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Future associate Nana-Gyasi Kessie on taking advantage of every opportunity

Future associate Nana-Gyasi Kessie on taking advantage of every opportunity.

Howard University law student Nana-Gyasi Kessie decided he wanted to be a lawyer because he saw it as a career with great opportunities for personal and professional development. 

Howard Law's strong emphasis on community left a lasting impression on Nana. He learned from inspirational professors and fellow students and says that his experience fundamentally changed his perception about his career goals.

As a Black man pursuing a career in the law, Nana now wants to be remembered not only for his achievements, but also for the positive impact on his community.

Discovering the White & Case virtual experience program

When a former White & Case summer associate and Howard student told Nana about the opportunity to participate in the White & Case virtual experience program, he signed up immediately. "I knew that the Firm had a real global reach and a strong Africa practice, both of which really appealed to me." 

He valued the practical aspect of the free, open-access program, including insights that he hadn't learned as a paralegal or in law school. "The program took me from a point of not having any experience, not even knowing the basic terminology, to feeling a bit more comfortable, as I actually had done the sort of work that an associate would do for a client," Nana explains. 

"There's nothing that you can't do or level that you can't reach."

Nana says that taking advantage of these opportunities is a chance to be heard: "You can't have a say at the table if you don't have a seat at the table. These programs, for people who look like me, act like me and think like me, are an opportunity to get that seat at the table, so we can build a better future for the people behind us."

The program also debunked Nana's preconception that he needed a science or technology background to pursue areas like intellectual property law. "I realized that no area of the law is off-limits; there's nothing that you can't do or level that you can't reach."

"Part of the family": The White & Case Summer Program

Thanks to his participation in the virtual experience program, Nana was invited to attend a focus group with the White & Case recruiting team about what he had enjoyed about the program. He then applied and was successfully hired as a 2L summer associate in our New York office in 2020. 

"What impressed me straight away was how quickly the team, and the Firm, pivoted to remote working and a fully virtual summer program," he says. "I felt fully integrated straight away and there was constant engagement about how to make the program even better. I immediately felt part of the family."

In terms of the work, what did Nana most enjoy? First of all, the exposure to a variety of practices and areas of the law: "The recruitment team was an amazing help with the rotations and assignments, but I also felt encouragement on every level. The level of personal support and interest in me as a person far exceeded my expectations. Also, it was clear that everyone had a lot of respect for, and really valued, each other."

"There's still a way to go, but this Firm is tackling diversity head-on."

As a Black man, how did Nana respond to the way the Firm has addressed issues of racial injustice during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement? "What impressed me were the open and honest conversations and dialogue. I joined fellow Black summer associates to share our concerns with the Firm's Executive Committee, and I feel that the Firm is asking the right questions about what needs to change and how to be an active ally for minorities."

He adds, "Of course, there's still a long way to go, but this Firm is tackling diversity head-on. I felt that the needle is being moved, that barriers are coming down. I feel that there is a place for me at the table at White & Case. I'm looking forward to starting at the Firm, adding value and, of course, meeting all the great people that I already got to know virtually."

Nana will start as an associate in the White & Case New York office in fall 2021.