Local attorney Monique Eubanks is coming into her own as a Black woman in law, and making a path for others, too.
Photo provided by Monique Eubanks
We see them. They’re leading the way as influencers in their own right. Black millennials who are ahead of the curve and serving in a lane, and league, all their own. This four-part series delves into who they are and what’s next for them. This is the final installment.
Livonia resident Monique Eubanks, 34, is a legal force to be reckoned with.
As a newly licensed attorney specializing in business litigation, the petite powerhouse holds her own court and is creating a lane for herself and other sisters also looking at a career in law.
“Currently, I enjoy the variation and diversification that business litigation can bring,” she told The Michigan Chronicle. “It is never boring. Whether it is a product liability claim regarding the failure of a product to perform safely or dissolution of a business.”
Eubanks, who has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a Master’s in Business from Wayne State University (WSU), said that she feels like a trailblazer because Black women only make up about 2 percent of the legal field (according to the ABA (American Bar Association) Journal. And the good Lord knows that more Black women need to have a seat at the table in that space.
To put it in perspective, according to https://law.marquette.edu/, in 2017 minority women represented 2.8 percent of equity partners in Big Law, compared to 20.6 percent of all women.
Also, according to the National Association for Law Placement’s 2018 Report on Diversity in U.S. Law Firms “minority women continue to be the most dramatically underrepresented group at the partnership level, a pattern that holds across all firm sizes and most jurisdictions.”
Eubanks is continuing to clear a path for others — even amid challenges of her own. At the end of her first year of law school her mother suffered an aneurysm — six months later, on her birthday, her father passed away.
“Fortunately, after spending a year and a half in the hospital, my mother is home recovering. All of this was difficult to deal with especially while in law school. However, despite these challenging circumstances, it forced me to focus on my goals even more,” she said. “Life is going to be full of ups and downs, it’s important to have a support system that you can lean on and to push you forward.”
She counts L. Alisyn Crawford, a local attorney, as one of those in her corner. Crawford, now practicing for seven years, is the first attorney in their family and she has served as a pseudo-mentor to her cousin since she started law school.
“When Monique made the decision to go to law school, I knew it was the perfect fit for her personality, drive and intelligence,” she said. “It has been remarkable watching Monique cultivate her skills as a mentee to now supporting others as a mentor.”
Eubanks, who champions making connections and mentorship, saw how important that support was, especially as the president of the Black Law Student Association (BLSA) at Wayne State Law School during her second year. The goal of BLSA is to increase Black representation in the legal field, she said.
“A lot of the Black law students were the first in their families to go to law school,” she said, adding that about 5 percent of the legal field is made up of Black people according to a 2019 ABA Journal report. “Some minority students do not have the same luxuries of asking our family what to expect during the first year of law school. … Therefore, we depend on each other for guidance and encouragement. BLSA did that for me. After being a recipient of support, I wanted to do the same for other students.”
Eubanks, who has a 14-year-old son, also received the Damon J. Keith Scholarship when she began law school in the fall of 2017, which made it financially possible for her to go to school when she was working full-time as a single mother.
“Taking on another six figures in student loan debt was not something that I could have done,” she said. “However, the Damon J. Keith Scholarship is aimed at providing opportunity for minorities to gain a law degree because we are severely underrepresented in the legal field. This scholarship is another reminder for me to pay it forward. Damon J. Keith blazed a trail so I could walk through and also help others make it through, too.”
Eubanks said that her ultimate goal 10 to 15 years from now is to “effect change” in her community. She’s off to a good start.
She started her professional career at Chase Bank as a licensed banker after graduating from WSU. In less than 18 months, she went from a banker to an assistant manager to a branch manager, all while completing her MBA degree. During her seven years at Chase Bank, a good portion of her time was spent working in the city of Detroit.
“I was able to work in the branch, in the neighborhood I grew up in,” she said, adding that ensuring small business owners in the city knew of grants and resources that were available became a big focus for herself and her team.
Once she decided to go to law school, she left Chase to work in the Treasury Department for the City of Detroit.
Eubanks said that her goal is to do her part so that the legal field begins to adequately represent people “who look like me.”
“Whether this will be done with me being a partner at a law firm in which Black women representation is sorely needed … or a judge,” she said, adding that Detroit still has yet to have its first Black female mayor. There’s also never been a Black woman on the Michigan Supreme Court.
“We have to show up and fill these seats,” she said.
Rejanae Brooks, a third-year law student interning at the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Conviction Integrity Unit, said that Eubanks is everything she aspires to be as a lawyer and a mentor.
“Monique was one of the first people I met in 2018 when I moved to Michigan to attend Wayne State Law School. … If I needed a study buddy, a friend, a teacher, it didn’t matter because I could count on her. I admire how gracefully she handles all of life’s adversities and uses them as motivation to work even harder. … I am proud to know Monique and excited to continue to watch her trail blaze.”