June 02, 2023

Spotlight on Lauren Williams: The Benefits of Building a Diverse Network

5 min

Last year, Lauren Williams, a senior associate in Venable’s Corporate Practice Group, was chosen to participate in the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD) Pathfinders program, which is designed to provide high-potential diverse attorneys with practical career development tools. In this Q & A, Lauren shares her experience with the program, including the benefit of being able to forge connections with other attorneys of color.

Q: How did you come to be selected as an LCLD Pathfinder?

A: Jenn Reddien, who leads the firm’s DEI efforts, reached out to me about it early on to see if I was familiar with LCLD and to see if I would be interested in participating in LCLD as a Pathfinder. My name had come up in her discussions with firm leaders as a potential associate to participate in the program. After looking more into the Pathfinder program and talking with one of the partners whom I work closely with, Karen Hermann, a former LCLD Fellow herself, I let Jenn know that I was interested in participating in the program.  

Q: What did the program involve?

A: The program included multiple components, including class meetings, e-learning modules, and peer circles. The class meetings and e-learning modules focused on different issues like time management, personality types, management styles, and so on. Our peer circles were smaller subsets of Pathfinders that were designed to facilitate closer interaction and networking with other Pathfinders in our city. My peer circle would get together every so often to network and get to know each other. I began the program just as we were coming out of the pandemic and getting back to doing things in person, so there were still virtual components as well as in-person sessions.

Q: How did you find the virtual aspects of the program?

A: LCLD did a really good job of trying to mix things up to keep everyone engaged. There were breakout rooms and several opportunities for active participation. One thing that was very evident is that because LCLD has such a great reputation, most of participants were very excited to be involved and took the program very seriously. So, rather than just switching off their cameras and tuning out, people were really engrossed and intent on getting as much as possible out of it. I can honestly say it was one of the best virtual programs that I’ve participated in.

Q: A key part of the program was a two-day conference. What did that involve, and what did you get out of it?

A: We participated in career-building sessions with various facilitators and got to meet other Pathfinders from all over the country. There were several sessions on various issues. One that I found particularly insightful was about working with different generations and getting a perspective on how different generations think or act. Most of the participants were Millennials or Generation X, so it was very interesting to learn some of the differences in the approaches of other generations, including Baby Boomers, who make up such a big portion of those in leadership/management positions in our various organizations. There was also a presentation on different management styles—ghosting management style, micromanaging style, and so on. That was useful not only to help us identify the different kinds of managers we might be working with, but also the kinds of managers we might become. Another session, which was led by twin sisters who host a podcast called Corporate Homie, focused on how to succeed in corporate America from the perspective of people of color. So, there was quite a mix, and all of the speakers were really fun and engaging. I also really enjoyed talking and getting to know people from across the country and from various organizations. Everyone there was on a mission to network and meet as many people as they could, and that was really facilitated by LCLD. In the evenings, we also got the chance to participate in dine-arounds, which gave us another opportunity to meet in smaller groups and network over dinner. It was a great networking opportunity.

Q: Do you think those relationships that you forged with the other Pathfinders will be lasting?

A: One of the things the program does is to establish peer circles with people who live in the same city. I’m now part of a peer circle in DC, and the idea is that we can get together for happy hours and things like that to keep those connections going. LCLD also hosts an Alumni Symposium every year, which is another opportunity to make contact with other former Pathfinders and members of your peer circle. I’m a sixth-year associate now, and I would say that most of the participants were associates at around that same career level. The idea is that you forge connections now, and as we all rise up the ladder, we have a network of people to rely on.

Q: What was your biggest takeaway from the program, and did it meet your expectations? 

A: It exceeded my expectations. When I was first nominated, I was unsure about what it would be.  But once the sessions began, particularly the in-person sessions, it was helpful in ways that you might not otherwise consider—such as learning how different generations approach things and the role your personality plays in your professional development. But meeting and connecting with so many people who are on similar trajectories was really the best part for me. As an attorney of color, you’re often the only person of color in the room. But during the Pathfinders program, there was a lot of diversity, so you were one of many and got to connect with people who have experienced a lot of the same things you have experienced as a diverse attorney. Being able to build a network of peers like that is something I really appreciate.   

Venable has been recognized by LCLD as a Top Performer and Compass Award winner for the past five consecutive years. To learn more about our LCLD partnership and our diversity efforts, check out our website.