'Go Out of Your Way to Look for Veterans': Increasing Recruitment and Breaking Barriers in Big Law
Holland & Knight Veterans Group members Nicholas Hasenfus and Daniel Sylvester spoke with The American Lawyer about their experiences in law as former servicemen. They share insight on the progress they have witnessed as well as the remaining barriers to representation in the legal industry. Veterans are few and far between, accounting for just 2.8 percent of attorneys and 1.8 percent of those in Big Law.
Mr. Hasenfus enlisted after high school and served as a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he built rockets, maintained weapons systems and was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. He explained that while it’s more common for officers or those who took at ROTC path to the armed services to end up in law firms, it was a different case for him.
“It’s generally the case that enlisted personnel aren’t going to get an undergraduate degree and then go to law school,” he said, recalling that he was applying to four-year colleges in Afghanistan. “I was shocked when I got into college, and I went to a small state school. I had always thought it would be cool to be an attorney, but it felt completely out of reach.” He explained that veteran lawyers who were willing to make the time to take a call or grab a coffee, or offer advice on how to present in an interview without appearing too formal or rigid, made all the difference.
Mr. Sylvester, who served in the army for 10 and a half years, and for much of that time was stationed overseas in Germany, Italy and Croatia, said he has seen progress as the community has become more connected. He noted that throughout the pandemic, despite the challenge of remote life, technology assisted in creating deeper connections, such as finding veterans on LinkedIn and connecting with law schools.
“There are still challenges, but I think in general in the industry there is a desire to hire veterans and military spouses, and we believe we’ve taken a lead within the legal industry to support that,” he said. “There has been progress, and there needs to be more progress.”