McDermott Partner Recounts His Firsts as a Sikh Lawyer and the Wave of Diversity in the Profession

We are undoubtedly at an inflection point in the movement towards greater diversity and inclusion across the corporate w...

I was recently reminded of a pivotal moment in my life, when, in January, I returned to my Richmond, Virginia high school for a celebration recognizing my team’s 1995 basketball tournament victory, the first such win for the school.

You see, I was the first observant Sikh to attend my high school. With my unshorn hair, long beard, and brightly colored turbans, I flipped the Collegiate School’s traditional dress code on its head. My diversity unmasked, I had no choice but to use it as an opportunity to educate my peers—both on and off the court.

Being the first Sikh at Collegiate was a harbinger of “firsts” ahead of me, a path charted by my parents when they came to Virginia 42 years ago. I was the first turbaned Sikh to attend the University of Richmond School of Law–where I was elected president of the Student Bar Association and student speaker at graduation. I was the first Sikh summer clerk at the Supreme Court of Virginia. Then, I became the first Sikh judicial clerk at the Court of Appeals of Virginia.