Sekou Lewis earned his JD in 2012, but five years have not dimmed his memory of how it feels to be a law student surrounded by experienced and accomplished attorneys.
“It’s intimidating for young lawyers,” Lewis said. “It’s especially intimidating for students.”
In 2016, Lewis began supervising Kline School of Law students completing co-op placements at Schnader Harrison, the behemoth firm he joined in 2012, where he represents private and public companies, nonprofit organizations and municipalities in real estate and corporate matters and serves as vice chair of the firm’s Sports Law team.
“There are a lot of pressures,” Lewis said. “I try to reduce outside distractions so they can get the most out of their co-op opportunity.”
As an associate, Lewis himself is not the assigning attorney for projects, but “the in between” who links a student protégé to the firm.
In that role, Lewis helps students figure out what they need to ask in order to understand the needs of attorneys with whom they are working.
“You learn how to ask certain questions so that you can get on the same page,” Lewis said, noting that busy partners may not always articulate their needs clearly. “If you understand the needs of the person above you, you can help them achieve what they’re trying to get.”
A former professional basketball player and coach, Lewis said he applies principles he used with players to his protégés at the firm.
“You want to create an environment that focuses on a goal – don’t focus on a missed shot,” he said. “If a player was working hard and tried, that was enough that you would want that person on your team.”
Lewis also has not forgotten the team of mentors who advised him while he was in law school. Early in his 1L year, Lewis said, he received valuable advice from Professor Chapin Cimino, who talked about career directions before him and ways to expose himself to diverse opportunities. Professor Deborah Gordon provided support and “believed in me,” Lewis said, even as she pushed and demanded more from him. Professor Donald Tibbs offered inspiration by showing that it’s possible to make one’s career reflect one’s individuality by “defining your own space.” And Professor Karl Okamoto’s wizardry in the entrepreneurial world opened a host of opportunities like meeting an attorney from Comcast Sports with whom he would later work during his own co-op placement at Comcast.
In addition to serving as a co-op supervisor, Lewis holds a seat on the board of the Juvenile Law Center and “gives back” to the law school by coaching students participating in the LawMeet competitions.
“The law school is going to have a strong name in the community. It’ll be of some value if you have been associated with it,” he said. “I had a good experience at the law school with faculty and staff – any way to give back to those who helped me is a good feeling.”