Black Hair Big Law
11:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Lunch and learn with food served from 12:00
The symposium kicks off on Thursday October 27th at 11AM and includes:
  • A distinguished panel of knowledgeable, relatable, and trailblazing speakers
  • Compelling original quantitative graduate research black attorneys and their hair
  • Poignant, thought-provoking videos about attorneys and judges wearing their hair natural 
  • Representation matters: 100 Black TV and Film Lawyers from the controversial “Amos & Andy” to the new CBS legal drama, “All Rise.”


Deborah Enix-Ross, President American Bar Association
Enix-Ross is a senior adviser to the International Dispute Resolution Group of Debevoise & Plimpton in New York City and the President of the American Bar Association; the national voice of the legal profession, responsible for establishing academic standards for law schools and setting the code of ethics.

Professor Wendy Greene, Law Professor, Drexel University, Legal Expert and Advisor for the C.R.O.W.N. Act. Greene is one of the nation’s leading legal experts on this global civil rights issue and founder of the #FreeTheHair movement. Speaking on, The C.R.O.W.N. Act: The legal impetus for legislation

British law professor Leslie Thomas, KC, who recently authored his autobiography, “Do Right and Fear No One” has voiced opposition to the English legal tradition of wearing a barrister’s wig in court, will speak on the topic, “Why my barrister’s wig is culturally insensitive.”

Attendees will also enjoy a conversation with law professors Patricia Broussard of FAMU and Shelly Page of Southern Illinois University on “Policing our bodies: The expectations and Professionalism of Black Hair in Law.”

The Honorable Turkessa B. Rollins, General District Court, Prince William County, Virginia presents a guided Q&A session about black hair and the judiciary.

Umar Kankiya, Solicitor from the United Kingdom who speaks on Can you really be your authentic self at the law firm?

Desiree H. Langley, Associate Jackson Lewis, P.C.
The Black Law Student Association and Scalia Law School welcomes back Class of 2017 BLSA President Desiree H. Langley; as she shares her experience and decision points on how she wore her hair when entering the workforce.

Karis Stephen, 3L, University of Pennsylvania, Carey Law School
Karis is an accomplished third-year J.D. candidate and Fullbright scholar who will start as an associate at the firm Latham & Watkins after graduation. She speaks on the topic, "Why I Choose to Wear Braids to the Workplace Every Day Despite the Fear of Criticism?"

Binta Mamadou, Associate, Allen and Overy and Owner of Visions Braid Bar

Rachel Antoinette Boyce, Associate at Cooley, LLP, who was featured in the Law 360 documentary, “Wearing Natural Hair in Big Law.”

We organize this symposium to create a space to discuss: Is natural black hair compatible with working in big law?

What’s the big deal with black hair?
There is a common and profoundly racist belief that African American hairstyles are unprofessional, unhygienic, untidy, unruly, and unkempt.

Many, though not all, black people have kinky coily hair. There is no one set curl pattern for an individual. Within a community of African Americans there will be many different types of curl patterns – sometimes even arising from a single head.

Paralegals, law students, and attorneys with kinky coily hair experience substantial socio-economic pressure to relax or straighten their hair in order to conform to “business norms” which are most often aligned to white European beauty standards.

What’s the big deal with big law?
Having to continually alter one’s appearance to in order to fit into their law firm can cause emotional distress and be offensive to one’s dignity. These experiences underline the distinct and hefty burden involved in the decision-making process regarding what to do one’s hair? Should the attorney their hair according to white European beauty standards? Or will they be stigmatized for wearing their hair in a natural style?

The term “big law” describes a sector of the legal industry comprised of the biggest and most successful law firms. Jobs are highly coveted with starting salaries for first year associates at $215,000 per year.

How many African Americans are working in big law? According to the ABA Journal, black attorneys make up rough 4.7% of all lawyers. For big law, that number is even smaller.

With fierce competition for these jobs can you truly bring your authentic self to work in order to succeed? Again, this begs the question: Should the attorney their hair according to white European beauty standards? Or will they stigmatized for wearing their hair in a natural style? Or is there possibly a happy medium that exists?

Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University
3301 Fairfax Dr, Arlington, VA 22201
Date & Time
Zoom attendees must register and will be sent a link the morning of the event.

October 27, 2022,
9:00 AM - 12:00 noon
followed by a lunch reception from 12:00 - 1:00 PM

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