By Andre LaFontant and Karla Amador
Meagan E. Garland, a partner at Duane Morris LLP with a focus of practice in employment law, always knew that becoming a lawyer was part of her life path. “I’ve always had a keen sense of justice and I’ve been vocal about that since I was five years old,” she explains. The added ability to merge law with her passions for fashion and beauty aided her commitment to intentionally place herself in circumstances that fulfill her growth.
While she consistently demonstrates that she is a force to be reckoned with—not only in her realm of practice but also as a promulgator of DEI initiatives within her firm—she finds herself met with misplaced doubt. “Through it all,” she divulges, “I found that one of my favorite things ever is to be underestimated. For me, it is a challenge that I like to rise above.”
When Ms. Garland references this underestimation, she not only refers to the relatable internal struggles of anxiety and imposter syndrome that surface at each new level of achievement, but also the unfortunate external barriers that continue to exist in office culture. She explains that “on many occasions when I would walk into a conference room with a client that I may have consulted with over the phone, I’d be asked to show them where the restroom was or if I could provide them some coffee while they wait for Ms. Garland (me) to arrive. I like to make everything a teachable moment, especially cases like this one.”
Reshma Shah started working with Duane Morris in the summer of 2008 as a college intern. After several engaging summers and graduating from law school, Shah garnered an associate position with the firm in 2011. Now, having worked with Michael Grohman for these past 10 years within the firm’s private client services group, she is able to place her journey into a clear perspective. “It’s important to share my story, the successes and failures, because it might inspire others. I’m thankful that my parents instilled in me the value of hard work, however, it is not the only element of success.”
In the process of speaking up for her clients, Reshma learned that, in order for her to succeed in her career and become a leader in the space, she also needs to promote herself. “In addition, it is important to have a team that fosters your growth and advocates on your behalf.”
Participating in the Duane Morris WINS initiative (Women’s Impact Network for Success), Shah enjoys seeing women in positions of power. “Seeing is believing,” Reshma adds.
Looking beyond the tough times of 2020, Shah, who recently welcomed her second child, is confident about her future as an Indian American woman, a mother, and an attorney. “I was in tears when Kamala Harris was inaugurated. Seeing someone who is part Indian become vice president was inspirational. It makes me hopeful for my daughter’s future. The color of her skin will not be a limit to her success.”
As Pro Bono Counsel and the leader of the Duane Morris’ pro bono efforts, Kat McGee stewards relationships with legal service, nonprofit, and charitable organizations to cultivate and source pro bono work; in addition to this role, she works closely and compassionately with individuals who have survived “violence/torture in immigration, military/veterans benefits, anti-trafficking, family law, and reproductive health matters.”
“I love what I do, as I am able to work with the ingenuity of my clients through their resilience and strength,” she explains.
Kat has a background as a civil rights attorney and has worked with the Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, among other pro bono legal services organizations.
“There was so much value working with these organizations early on in my career. I had opportunities to learn from experts entrenched in their communities, fighting for equal rights, and [bridging] justice gaps,” she says. “I loved it.”
With the impact of the pandemic, she has mentioned that as a firm, they have been able to engage with their clients by leveraging their technological resources to maintain an active community from home.
“It’s been a rewarding experience to work with clients from various cities across the nation from other states to create engaging on-line legal clinics.”
Reflecting on the future of legal practice and the next generation of legal leaders, Kat shares this final piece of advice: “Give your colleagues and others the opportunity to shine. It is important to know when to step up or when to back down and allow for others to shine; we’re all-stars.”