Pictured are 2Ls Mecole Tate (L) and Carolina Ugalde (R), part of the fourth cohort of diversity fellows.

Five years ago, Eric Casher ’06, a principal with Meyers Nave in Oakland, set out to create a diversity program for his firm. An ambitious program for a firm its size, it is now a successful pipeline for students of color.

Shandyn Pierce ’20 is the first fellow to be hired by Meyers Nave as an associate. One of the second class of fellows, he will join the firm’s public law practice group following the October California bar exam.

As the program has developed, it has been dominated by UC Law SF students. “It is so important, even now more than ever, that we all work hard to create a legal profession that reflects the great diversity of our state,” Casher said. “Our fellowship program is a way for Meyers Nave to invest in the future of our profession and springboard the careers of some of the most talented and deserving law students in California.”

The Diversity Fellowship Program includes a paid, full-time, 10-week fellow position after the first year of law school, with possible extension to a student’s second-year summer. Fellows also receive $5,000 in tuition assistance following each summer. Casher is chair of the diversity committee at Meyers Nave and now helps administer the fellowship program. He was also recently appointed chair of the firm’s municipal and special district law practice group, and is past president of the Charles Houston Bar Association.

At the heart of the program is mentoring from Meyers Nave attorneys, focusing both on fellows’ academic work and the practice and business of law. Students are immersed in the work of the firm. Pierce quickly conscripted Casher as one of his mentors.

“Just watching how Eric runs his practice has been a huge learning opportunity,” Pierce said. “I have learned how to be an unequivocally and unapologetically Black attorney in these spaces,” in part thanks to Casher’s influence.

The fourth cohort included Mecole Tate and Carolina Ugalde, now both 2Ls. Victoria Ayeni ’20 was a diversity fellow in 2018, and 3L Anthony Felix was a fellow in 2019.

“Working at Meyers Nave, they really made me feel like part of the team. I had the chance to work on some really interesting projects,” said Tate, who is vice president of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA). “Most interesting was my research learning about what local municipalities are implementing in response to the current civil unrest, and how they are committed to supporting the Black Lives Matters movement. I also appreciated that the firm trusted me to work on an actual client communication. I love the direct impact public law has, and the ability to create change in communities.”

Ugalde, who is co-president of UC Law SF La Raza Law Student Association, said she is drawn to litigation, health law, and public contracts. “My summer experience was wonderful. Meyers Nave’s commitment to supporting my interests provided me with unique opportunities. My mentors ensured that I had the chance to work with renowned litigation attorneys in their Los Angeles office and prominent public law attorneys in their Oakland office. I was able to do work that matters, including drafting materials for an MCLE training regarding First Amendment rights and COVID-19 ordinances. I share Meyers Nave’s commitment to further diversify the legal profession. I am humbled and grateful to have been selected as a fellow.”

Information about the program, including application deadlines, can be found here.