Alumna Mentors Aspiring Minority Lawyers

Girl standing in blue shirt smiling
By Toni Critelli


The Road to Law School

Danielle Brittany Hardy ’16CPS, had always dreamed of becoming a lawyer. Even as a child, she knew she wanted to make a difference in the world through the legal system. But as she started applying to law schools while earning her bachelor’s degree in Legal Studies at St. John’s University, she realized she was unaware of everything involved.

“With no family or friends who were lawyers, I felt like I was embarking on the unknown,” Ms. Hardy said. “I didn’t know much about the LSAT, the essay prompts, the interviews, and the scholarships. I honestly felt lost, with no one to turn to for guidance.”

Despite the uncertainty, Ms. Hardy was determined to attend law school. She poured all her energy into her studies at St. John’s, determined to make her dream a reality. Her hard work paid off, and she was accepted into the School of Law at Elon University in 2016.

girl standing and smiling with awards in her hand

But even as she celebrated her acceptance, Ms. Hardy couldn’t get past the hopelessness that she had felt during the application process. She knew that there were other aspiring lawyers who felt the same way.

As she began her studies at Elon, Ms. Hardy looked for a mentor to help her navigate the challenges of law school and provide the guidance she lacked during the application process.

Inspiration Gained from First Mentor

During Ms. Hardy’s last year of law school in 2018, she found her first mentor through a legal internship at Universal Music Group, which is also the company she presently works for today.

“The guidance and support I received at my internship at Universal Music changed my life,” she shared. “My supervisor Adam Pallak was such a role model to me. He gave me so many opportunities to learn and grow to better prepare for a career in law.”

Soon after graduating, Ms. Hardy took the New York State bar exam and successfully passed on her first try. In between searching for jobs, she started mentoring aspiring lawyers.  

“Students would reach out to me on LinkedIn and ask me questions about law school and other general life questions,” she said. “I enjoyed being able to give back and provide mentorship to other aspiring lawyers.”

New Beginning

After seven months of working in judicial clerkships in 2019, Danielle was confident that she would soon land her dream job as an in-house attorney. That same year, she got a call for an interview from Universal, the company for which she had first interned. Within two weeks, she was hired and worked full-time in their legal department as an Associate Director of Content Protection.

“It was such a 360-degree moment for me, and I knew it was partly thanks to the great mentors I had in law school and after I graduated,” Ms. Hardy said. 

On a Mentoring Mission

Six months into her position at Universal Music, hoping to broaden her impact through mentorship, Ms. Hardy decided to turn her one-on-one mentoring into a licensed LLC called Pursuing the Esquire. Her mentoring program focuses on supporting aspiring minority lawyers of color. "As a young woman of color in the legal profession, our representation in practice is extremely underrepresented," Ms. Hardy stressed.

"I am not used to seeing people who look like me on the other side of the negotiation table. It is very important to me to do what I can to change that in the space that I can."

Christina A. Suarez '11L, her current supervisor at Universal Music Group, a woman of color and a fellow St. John's alumna, has become one of Ms. Hardy's mentors and a person she admires as a high-level female executive at UMG. "Christina has been an important part of my learning and growth during my time at Universal Music Group, " Ms. Hardy explained. "She has navigated the industry at a young age and as a woman of color at an executive level. She inspires me. Representation matters, and working with someone who inspires you is so important."

Ms. Hardy continues to discuss the underrepresentation of marginalized groups in the legal profession and describes how her choice to concentrate on guiding and supporting aspiring minority lawyers of color has been influenced by this issue. “In my graduating law class of 130 students, only 10 were students of color. When you see it, it is so real. That lack of support is there.”

According to the American Bar Association’s 2020 Profile of the Legal Profession, “The percentage of lawyers who are men and women of color, i.e., Hispanic, African American, Asian, Native American and mixed race, grew slowly over the past decade. Collectively, the number of lawyers of color grew less than three percentage points in the past ten years, from 11.4 percent of all lawyers in 2010 to 14.1 percent.”

"I sought to create a mentorship program to help students like myself who want guidance through their whole journey of becoming an attorney, from filling out law school applications in the beginning to seeing them through to graduation and becoming a member of the legal profession," Ms. Hardy said. 

Pursuing the Esquire Makes an Impact

Today, Ms. Hardy is a full-time entertainment lawyer at Universal Music Group, where she supports the iconic Jazz label Verve Label Group which is the home of artists including Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, Samara Joy, and more. She operates Pursuing the Esquire with a small team—all practicing lawyers and women of color—that includes Yetunde O. Buraimoh ’16CPS, a fellow St. John’s alumna. Pursuing the Esquire operates as a not-for-profit, offering its mentee services free of charge.

“We help students get into law school, read their cover letters when applying for jobs, and connect them with other leaders/mentors to get internships,” Ms. Hardy explained. “I am proud to say that we positively impact students’ lives.”

Three years since founding the program, Pursuing the Esquire has helped more than 100 mentees. Today, the mentorship program proudly works with students around the United States, including three current St. John's students. Services include personalized mentorship, success prep workshops, scholarships, and more.

woman standing with a crown and white dress, wearing a ms. New York sash

Most recently, Ms. Hardy was honorably crowned as Royal International Ms. New York 2023. This summer, she will be representing New York in Orlando, Florida, at the international pageant, where she will be competing against other US states and countries internationally. "As Ms. New York, I’m excited to serve the communities in NY, further my efforts with Pursuing the Esquire, LLC, and inspire women to continue to impact the world both on and off stage," Ms. Hardy shares. 

Pursuing the Esquire’s open application season runs from April 1 through 30. Undergraduate juniors, seniors, and law students (in any year) are open to apply. Mentorship begins in the fall. Follow @pursuingesq on Instagram for more updates, or connect with Ms. Hardy via LinkedIn. 

Young female professional

Toni Critelli

Digital Content Creator

Toni Critelli is a full-time staff writer for Johnnie's Blog. Through engaging content, she captures the essence of the institution, its students, faculty, and alums.