Dana Weekes ’09 Named BLSA Alumni Spotlight Award Recipient
The Black Law Students Association at the University of Virginia School of Law named Dana Weekes ’09 recipient of the 2019 BLSA Alumni Spotlight Award.
She was honored with the award at BLSA’s spring banquet in Charlottesville on Saturday.
Weekes is managing director at Arnold & Porter, an international law firm based in Washington, D.C. Weekes advises leading corporations and nonprofits, including clients developing disruptive technologies and programs.
“Weekes was chosen as our Spotlight Award recipient to recognize all the work she has done for BLSA — while at UVA she created the firm relations role in our BLSA chapter — and for the work she has done in her firm and with our BLSA chapter and Mid-Atlantic BLSA to advance diversity in the legal profession,” said Nicole Agama ’21, BLSA’s social programming chair.
Weekes talked to UVA Law about her career and offered advice for law students.
What’s a typical day like for you?
I actually do not have a typical day, which is one of the aspects I love most about the legislative and public policy practice. In one day, my work can range from drafting a regulatory comment letter or legislative language, to meeting with congressional offices or executive branch officials, to researching and drafting arguments on various policy matters, to coalition-building or negotiating.
I am in a profession where people, policy, procedure and politics all matter. This means that while my job demands a substantive and nuanced understanding of law and policy, I must be people-oriented. I also value that in this profession I have remained strategic, innovative and authentic, which empowers me to advise clients at a level of excellence. I truly love what I do.
What career accomplishments are you most proud of?
While there are career accomplishments that I am incredibly proud of, one of my greatest accomplishments is helping to create a culture of amplification in our Legislative and Public Policy practice at Arnold & Porter. The practice is majority women and, unfortunately, the stereotypes about women in the workplace remain negative and pervasive. However, the women in our practice all embrace the principle of collective success and consistently find ways not only to execute at a high level, but to find or create platforms for their colleagues to excel at that level as well.
What key lessons did you take from UVA Law into your professional life?
One of my greatest life lessons comes from Professor Anne Coughlin. It is: “Never let those who have been marginalized or dismissed feel as if they are responsible for fixing the problem ― or better yet, have to live with it. Hold the perpetrator accountable.”
Sadly, there are people in our everyday lives who marginalize the humanity of others through ignorant jokes, hateful comments, dismissive quips, deliberate actions or simply inaction. These individuals are rarely held responsible for their decisions because society has taught most of us to alter our own lives to accommodate their behavior. In other words, it is normalized behavior for us to carry their burdens.
Through her actions, Professor Coughlin taught me that when someone walks into a room and takes the air out of it, I should always be empowered to hold that person accountable before he or she leaves. She reminded me that my actions do not need to be big and bold. They could be as simple as saying, “Your comment is inappropriate.”
What advice do you have for law students interested in your field?
Find your worth outside of the billable hour.
While there are metrics you will need to meet at your place of work, do not let those metrics solely define who you are. Set metrics for yourself that help to ensure you are in the driver’s seat of your career. Otherwise, your advancement will be passively done and one day you’ll wake up with awards, bonuses and career successes ― and yet not know who you are.