Hello everyone and good evening. For those who don’t know, my name is Anna Cardoso and I am a 2L at BU Law. It is an honor to be here as one of the first D&I fellows and as tonight’s guest speaker. First and foremost, I would like to thank the BBA, especially Solana and Mariah for inviting me to speak tonight, to everyone who made my fellowship possible, and lastly to all of you for being here tonight.
As many of you know, I spent my summer in the Medicaid Fraud Division in Attorney General Healey’s office this summer. I remember the afternoon when Jean Mejia informed me that I was selected to receive the fellowship. Before that moment, I felt sure that I would not be able to spend my summer at the AG’s office due to lack of funding and had begun to explore other options. However, when I received the news, I accepted, and was ecstatic. I eagerly awaited the day we began our internships. I was immediately paired with two incredible mentors, Amanda Morejon and Gina Kwon. I want to take the time to thank Amanda in particular for being a fierce and wonderful Latina mentor whose words continue to inspire me and comfort me in moments of stress or uncertainty. I remember feeling like there was this extra weight on my shoulders as the first fellow selected for the program. I knew that the continuation of the program was dependent on me being effective and responsible. I knew too, that I was incredibly fortunate to be able to work for Maura Healey. I was especially grateful to be working on an issue as important as making sure vulnerable populations were not being taken advantage of by healthcare providers. I was nervous too. Nervous I would make a mistake, or that I would say the wrong thing or wear the wrong outfit. Through these anxieties, Amanda assured me that I deserved to be here and that even the best attorneys make mistakes sometimes.
During my time there, I was able to write research memos on various legal topics, was taken to court hearings and depositions, attended brown bag lunches to learn more about the work of the AG’s office, prepared for interviews with relators and presented to my bureau on kickbacks. This presentation was the most challenging endeavor of the summer and I eventually turned that research into my current journal note topic. My supervisors checked in with me regularly while giving me the space I needed to grow as an intern.
Not only did I learn how to research a specific question in a short amount of time, but I was also encouraged to research interests I developed outside the scope of my projects. Stephany Collamore in particular allowed me to sit down in her office and ask questions about everything from kickbacks to settlement agreements. When I was unsure of how my research was progressing, I developed a habit of checking in with her to see if I was on the right track and her guidance helped me tailor my focus to the project at hand. Surprisingly to me, there were also times that she encouraged to me delve deeper into what I thought were rabbit holes but ended up being solutions neither of us thought about at the beginning of a project.
I felt challenged. I felt like I was learning something new every day, and I felt excited to come to my little cubicle every morning. I was never scared to ask a question and found that the attorneys in the office were receptive to my questions and indulged me in answering things I was just curious about. I was also able to network with attorneys outside of my bureau, growing close to April English and Mary Beckman, who rooted for me throughout the summer interview process and offered candid advice, taking the time out of their extremely busy schedules to talk to me and really get to know me as a person.
Perhaps my favorite thing about the experience was how my fellowship never came up in discussions, I was simply part of the class of interns during last summer. It was never announced that the AG’s office had a D&I fellow, and I was never singled out for any reason. To me, this is what diversity and inclusion looks like: I am here, I am occupying space that was once denied to me and continues to be harder for me to access, and my contributions are respected and valued. I am proud to be in a city that recognizes that there has been a systematic failure to include women and people of color in the legal profession, and works towards a more equitable future not by using people of color as tokens but by encouraging us to bring our full selves to work and treating us with the same respect and understanding as our white peers. Since beginning my legal career, I have reflected on how little of me I see and how frustrating it is when white peers believe that fellowships like this are unfair to them. Fellowships like this are often scrutinized, so I applaud everyone involved for making a difference in the face of criticism.
I am so happy to see you all here tonight because it means that you also recognize there is a problem and that the solution is worth seeking. I am also really excited to watch what the Society of Fellows does next to make Boston a better and more fulfilling place to practice law. As a California native who had no intention of staying after she graduated when she first moved to Boston, it is people like you that have convinced me that this is where I want to practice. As we continue to welcome new peers into our law schools, firms, and organizations, I want to encourage everyone here to continue to convince students like 1L me that Boston is a place worth sticking around in. I encourage you to have uncomfortable conversations that may not always yield the response you expect as we learn and grow from one another beyond race, age, gender, or status. I urge you to recognize that there may be things you cannot and will not understand about the experience of someone who is not like you, but to trust what they tell you without thinking “well that has never happened to me.” Lastly, I thank you all, for allowing me to narrate my own experience in my own words and allowing me to share a piece of my journey with you as I continue to learn how to become the lawyer I am meant to be. Thank you.