"If you're in a room with 100 lawyers, chances are only three are going to be Hispanic," says Eneida Roman says with a wry laugh. Through her extensive—and award-winning—involvement with many local and national legal organizations, she’s usually one of those three.
But for Roman, a legal entrepreneur and advocate, just growing the number of Hispanic lawyers in the room isn’t enough. Instead, she’s empowering a whole new generation of Latinx leaders.
This is her story.
Finding a diverse legal community—and making it bigger
"When you're Hispanic and you're in the legal profession, you soon realize that there are not many other Hispanic attorneys around you,” Roman says. “You want get to know other people that sound and look like you who also practice law." And that’s just what she did.
When a friend encouraged her to attend a Hispanic National Bar Association conference not long after graduating from New England Law | Boston, Roman was quick to accept. That event set off the kind of professional and community involvement that would become central to her life.
"The Hispanic National Bar Association focuses on creating a pipeline of future Latino leaders in the law, and that really inspired me," Roman says. “For me, it's very empowering to be able to join organizations that focus on serving Hispanic leaders."
You want get to know other people that sound and look like you who also practice law."
Roman was appointed to the HNBA’s Latina Commission, which is focused on creating a pipeline to the profession for girls and young women in law school. Before becoming co-chair of the Commission, Roman was inspired to co-found The Latina Circle, a Boston-based nonprofit designed to advance Latina leaders across industries into positions of power and influence. Given the small number of Latinas in the law—they comprise less than 2 percent of all legal professionals—The Latina Circle decided to welcome Latinas in business and other sectors as well. The group hosts signature “Cafecito” events for networking, mentoring, and business partnering opportunities.
In 2017 The Latina Circle also launched Amplify Latinx, a “non-partisan, collaborative movement whose mission is to build Latinx economic and political power by significantly increasing Latinx civic engagement, economic opportunity, and representation in leadership positions across sectors.”
Roman co-leads The Latina Circle + Amplify Latinx in a volunteer capacity, and she is working toward creating a self-sustaining organization that can pass on to the next generation of leaders. To that end, the group lobbied for and received state funding in 2018, enabling them to hire a full-time Executive Director and support staff to expand programming and serve the Hispanic community statewide.
Roman’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. Among her many accolades, for three consecutive years she has been selected Most Influential Latino Lawyers in the United States by Latino Leaders Magazine, Top Lawyer Under 40 by the Hispanic National Bar Association, and is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation. She also received the Massachusetts Association of Hispanic Attorneys’ Leadership Award, The AD Club’s Rosoff Award, and the Massachusetts Big Sister of the Year award from Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Not to mention she also won the New England Service Award when she graduated from New England Law…
How to grow your own network
In law school, Roman’s friends and classmates came from all backgrounds and ethnicities. "I never felt alone," she says, reflecting on those days. “I think New England Law does a pretty good job in recruiting diverse candidates." Those friends and classmates are now her colleagues. But right after graduating from the cocoon of law school, things were a little different.
"I felt the isolation a little bit more once I started practicing law," Roman says. "I had this need for connection." Having just launched a solo practice, she was doing everything on her own, so she set out to find a community and grow her network. That fateful trip to the Hispanic National Bar Association conference was the start. She joined the Massachusetts Bar Association and Massachusetts Association of Hispanic Attorneys too.
With so much of her life and work dedicated to growing relationships, perhaps it’s not surprising that she recommends law students and young legal professionals do the same. “Make meaningful connections to colleagues, not only in the legal field, but also in the business community,” Roman says. “That helps establish authentic relationships with mutual interests."
Roman suggests connecting with other attorneys at the local and national level to give yourself a deeper, broader legal community as well. "There are a lot of mutual interests regardless of the practice area and a lot to be gained." She also recommends taking advantage of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) programs, "excellent opportunities" to take substantive courses in the law and get to know other like-minded professionals.
Make meaningful connections to colleagues, not only in the legal field, but also in the business community.”
The road to becoming a legal leader
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Roman attended the University of Puerto Rico and the Inter American University of Puerto Rico, where she earned her master's in psychology. She thought she’d complete a PhD in psychology too, but her family, particularly her father, inspired to earn a JD, a degree she felt would increase her career options and complement her graduate studies.
Because she was working as a consultant psychologist at the time, Roman decided part-time law school at night was the right choice for her, so she could pay her own way. She applied to New England Law alone. "I'm proud of having attended New England Law," she says. “It was a great experience."
The firm she founded after graduating, Roman Law Offices, is a boutique law practice focused on family law, estate planning, real estate, and immigration law. She’s also a seasoned guardian ad litem and parent coordinator in probate and family court cases. After doing litigation for several years, she opted to step back from that work, following the natural growth of her family-oriented practice—and her natural leanings as a conciliator with a background in psychology.
“I like to resolve issues,” she says. “There are a lot of problems that can be resolved when the parties simply talk to understand the other's point."
After growing her practice and team for more than a decade, Roman is happy to focus her time and energies on the family law cases she finds the most fulfilling: serving as guardian ad litem, working as a parent coordinator, and doing transactional work such as estate planning, wills, small business law, and real estate.
"Usually what happens is that I have a family that is my client, and then I support them in different aspects of their life,” she says. “From the creation of a small business enterprise to the purchase of a home to a pre-nuptial agreement to an estate plan, etc.—it's great to see that progression of the relationship and being able to help my clients in different legal transactions."
In addition to her legal practice, over the years Roman has served on various leadership roles such as on the ABA’s Commission on Hispanic Rights and Responsibilities and the Big Brother Big Sister Association’s National Hispanic Advisory Council. She currently serves on the HOPE National Taskforce, a distinguished team of Latina trailblazers tasked with increasing Latina leadership representation at every level of public service across the nation, and on the Advisory Board of Voter Choice Massachusetts. She also serves on Big Sister Boston’s Board of Directors and is a founding member of its Diversity Board. Eneida serves on Eastern Bank’s Board of Corporators and was appointed by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker to serve on the Workforce Training Fund Advisory Board as well.
That commitment to increasing diversity has been the hallmark of her career.
Increasing diversity in the legal profession
"Decision-making tables must reflect their constituents and customers, as there is an added value in diversity and inclusion," Roman says. "You get better outcomes when you have different minds at the table looking for a solution." Of course, getting more Hispanic and Latinx members at those tables has been a challenge; less than 4 percent of lawyers are Latinx, though they comprise about 18 percent of the U.S. population. Broadly, representation gaps across sectors are staggering.
Putting yourself out there as a law student or alumnus can certainly shift representation in those rooms with only three Hispanic lawyers—but increasing diversity in the legal profession doesn’t stop there. "There are a lot of barriers, particularly in big law and corporate America,” Roman says. "There's so much that can be done not only to add diversity to the teams but to also foster a welcoming environment that is inclusive and promotes retention of diverse candidates.
"I know it sounds so cliché, but change comes from the top, so if the leaders in a law firm or an organization don't promote diversity—don't believe it, don't live it day to day—then it's not going to matter what other people do," she says. "I think it's just a matter of organizations recruiting leaders who really believe in and implement practices that embrace diverse candidates.”
When that change at the top is slow to happen, a push from below can help, Roman says. She cites a recent "dear colleague" letter from the general counsel of several corporations saying they will only do business with law firms with diverse teams. But that’s just a start, she says. "When your clients are demanding [diversity], then you kind of have to go with that flow, but it can't only be wanting to please your client—it has to be because you really believe that it's the right thing to do."
Learn more about the diverse student population at New England Law, including our first generation law students.