At 11 years old, Rahni Stewart told her mother she was going to be a lawyer, the outcome of her parent’s legal drama TV habits. Now, a year through law school, she continues to work toward that goal this summer as Seeger Weiss’s Diversity Fellow.
The Seeger Weiss Diversity Fellowship recognizes an exceptional rising second-year law student who shows the promise of both becoming an outstanding attorney and contributing meaningfully to the diversity of Seeger Weiss and the legal community. It’s part of the firm’s commitment to building a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive plaintiff’s bar.
Stewart fits the bill when it comes to exceptional. As an undergraduate student at the University of Houston she was part of the Bauer Honors Program, graduated summa cum laude, and completed a Senior Honors Thesis. She also spent a semester in Washington, DC working on promoting equitable access to higher education for the LGBTQ community as an intern with the Human Rights Campaign.
“Being LGBTQ from the South and a person of color, the resources were not abundant for me,” Stewart said. That’s why she enjoyed her time at the HRC so much, “You have the opportunity to provide for people.”
Her sentiment mirrors the aim of the Diversity Fellowship program — creating opportunities for people who have traditionally had less access. Seeger Weiss takes this goal seriously, knowing that creating a more diverse bar will create a better bar. That means more than just hiring a fellow or appointing diverse lawyers to handle cases; it’s about investing in those people for the long term, which fits in with the firm’s tradition of intentional mentorship of people new to the field.
Stewart gives a lot of credit to the firm’s senior attorneys for both the formal and informal mentorship opportunities she enjoys. Coffee chats are set up every week as time dedicated to speaking with summer associates.
“But also, everyone is just really nice. They’ll talk to you if you have questions, if they see you in the kitchen they’ll tell you stories,” Stewart said. “They’re just really happy to bring people into whatever they’re working on, and I think that’s the best part of working here.”
Stewart has found the experience of getting involved in different parts of the work that is going on in the firm empowering, “Seeger Weiss is doing a really great job of bringing us with them in this space.”
So far, Stewart has been brought in to review depositions for one of the MDLs that Seeger Weiss is leading and gathering data on case decisions that can help inform their legal strategy. She’s also started a short-term research project reviewing statute of limitations across the country and seeing how case law has evolved in certain states that could allow older claims to move forward.
The fellowship program provides also offers the unique opportunity for Fellows to make a charitable contribute to a nonprofit organization of their choice. Stewart is leaning toward St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, local to her hometown of Memphis, TN, and where her mom has previously worked.
“To be attached to a Diversity Fellowship, that is a very empowering thing,” Stewart said. “It truly speaks to the idea that Seeger Weiss is trying to promote success and comfort in its diversity fellows and actively trying to empower them.”
To Stewart, the most important piece of creating an inclusive space is the ability to show up authentically, “If you’re integrating diverse people into spaces, you have to understand that they might show up differently, and it doesn’t make them less professional or any less capable.”
Her commitment this summer is just to show up as herself every day.
Read more about Seeger Weiss’s Diversity Fellowship and other initiatives here.