Each year, the “Voice of Change” Beacon Award recognizes a luminary leader in the legal community who has forged a new path and has played an extensive role in advancing diversity and inclusion within the profession. This year, the Boston Bar Association is delighted to present the Voice of Change Award to Yalonda Howze, Member at Mintz, in recognition of her leadership in advancing a more diverse and inclusive legal profession in Boston and beyond.
Howze, a litigator and relationship partner at Mintz and a prominent practitioner in the life sciences industry, has long been recognized as a leader in the firm’s efforts to increase diversity and inclusion. A persistent advocate for the representation of attorneys of color, and particularly women of color, in the profession, she has served on the firm’s Hiring Committee and Diversity Committee, and has focused on ensuring that associates of color receive mentoring, professional development, and opportunities to work directly with clients.
Through her work with her clients and through her engagement with the Association of Corporate Counsel, Howze has been active in ensuring that issues of diversity and inclusion are addressed in legal departments as well as law firms. Susan Alexander, Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer at Biogen, spoke to Howze’s impact across practice settings, saying, “Yalonda is a natural and committed leader; her strength and persistent pursuit of excellence make her a powerful voice. She challenges and engages us all in the very best way to better ourselves and our profession by being inclusive and diverse at every level.” The Beacon Award Selection Committee found Howze’s commitment to helping new attorneys and law students succeed in their careers particularly noteworthy. Macey Russell, a partner at Choate and Chair of the Selection Committee, cited Howze’s “steadfast commitment to helping others to reach their full potential” in explaining why the Committee chose to honor her with the Voice of Change Award. “Yalonda is so much more than an exceptional life sciences attorney,” he said. “She is a leader and role model to attorneys of color who may question whether there is a place for them in the legal profession.”
Beyond the mentorship that Howze has offered to associates at her own firm, she has dedicated significant time to coaching law students, including through the “In Real Law” program, which was founded last year by Jamie Whitney of State Street and Robin Walker of Stoke Therapeutics, and connects first generation law students and law students of color to a diverse group of attorneys practicing in Boston. According to Nick Horan, Associate Director of Academic Enrichment at Boston University School of Law, the program has been popular with students because its small discussion group format creates a space where students feel comfortable seeking advice and asking questions. He noted that students value Howze’s advice not only because she is a highly accomplished leader in her field, but also because it is apparent that she genuinely cares about their success and well-being.
Beacon Award Selection Committee member Renee Inomata, a partner at Casner & Edwards, underscored Howze’s role as a trailblazer for women of color in the legal profession, noting, “Yalonda has emerged as a leader for all attorneys of color, but in particular female attorneys of color and Black female attorneys. She has led the way for historically underrepresented groups, creating opportunities for other attorneys of color to gain skills, knowledge, and relationships, and laying the groundwork for others to emulate her path to success.”
When asked what it means to be a “trailblazer,” Howze pointed to this experience as a reason why she is so dedicated to providing guidance to those who come after her. “Being a trailblazer is to successfully traverse a path and chart a course that is not clearly laid out before you,” she said. “There are no signposts, or very few, that can point you in the right direction. Blazing a trail also means leaving some markings along the path behind you to make it a little easier for others to follow. Those markings might include sharing your story, mentoring and giving advice to other attorneys, helping to make institutional changes in your firm or company, and working to effect meaningful change with others in the broader legal community.”
William “Mo” Cowan, President of Global Government Affairs and Policy at General Electric, provided an apt summary of the broad impact of Howze’s many achievements, stating, “Her legal skill and acumen can be attested to by her clients and her colleagues. She came to Boston to begin her career, and she’s made her mark as a practitioner, as a go-to force in her field advising life sciences companies; she is now passing on that skill to others. By her mere presence, she is showing that women, people of color, and people from other underrepresented groups have a place as leaders in our business. She is creating pathways for women lawyers and lawyers of color yet to come.”
Howze is Clerk of the Board of Directors of Lawyers for Civil Rights. In 2016 she received the Massachusetts Black Women Attorneys’ Ida B. Wells Award, which recognizes women who exemplify Wells’ pioneering spirit and courage.