NJ Law Firm Group
Dedicated to maximizing diversity and career opportunities in the legal profession
Founded in 1990, the New Jersey Law Firm Group (NJLFG) is a nonprofit organization that works to help foster diversity within the New Jersey legal profession through its annual job fair, a mentoring program, events and a fellowship program for law students. The membership comprises New Jersey law firms, law schools, corporate legal departments, government agencies, bar associations and public interest organizations that recognize the importance of continuing to build diversity within the New Jersey legal profession.
But as Dan Mateo, NJLFG Chair, explains, the organization extends its diversity outreach across a wide spectrum. He says, “The organization’s members support inclusiveness and to do so, we define ‘diversity’ broadly. Beyond reaching out to racial and ethnic minorities, we strive to reach out to the LGBT and disabled communities as well. We have an inclusive standard and do not turn anyone away. If our events are to succeed, we need to welcome a range of world views and personal experiences. NJLFG therefore recognizes the number of different avenues students pursue for job development and career search.”
NJLFG also plays a role in promoting geographic diversity within the law. Mateo explains, “New Jersey is competitively located between two large legal markets – New York City and Philadelphia. It is important for the law firms in New Jersey to distinguish themselves in order to attract talented attorneys who bring diversity to their legal teams.”
It was the emphasis on geography that brought Mateo to an NJLFG roundtable held at Rutgers School of Law-Camden in 1992, when he was a second-year law student at the University of Pennsylvania. He says, “I knew I wanted to practice law in New Jersey and the NJLFG provided a way for me to build my contacts in the region.” After graduating, he practiced at a law firm in Bridgewater and is now a Partner in the Commercial Litigation Group of Reed Smith LLP’s Princeton office. He was named NJLFG Chair in 2004.
Sonia Cunha, Director of the Seton Hall Law Office of Career Services (OCS), represents the Law School within the NJLFG and ensures that Seton Hall Law students take advantage of its multiple services early on. As an example, the NJLFG offers a mentorship program for first-year students. She explains, “The mentor program pairs a student with a local attorney who guides the student through course selection, resume and cover letter writing, and general networking with the attorney’s contacts. Members of the law firms are direct connections for students to utilize. And the mentor relationship remains throughout the student’s enrollment.”
Together, students and their mentors are invited to attend the NJLFG roundtables, which take place every January, alternating between Seton Hall Law School and Rutgers Law School-Newark. The purpose of the roundtables is to spread awareness of the opportunities within New Jersey firms. Cunha says, “All the attorneys and recruiters of the New Jersey law firms and legal organizations have a seat at the table and are facilitators for students. OCS actively promotes the roundtable discussions since they present a great opportunity for students to interact with local practicing attorneys and receive career advice.”
Upperclassmen may also get involved in the NJLFG activities by participating in the annual career fair, designed to introduce students to employers before the formal on-campus interview (OCI) process begins. The fair takes place each August, with Seton Hall Law and Rutgers Law-Newark alternating sponsorship. This year, Rutgers Law-Newark will host the fair on Tuesday, August 7.
The NJLFG also provides a fellowship, granting $7,500 to one student every year, rotating among the three New Jersey law schools. The grant is awarded to law students who exemplify and help maximize diversity in the legal profession and who work in the public interest arena over the summer. In 2011, Seton Hall Law student, Anelia Dikovytska ’14, received the NJLFG grant.
The NJLFG intertwines its mission with that of other regional professional associations. For example, the NJLFG has been a long-time sponsor of the New Jersey Hispanic Bar Association’s Diverse Summer Associate Mixer. Students are welcome to attend and network with their counter parts at other firms as well as local attorneys.
The New Jersey legal market has benefited from the NJLFG’s extensive career development and networking efforts. Says Mateo, “The NJLFG has helped New Jersey’s legal employers demonstrate that not only can you have success and challenging work at New Jersey law firms, but you can also be part of a state-wide legal community that values diversity."
Clearly, the NJLFG is an important resource for law students looking to practice in New Jersey. The NJLFG encourages diverse law students who are interested in practicing law in New Jersey to become involved in the group and participate in its activities.
Students may check out the NJLFG’s website for information about joining the organization and participating in upcoming events; visit http://www.njlawfirmgroup.org/.