Voices of Trailblazers: First Generation Lawyers

Date: Feb 21, 2024 5:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Location: Online

Member Price: $140

Non-Member Price: $175

Section Price: $131

Event Code: I124824

Areas of Law: Labor & Employment

Earn up to 3 credits, including 2.0 in Diversity! (More Information)




Robert T. Szyba, Esq.
Seyfarth Shaw, New York
is a Partner in the Labor & Employment Department of Seyfarth Shaw LLP in New York City, where he defends and counsels employers in a wide range of employment-related issues, including background check and Fair Credit Reporting Act violations, “ban the box” issues, prevailing wage requirements, wage and hour compliance, whistleblower retaliation, family and medical leave compliance and interference/retaliation claims, paid sick leave, and discrimination/harassment. He also advises clients on preventive employment counseling, pre-litigation strategy and litigation avoidance, alternate dispute resolution and mandatory arbitration programs, and employment policies and procedures.

Admitted to practice in the state and federal courts of New Jersey and New York, Mr. Szyba serves on the Executive Committee of the Labor & Employment Law Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association. He has been Co-Chair of the Ethics & Professional Responsibility Subcommittee of the American Bar Association Labor & Employment Law Section’s Employment Rights & Responsibilities Committee.

Mr. Szyba has served on the Alumni Advisory Board of the Hofstra Labor & Employment Law Journal and as a member of the Sidney Reitman Employment Law American Inn of Court. He is a former Editor-in-Chief of the New Jersey State Bar Association’s New Jersey Labor & Employment Law Quarterly and has lectured for ICLE, NELA-NJ, the American and New York State Bar Associations, and other organizations.

Mr. Szyba received his undergraduate degree, cum laude, from Berklee College of Music and his J.D., cum laude, from Hofstra University School of Law, where he was Editor-in-Chief of the Hofstra Labor & Employment Law Journal and a member of Hofstra’s Moot Court Association.


Hon. Pedro J. Jimenez, Jr., JSC
Superior Court of New Jersey, Middlesex Vicinage
Katrina M. Homel, Esq.
New Jersey Education Association, Trenton
Leonard V. Jones, Esq.
Buchanan Ingersoll & Roney PC, Newark
is a civil litigation attorney and associate with Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney P.C. in Newark, New Jersey, and New York City, where he focuses his practice in complex civil and employment litigation, including representing individual, business and public entity clients in state and federal courts. He has also served as an Assistant Prosecutor with the Union County Prosecutor's Office, prosecuting cases involving narcotics, violent crimes and economic crimes.

Admitted to practice in New Jersey and New York, and before the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, Mr. Jones was appointed by the New Jersey Supreme Court to a four-year term as a Member of the District XII Fee Arbitration Committee and is a member of the New Jersey State, Garden State and Union County Bar Associations. He is a member of several sections and committees of the New Jersey State Bar Association, including the Diversity Committee, Minorities in the Profession Section, Civil Trial Bar Section and Federal Practice and Procedure Section, as well as the Young Lawyers Division. He is also a member of the Union County Bar Association Diversity, Inclusion & the Elimination of Bias Committee and the Program Committee of the Sidney Reitman American Inn of Court.

Mr. Jones received his B.A., magna cum laude, from Seton Hall University, his Masters in Public Administration from Seton Hal University and his J.D. from Rutgers University School of Law, where he was the recipient of the Eagleton Institute of Politics Governor’s Executive Fellowship. He clerked for the Honorable James P. Wilson, J.S.C., Superior Court of New Jersey, Family Division, Union Vicinage.
James H. Lee, Esq.
Casino Law Section, NJSBA
Deputy Attorney General, Division of Gaming Enforcement, Atlantic City
Heather Richner
Law Clerk To the Hon. Jeffrey R. Jablonski, A.J.S.C.
New Jersey Superior Court
Charles J. Stoia, Esq.
Past Trustee, NJSBA
Porzio Bromberg & Newman, Morristown

Presented in cooperation with the NJSBA Minorities in the Profession Section, the NJSBA Women in the Profession Section, the NJSBA Young Lawyers Division, and the NJSBA Diversity Committee.

For many lawyers and legal professionals, “first-generation” is a term not many know the exact definition of. However, once they understand what it is, many identify with it and are very keen on sharing their personal experiences.

First-Generation Lawyers are lawyers who are the first in their immediate families to enter the legal field. Many first-generation lawyers encounter unique obstacles as they begin and advance through their careers. Most go through law school and enter their professional lives with minimum guidance.

First-generation lawyers are a growing force in our legal communities. What can employers do to identify them, support them, and ensure they achieve every level of success?

Why the Focus on First-Generation Lawyers?

  • The concerted effort to focus on first-generation lawyers stems from an enhanced awareness of issues around modern identity. As the legal industry prioritizes diversity, inclusion, and equity, it has become evident that first-generation law students and lawyers face common challenges regardless of their social identity.
  • The recognition of these commonalities has led to the emergence of first-generation lawyers as a distinct diversity category.

There is awareness of the lack of self-confidence or sense of belonging, and therefore, a higher incidence of imposter syndrome among young first-generation lawyers. There are financial burdens that constrain first-generation lawyers’ career choices, along with the experience of feeling isolated at work and not understood in your family.

Major Obstacles Faced by First-Generation Lawyers

  1. Acculturation: First-generation lawyers may lack familiarity with professional norms and expectations in a legal setting.
  2. Resource Knowledge: They might be unaware of available resources - both within the firm and externally - that could aid their professional growth and personal stability.
  3. Self-Confidence and Belonging: Many experience imposter syndrome and struggle with self-confidence or a sense of belonging.
  4. Financial Constraints: Financial burdens can limit their career choices.
  5. Isolation: Being the only first-generation lawyer in their family can lead to feelings of isolation and a lack of understanding.

It’s essential for law schools and law firms to identify and support first-generation lawyers, ensuring they achieve success at every level of their legal careers. Join us for an inspiring panel discussion featuring:

  1. Hon. Pedro J. Jimenez, Jr., JSC: Reflecting on life experiences, choosing the legal path, and serving as a member of the judiciary.
  2. Charles J. Stoia, Esq.: President of the New Jersey Bar Foundation, sharing his success story as a first-generation lawyer.
  3. Katrina M. Homel, Esq. : Section chair of the YLD at the New Jersey State Bar Association, sharing her journey and leadership insights.
  4. Leonard V. Jones, Esq.: A diverse first-generation lawyer, discussing challenges faced and triumphant moments.
  5. Heather Richner, Esq.: Listen to her experience as a first-generation attorney and her current role as a judicial law clerk.

Moderated by Robert Szyba, Esq. who orchestrated the program’s success in 2023 with the NJSBA and at the Annual Convention in Atlantic City.

CLE Credits
NJ CLE:NJ CLE information: This program has been approved by the Board on Continuing Legal Education of the Supreme Court of New Jersey for 3 hours of total CLE credit, including 2.0 in Diversity (Full Credits Available: NJ Beginner Diversity : 2.0, NJ General: 1.0).
NY CLE (t&nt):NY Diversity Non-Transitional: 2.0, NY Professional Practice Transitional: 1.0
PA CLE:PA Ethics Credit: 1.5, PA Substantive Credit: 0.5
New: No PACLE fee is required for this program. To earn PA CLE credits, a valid PA Bar ID number must be entered into the CLE form provided after attending the program.

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To secure your spot and receive important updates about our events, meetings, and other gatherings, such as schedule changes, remember to register in advance.

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Scholarship & Financial Assistance Policy:
Read our Scholarship & Financial Assistance Policy and submit an Application here: https://njsba.com/njicle/cle-programs/scholarship/



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