” Tague said. “From sports law to criminal law, there is definitely an opportunity for everyone. In the Zoom session, Damon taught me that whatever law school I choose to go to will shape the career path that I take.” 

Damon said being your whole self in whatever postgraduate path you choose lets your colleagues, clients and everyone you come in contact with know you on a more personal level, leading to strong relationships. 

 “I have wonderful clients, I have a great career, but I’m also so much more than a lawyer,” Damon said. “I hope what I bring to my firm and clients are my whole self and not just Doneene the lawyer, but also Doneene the person.”

Elizabeth Sweeney ’21 said she decided to attend the event because she was impressed with Damon’s achievements and wanted to learn more about her professional journey in such a male-dominated, undiversified industry. 

“She stressed the importance of being well-rounded and how taking care of one’s health intersects with the ability to have a long-lasting, fulfilling career,” Sweeney said. “I do agree both health and professional development are key in being able to participate and make connections that catapult one’s career fully.”

Sophia Wooden ’22 said she attended because she is interested in law school and as a woman, she thought it would be beneficial to hear Damon speak on her own career path. 

“As president of her law firm, she has made it one of her goals to increase wellness,” Wooden said. “She gave tips on how to keep your mental health in check. She believes it is important to know yourself and know your triggers.” 

Damon shared an experience of when she interviewed at her current law firm. She pointed out that there were no minority lawyers or partners who questioned her. She said there was a diversity issue, and the interviewer agreed with her and wanted to use her to address the issue. He didn’t try to hide it or walk around it.  

“We had a very honest conversation about what diversity should look like and what firms should be doing, and I was just honored that he was willing to engage in that conversation with me in that way,” Damon said. “I thought if this is the kind of person who’s at this firm, this is the firm where I want to be.”

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