Law students spend a lot of their time at law school focused on reading and writing assignments and honing their analysis skills. But the quality of the personal relationships they build along the way are just as important.
That’s how it has been for Khalil Williams ’21. It started before he was even accepted to UB School of Law, when members of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) reached out to him. And when he finally stepped foot into O’Brian Hall, those ties stayed strong.
“Especially that first year in law school, BLSA was a family to me,” says Williams, who has continued to work with the student organization and currently serves as its vice president. “They helped support us, and they did workshops on things like resume building and interviewing skills, learning how to outline properly before a final exam. I immediately saw the benefit of it, and I wanted to maintain those relationships through law school.”
Relationships, too, are at the heart of his successful first step into the world of practicing lawyers. After participating for two summers in its Diversity Scholar Program, Williams will join the Rochester-based firm Ward Greenberg Heller & Reidy LLP as an associate after graduation.
That job offer is the culmination of an investment by the firm in its newest hire. Jeffrey Harradine, a partner at Ward Greenberg who has directed the internship program since its inception in 2016, says the diversity program extends over two summers because it’s “purposely designed to create those deeper and longer relationships. This program is a component of our broader internship program, but it envisions a much longer-term and deep engagement with the students.”
That includes intensive mentoring and an array of work experiences that include assignment to work with in-house counsel for one of the firm’s clients. Williams spent a week in his 1L summer at the Dallas headquarters of 7-Eleven. “It’s a great way for the scholar to get that appreciation of what they need to do to be a better client services person, but also to start forming deep relationships with clients earlier than they otherwise would have an ability to do,” Harradine says.
Williams is the third graduating law student the firm has hired through the Diversity Scholar Program. The first was UB Law alumna Senovia Moncada ’18.
“I had the opportunity to work with Khalil for two summers,” Harradine says. “He’s a young fellow but he has an intellect and judgment beyond his years. He has just about the most calming and professional demeanor that I think I’ve ever seen in a lawyer.”
Williams spent the first summer at the firm’s Philadelphia office and the second in a virtual environment. He says the internship made him confident that he was ready to enter the world of practice.
“In law school they talk a lot about learning to think like a lawyer,” he says. “But it wasn’t until that summer after my first year that the meaning of that phrase clicked in my mind. I received a lot of one-on-one mentorship, and they went out of their way to give me meaningful work.
The work was varied, and he expects more of the same when he joins the firm as an associate: research and analysis on issues related to civil litigation, preparing legal memoranda, reviewing case law citations. The week at 7-Eleven headquarters was rich, he says, partly because one of the partners briefed him in advance on the firm’s history with the client. “That was something I really appreciated, that they took time to prepare me,” Williams says. “Before I went to law school, I didn’t know anything about in-house counsel and what that entailed.”
He’ll leave UB Law with his own rich history, from his service with BLSA to his work in what’s now the Civil Rights and Transparency Clinic. There he helped settle a suit brought by the Vietnam Veterans of America against the Department of Defense over information privacy, and argued virtually before a judge on behalf of a local reporter who had been subpoenaed in a murder trial. “That was a big milestone,” he says, “and it’s something I’m going to have to do in practice.” He also has served as a student ambassador for the law school, as part of his work with the Office of Admissions.
Through it all, he says, the UB Law community has been a bastion of support, from his first bevy of questions for Admissions to the rigors of class. “Especially that first year, the professors really went out of their way to provide guidance and support,” Williams says. “They actually do care, not just about your success as a student but also your overall well-being.”