D.C. Road Show

The D.C. Road Show is a collective effort, by several major DC law firms, to recruit African-American law students to the Washington, DC market. Started in about 1975, the D.C. Road Show’s origins lay in the observation, at the time, that most African-American law students interested in big-firm practice generally looked to the New York market. African-American law students who were attracted to DC tended to be more interested in a career with the Federal government. At that time, very few of the major law firms had a presence in Washington, DC.

To encourage African-American law students to come to Washington to try big-firm practice, the idea was conceived for the major DC law firms to go “on the road” to visit the law schools which had traditionally been the sources for new talent. The D.C. Road Shows set out to meet with the African-American law students in more informal settings and share with them an alternative to a law career in NY, as well as the opportunities and advantages related to a career in Washington, DC.

Today, the D.C. Road Show is conducted by over a dozen major law firms in Washington, DC. Road Shows have been held at Berkeley, Chicago, Columbia, Duke, George Washington University, Georgetown, Harvard, Howard, Northwestern, NYU, Penn, Stanford, the University of Virginia, and Yale. Although the D.C. Road Show now includes branch offices of major law firms not based in Washington, DC, the message remains the same: to encourage African-American law students to come to Washington, DC to try big-firm practice.

Michael St. Patrick Baxter, one of our partners, chairs the D.C. Road Show Committee, and for many years, has organized the Road Show for all Washington firms.

What Happens at a D.C. Road Show

At a D.C. Road Show, the participants discuss subjects and issues of interest to the students. Among the topics frequently discussed are handling the interview, dealing with less-than-stellar grades, why come to DC, choosing a practice area, being African-American in a major law firm, and how to succeed at a law firm.

One of the greatest benefits the Road Show affords African-American law students is the opportunity to ask questions they may be reluctant to ask in the interview process. In the context of the Road Show, free from any perceived strictures, politics and repercussions of the interview process, the students feel more comfortable asking candid questions, and the representatives from the law firms endeavor to answer them equally candidly.

Perspectives of Road Show Alumni

"I attended the D.C. Road Show at Columbia Law School in 2015. I do not think the value of seeing a panel comprised entirely of African American attorneys, most of whom were partners, can be overstated. The Road Show marked the first time I had an opportunity to ask attorneys with similar backgrounds to my own why they chose their specific areas of practice.

The tone of the D.C. Road Show was one of collaboration. It felt like less of a sell for a particular firm and more of presentation on what having a legal practice in DC could be. Lawyers provided examples of their typical work days. Those days would include very interesting and intellectual legal work, but also dinner with a significant other or playing sports with colleagues. I recall that one partner taught a knitting class. Seeing people who were lawyers, and not lawyers who are sometimes people, made a huge impact.

New York is my preferred city to live in, but when I thought about being able to do the type of work I wanted to do while having the type of life I wanted, it became clear to me that Washington, DC was the place where I could accomplish that without having to sacrifice one for the other. The D.C. Road Show sold me on practicing in the nation's capital."

Jachele Vélez