Matt Dobbins first attended Lavender Law® in 2009 as a law student at the University of North Carolina. He was so nervous to speak to different firms that he barely even remembers the event: but he still managed to impress Chris Bacon and Corey Divine of Vinson & Elkins, who described him as someone who “didn’t squirm” and “did very well under pressure.” “I can’t even remember what they asked me, which means I blacked out,” Dobbins recalled with a laugh. “But somehow, it all worked out.” There, they offered him a Summer Associate position, and he rose to become an Equity Partner years later.
One of the reasons Dobbins was drawn to Vinson & Elkins was its network of openly LGBTQ attorneys at the firm. “The majority of those attorneys were partners and counsel people in firm leadership,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of different law firms with associates who are “out,” but not so many in leadership. That was encouraging, to see how [the firm] really supports LGBTQ attorneys.”
Dobbins’ mentor in law school, Professor Victor Flatt, convinced him to attend the Conference. “He was fantastic in nurturing a substantive interest in an area of law and being a resource as an “out” lawyer,” Dobbins told the LGBT Bar. Flatt’s mentorship inspired Dobbins to work with law students as a professional. Just last year, Dobbins worked with the University of Texas to pair up attorneys with rising law students. “I enjoy forging those connections with people,” Dobbins told us. He advises the law students he speaks with to interview with firms they feel would enable them to pursue their passions and interests, like Vinson & Elkins did for him. “The sooner you can realize what some of your main drivers are, the easier it is to avoid [working in a firm] where you’re miserable.”
Moreover, Dobbins wants to make sure law students ask themselves, what is it that makes you happy and drives you? “You’re going to feel overworked in any environment you go to,” he explained. “Find what you’re going to want to be passionate about in the area of law. [Discover how] you feel you’re supporting the community, [and make sure] you have the resources to do all the things you want to do when you feel overwhelmed.”
As a professional, Dobbins returns to Lavender Law® each year, now as a recruiter who is “always on the lookout.” He attends the Career Fair partly because he believes it is a great opportunity to connect with students for whose schools the firm does not conduct on-campus interviews, but also because he enjoys reconnecting with the community and continuing the relationships he has spent years building at Lavender Law®. The National LGBT Bar appreciates his ongoing support of and commitment to the Career Fair and to our LGBTQ+ law students!