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Consortium Alumna Raye Mitchell Is Poised to Use Her Skills to Improve Access to Opportunity for People of Color

On June 15, 2023, Consortium and USC Marshall School of Business alumna, Raye Mitchell — also a graduate of Harvard Law School — stood before the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) to become the first known Black actress and practicing attorney admitted to the SCOTUS Bar. For Mitchell, to make it this far, to have the opportunity to argue cases before the highest court in the land, was a testament to the power of perseverance.

“Coming from where I came from, where the idea of school was a remote possibility — let alone the University of Southern California, let alone Harvard or the Supreme Court — I was overwhelmed with emotion,” says Mitchell, who also runs her own law firm. “You just don’t see yourself in these institutions, even though I’m a graduate of an Ivy League law school. We’re small in number — and that’s why it’s important.”

Her elation at her confirmation, however, was tempered when, two weeks later, SCOTUS struck down affirmative action in the case Students for Fair Admission v. Harvard — a decision, Mitchell believes, eliminates what had provided a fair starting point.

The challenges around access to opportunity that individuals from minority backgrounds face is evidenced not just in higher education, but in the halls of SCOTUS as well. Figures from The Washington Post show that members of the SCOTUS Bar are majority white and male.

In a world where seeing is believing, visibility is key. In fact, Mitchell herself was inspired to pursue admittance to the SCOTUS Bar because of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.

“She made the statement, ‘I am not invisible. We are not invisible.’ So, it meant something to me to be one strike for visibility and diversity,” says Mitchell, likening the legal profession’s diversity issues with those The Consortium faced in its early days. “Companies come out to the OP and put all this energy into their MBAs, but then they don’t do the same in compelling their lawyers to put people of color on the frontline.”

Dissatisfied with the status quo, Mitchell is bucking it. In combining her business, acting and legal background, she has been preparing for what she says will be the greatest performance of her life: arguing cases before the Supreme Court.

“To go on set, you have to have your mind clear, you have to be situationally aware, you have to be ready to pivot. All these things that we talk about in the MBA experience are the same dynamics that you bring to life as a performer,” says Mitchell. “The skill of acting is about influencing — ‘Can I convince you that I am the character that I pretend to be?’”

She believes acting and practicing law are inextricably linked, and having recently been confirmed to the SCOTUS Bar, she is prepared to use her skills for good.

“You’ll never get that moment if you’re not prepared for it,” she says, acknowledging the wait-and-see nature of law and justice. “If Thurgood Marshall and his team, led by the NAACP legal defense team, were not there at the right time, we never would have had Brown v. Board of Education. So there’s a ripeness to things. ‘I’m at the table,’ as Associate Jackson said, ‘I’m at the table, and I’m ready to work.’”

The work Mitchell speaks of involves amplifying the voices of and helping improve access to opportunity for people of color, which includes running her own nonprofit and continuing to support The Consortium in its work. She believes the power of The Consortium lies in the fact that it “gives you the rules, the tools and the access to greatness.”

“I think the unique and important role of The Consortium is that it provides access to how great you can be if given a fair starting point,” Mitchell says. “Not a leg up, not a handout, but a fair starting point — a support system, a chance to be viewed for the value you contribute and bring.”

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