An Interview With James L. Bobbitt, III

By Sarah Saint

The NCBA YLD Diversity and Inclusion Committee has interviewed several diverse attorneys about their experiences in the law. New attorneys face many challenges, including finding mentors, fitting in, and finding their place—and diverse attorneys are no different.

Here is one diverse attorney’s perspective on how he is overcoming these challenges.

 

Meet James L. Bobbitt, III

James L. Bobbitt, III is a Washington University in St. Louis graduate and employment attorney at Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard in Raleigh, North Carolina. His practice centers on counseling businesses of varying sizes and their HR professionals regarding employment matters and representing employers in proceedings involving employment related claims.

James L. Bobbitt, III

Why do you consider yourself a diverse attorney?

As a black attorney with African American ancestry, I am a member of a segment of the population that is historically and presently underrepresented in the legal field.

What do you look for in a mentor?

I look for someone who will provide thoughtful, honest advice without judgment. In my opinion, mentoring relationships do not work if you are afraid to ask questions and seek guidance. I typically find mentors by developing professional relationships with more senior attorneys, and some of these organically evolve into mentoring relationships over time.

What motivates you to be a diversity advocate/champion in the legal profession?

Intelligence, skill, and ability are equally distributed to all people; therefore, everyone should have every opportunity to achieve meaningful professional success. I have benefited from having numerous attorneys personally invest in my success, and I feel obligated to pay that investment forward to help the next generation of diverse attorneys.

What do you think is the future of diversity for the legal profession?

I am optimistic that the legal profession will continue to become more diverse. The legal profession is getting younger, which is typically indicative of social progress, and influential clients are increasingly demanding diverse legal representation. Legal employers have realized that promoting diversity is not only the right thing to do but also important for business development.

In what ways can the legal profession become more inclusive for diverse attorneys?

Legal employers need to admit that there is a diversity problem. Some still think that simply meeting minimum diversity hiring recommendations means that they are fulfilling their commitment to diversity. Also, recruiters need to expand their focus from simply hiring diverse attorneys to retaining diverse attorneys. The attrition rate among diverse attorneys is very high. I do not have the answer for how to fix these problems, but I think it starts with making diverse attorneys feel welcomed and valued.

What advice would you give to diverse new attorneys or law students?

Try not to get discouraged by the fact that in certain situations, you will be the only diverse law student or attorney. Even though you may sometimes feel this way, still make every effort to identify what you want and go after it.