Lessons in Diversity and Inclusion

I’ve always been a Target shopper. Merona is probably my most-worn brand, and I keep a pile of reusable Target bags in the back of my car. But when I started law school, I never thought that I would be participating in one of the company’s innovative externship programs.

In 2013, Target launched its Diversity in Law Scholarship Program, which provides a semester corporate externship to law students who are members of underrepresented groups. Though lawyers push for equality under the law at all levels, a Washington Post article in May called law “the least diverse profession in the nation.” I’ve experienced this while browsing law firm websites that discuss a general “commitment to diversity”, rather than focusing on statistics for existing diversity within the firm. Though numbers can’t substitute for commitment, they can be a key indicator of it. And non-stereotypical law students, including myself, often feel the unconscious biases of the profession. I remember once speaking with a mentor about improving my big firm interviewing skills by toning down the occasional lilt in my voice. My experience at Target has been quite different, and the company hopes to effect change by giving diverse law students a jump-start in their legal careers.

Through its externship program, the Law Department works to provide externs with diverse skills and experiences that will set them apart from their peers and make them unique assets to the legal profession. As an extern for the last year, I’ve participated in multi-million dollar negotiations, advised our subsidiaries on advertising law, discussed general liability case strategy, drafted an exclusivity agreement, and created legal training materials for our business partners. I’ve gotten a rare “behind the scenes” view of business law and have had the unique opportunity to hone legal skills in directly advising a Fortune 50 company from the inside. I’ve learned to “speak law” to a business, which is very different from speaking law to a professor or a courtroom or an individual client. And I’ve shadowed accomplished attorneys who have been phenomenal mentors and role models.

But my experience as an extern hasn’t just been about strictly legal skills. It’s also been about finding ways that I can contribute to diversity and inclusion both at Target and wherever I may go in my career. Understanding diversity and inclusion is essential in both business and law, because it’s an essential part of life. We need to understand the unique backgrounds and experiences of each person we serve so that we can create environments where each person is welcome.

At Target, I have to constantly think about diversity and inclusion, because I have to constantly think about the guest experience. There is no one-size-fits-all guest. Target shoppers come from all parts of the community, so creating a diverse and inclusive environment will facilitate a better experience for our guests. And it will make me better at serving my community as a lawyer. Target brought me into its law department so that I could both learn about promoting diversity and inclusion (D&I, as we say here) and contribute to the D&I efforts at corporate. I’ve attended D&I presentations, discussed the meaning of D&I with our attorneys, and participated in planning meetings for our diversity law student mock interview program.

At the end of this semester, I’ll complete my time as an extern and go back to being the guest. I’ll always be thankful for my time at Target. But as the guest, I’ll know that Target still wants to invest in me, to understand me, and to create a great experience for me. And Target wants that experience for you, too.

Interested in joining Target?  Learn more here.