Joe Kottke, FCLC ’23, is a news editor at The Observer. They are majoring in journalism and Spanish studies. In addition to writing and reporting, Joe loves to watch anime, re-read their favorite young adult fiction novels and play piano.
Tatiana Hyman Elected First Black Editor-in-Chief of Fordham Law Review
With goals to increase the publication’s transparency, community and elevation of underrepresented voices, Hyman wins historic appointment
February 24, 2021
Growing up, Tatiana Hyman, Fordham University School of Law ’22, used to always tell her family that she was going to be the president of the United States. Though no one in her family worked in the government or law, Hyman’s dedication, grit and leadership propelled her to reach many of the goals she set for herself.
She developed an interest in law at a young age, which she attributes to her relatives. “Some family members put a bug in my ear when I was younger by saying that ‘lawyers like to talk,’” she said.
With the encouragement of her parents, emigrants from Jamaica, Hyman began her path toward studying law as a first-generation student.
She arrived at Fordham in 2019 and involved herself in the community by joining Fordham’s Black Law Students Association — going on to become the chapter’s vice president. That same year, she started researching the Fordham Law Review.
“When coming into law school, all you know is that the Law Review is this shining star you want to aspire to,” Hyman said.
Historically, most law review journals have a thorough selection process that includes the examination of an applicant’s grades and writing skills. Members must receive an invitation to join the publication, unlike at other academic clubs where the member can choose to join — making staff positions highly coveted and sometimes even required by law firms and judicial clerkships.
By her second year, the opportunity presented itself for her to apply to the journal’s highest position: editor-in-chief. “When ranking the position I thought, should I really be this bold? And I thought yes, I should be bold and just go for it.”
Hyman is the first Black editor-in-chief of the Fordham Law Review since its founding over 100 years ago in 1914. Although her work is already underway in reviewing submissions, she will be responsible for overseeing the production of volume 90 of the journal — which begins at the start of the next academic year — and managing a staff of almost 100 students.
“I feel really grateful that a barrier has been broken, but I don’t think I am much different than any other Black law student before me.” Tatiana Hyman
“I don’t think I am an anomaly,” Hyman said. “I feel really grateful that a barrier has been broken, but I don’t think I am much different than any other Black law student before me. There are so many institutional hurdles that I overcame with support from my mentors to go for things that seemed way out of my capability.”
Among the obstacles that she listed as reasons for the publication’s historical lack of diversity was the limited access to quality education in Black communities.
“If you are starting from a foundation that doesn’t put you on a level playing field with your peers, there are already those hurdles there,” Hyman said.
In 2021, historic election processes were ushered in across the United States. The law review publications of University of Minnesota, Tulane University and the University of Virginia — all founded over 100 years ago — recently elected their first Black editors-in-chief.
Antonio Milton, the new editor-in-chief of the Tulane Law Review, was only the 10th Black student to be on staff in the journal’s 105-year history, according to Hyman. “I am sure that the numbers (at Fordham) are not too far from that,” she said. There were no Black students on the Fordham Law Review staff when Hyman entered school her first year, although 5% of the 2019 Fordham School of Law entering class is composed of Black students.
She said she hopes to encourage future students of color to join the Law Review since they can now see a Black student who is able to be successful on the Law Review in “a space where students of color are outnumbered and historically have been outnumbered.”
A Life of Leadership
Hyman grew up in the Bronx, New York, where education and success were prioritized in her family. Her parents made a lot of sacrifices for her to go to school.
She attended The Loomis Chaffee School, a boarding school for high schoolers in Windsor, Connecticut, where she was presented with a number of leadership opportunities. Hyman served as a residential assistant (RA) and a lead tour guide.
During her time at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) from 2013 to 2017, she served as president of God’s Property — a Christian fellowship for Black students — and director of the gospel choir.
She originally majored in sociology but transferred into the criminology program because of her interest in its intersection with the field of law. She was also driven by her desire to understand the issues of policing and racial profiling she witnessed growing up in the Bronx.
Throughout both her high school and undergraduate careers, she sought to connect with lawyers of color. One of her most pivotal connections was with Samantha Jallah, a founder of Liberian Awards, which grants scholarships to first-generation students. “She was a very important pillar in my law school application process,” Hyman said. “She was someone I could call and just tell her how I was honestly feeling about the process.”
“When you have parents who didn’t go to school in the U.S., they can’t tell you what opportunities are out there — you have to find it through the community. I want to be that conduit for other students.” Tatiana Hyman
Roberto Lebron, an assistant attorney general at the Harlem Regional Office, became another one of Hyman’s mentors after she interned with him while still enrolled at UPenn. Hyman said he helped her understand how to incorporate public interest opportunities into private sector work and inspired her to consider clerking.
Despite her persisting interest in the law, Hyman did not pursue law school directly after her graduation from UPenn. Instead, she went on to work as a compliance analyst at Morgan Stanley where she began to realize just how much she wanted to become a lawyer.
“I realized that I liked working in that environment and developing relationships with the lawyers,” Hyman said. “I got to hear the diversity of ways they were able to make change in their communities, such as advocating for a more equitable legal profession, or creating their own nonprofits. I saw the diversity of impact that they could have.”
Hyman has always had a passion for advocacy — specifically in education equity — and she realized that being a lawyer would give her the practical ability to make effective changes in local communities. She enrolled in law school because she wants to provide not only more access to educational opportunities but also the necessary information to access those resources.
“When you have parents who didn’t go to school in the U.S., they can’t tell you what opportunities are out there — you have to find it through the community,” Hyman said. “I want to be that conduit for other students.”
The Evolution of the Journal
Hyman said she has three main initiatives to implement when she formally begins her duties as editor-in-chief: transparency, community, and elevation of underrepresented voices.
As a first-year student entering law school, Hyman said she did not understand the significance of the journal. So in making its mission of contribution to legal scholarship more apparent, she hopes to incentivize more students to join the publication.
Another one of Hyman’s aspirations is to foster community within the journal — especially since relationships are more difficult to develop virtually with club meetings occurring online. “I think there is a lot of value in making sound and strong relationships with people at the journal since we come from so many different backgrounds and areas of interest,” Hyman said.
“We keep thinking about the law and not the people it is impacting. Having someone in the position that understands the people is really important.” Tatiana Hyman
The creation of mechanisms on paper to amplify voices “across all strokes of diversity” is Hyman’s third pledge. She emphasized the importance of making commitments now to ensure that the conversations around inclusivity continue even after her time.
Hyman wants to continue the publication’s legacy of publishing academic work on doctrinal topics — including concentrations such as property and constitutional law — while also focusing on the impact of those legal subjects on real people’s lives.
“Whatever we published can be cited in cases and by judges. It can really shake and move areas of the law,” Hyman said.
Planning for the Future
After she graduates in 2022 with her doctorate in law, Hyman hopes to find opportunities that allow her to continue to advocate for educational equity. She is also thinking about governmental work — something she hasn’t realistically considered since she was a kid.
“We keep thinking about the law and not the people it is impacting,” Hyman said. “Having someone in the position that understands the people is really important.”
When one of her mentors, Lebron, heard that she was elected as editor-in-chief, he reminded her that Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States, was also named the first Black editor-in-chief of the Harvard Law Review in 1990.
Suddenly, her childhood proclamations of becoming the president of the United States don’t seem unfathomable.