Summer Job Spotlight: Yemaya Hanna, 2L, Maslon, Medtronic, & Minnesota Legislature
Yemaya Hanna, 2L, has had the opportunity to have professional experiences in three very different types of professional environments this summer. Through Twin Cities Diversity in Practice’s (TCDIP) Rotation Clerkship Program, she spent July with Maslon in Minneapolis and with the legal department at Medtronic, learning the ins-and-outs of working as an associate at a major law firm and as in-house counsel for a global medical device maker. As if this were not enough, she also has a fellowship to do research work for the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus of the Minnesota Legislature.
You are having several summer experiences through the Twin Cities Diversity in Practice (TCDIP) 1L summer rotation. Can you describe that program a bit and how you connected with it?
TCDIP provides diverse law students the unique opportunity to experience two different legal environments—working in a large law firm and a company’s in-house legal department. As someone who was previously scared of “big law,” I knew TCDIP would challenge me to go outside my comfort zone and help me develop valuable skills.
What are you hoping to get out of the program?
TCDIP brings together diverse attorneys and law students and I was excited to become part of that rich community. My summer with Maslon also challenged many of my preconceived notions about corporate law, and showed me that I am capable of thriving in that environment. I am thrilled to be returning to Maslon next summer.
So far, you have worked at a law firm (Maslon) and at a company (Medtronic). Can you describe a few of the things that you have gotten to experience at these places?
At Maslon, I worked on projects ranging from drafting motions for a pro bono criminal case and researching state franchise laws, to composing a research memo on employers’ rights in the wake of COVID-19. With Medtronic I had virtual meetings with in-house attorneys and learned about the differences between firm and in-house work.
You are also going to work at the People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) Caucus of the Minnesota Legislature. What are you most looking forward to about that forthcoming experience?
I will be on a team of fellows from the Humphrey School and the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. We will conduct research and present a proposal regarding criminal justice and public safety reform in Minnesota. I look forward to working with this well-rounded and intelligent team of grad students on such an important issue.
Do you have any past experiences working on public-policy issues or dealing with politics/policy-makers?
I majored in political science for my undergrad at the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities and I interned for Governor [Mark] Dayton at the Capitol during my junior year. I also interned for Senator Al Franken that year as well. I loved working for constituents and hearing about the issues Minnesotans are passionate about. My background in government was one of the reasons I was so excited to work for the POCI caucus this summer to do meaningful research that could have a significant impact on the lives of all Minnesotans.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your summer experience? (E.g., Have you been working from home? Has it changed the substance of what you do?)
Although I worked remotely this summer, I still got a feel for the culture at Maslon and I became an expert in Zoom and WebEx meetings. Though, I did miss my commute to the city because it provided me with some much-needed alone time on stressful work and school days.
How so far has your summer experience compared with your expectations?
Initially, I worried that I would feel isolated from my colleagues at Maslon. However, the summer coordinators worked extremely hard to ensure that we connected with as many attorneys and practice groups as possible. They also organized some awesome virtual social events like Zoom happy hours, game nights, and cooking lessons.
How, if at all, does your experience connect with what you currently envision doing with your law degree? (And if it doesn’t directly connect, what do you hope to get out of the experience?)
I hope to work in employment, immigration, or estate planning and eventually transition to legal Diversity and Inclusion work. With TCDIP, I not only learned about the practice areas in which I could see myself working, but I also learned about current D&I efforts in the Twin Cities and at my firm.
What advice would you offer another law student thinking about doing a 1L rotation summer through TCDIP in the future?
As a woman of color who did not grow up knowing any lawyers, I had never considered working in the corporate world. I was completely surprised by my positive experience, and I would absolutely encourage 1Ls to apply to TCDIP. Even if students determine that the work is not for them at the end of the summer, they will still develop skills beneficial to any legal career. Also, because the Twin Cities legal community is relatively small, they will make valuable connections with fellow TCDIP clerks and attorney mentors who will remain in their network throughout their careers.
These are stressful times. What are you doing for wellness to de-stress?
I love this question because it is not asked enough in the legal profession. I am a huge advocate for taking time away from our screens to do activities that make us happy. Personally, I try to get outside everyday whether I’m running, paddle boarding, walking my dog, or taking yoga classes in the park.
How are you spending your free time this summer?
In addition to spending time outdoors, I have been planning for the upcoming academic year as the new co-president of the Black Law Students Association. Our group is excited to bring meaningful programming to the Law School to address how anti-blackness manifests itself in the law.
Anything else you’d like to share about your experience or about this summer?
Initially, I struggled with the idea of accepting a “diversity” position because I was worried it would prevent me from fitting in at my firm. I could not have been more wrong. My substantive work was valued by the attorneys and I was also surprised by the candid and meaningful conversations the firm held surrounding racial injustice in the community and diversity in the legal field.