Matthew B. McFarlane
Principal & Co-Chair, Diversity Committee
Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P.
What do you think is the greatest issue or dilemma facing the African American community today?
In my mind, one significant challenge for the African American community is having the space to embrace our own diversity and authentic selves. For example, in law, there is no one-size-fits-all description for black lawyers—we arrive at our place in all practice areas of law from different starting points via different routes. The same is true for the community as a whole. But society’s structures and institutions tend to minimize those differences, and instead place us in demographic buckets that encourage others to look past the rich diversity of our individual experiences. As a community, we draw strength from our diversity, and the challenge becomes to find those spaces where we can truly celebrate it.
What’s the most important lesson you have learned in the course of your career?
To trust my instincts. Most of the time, things that feel right are right.
What advice would you give to someone just beginning his or her career?
Especially at the beginning of any career, it’s important to understand that “good enough” just isn’t good enough. When you’re just starting out, hard work does pay off. Being excellent feels good, but more importantly, it impresses others who will be instrumental in your future success. So don’t settle for good enough—keep reaching higher.