Women and Minorities in Law: The Boutique Law Firm Making Waves

Updated January 30, 2024
4 min read
Women and Minorities in Law: The Boutique Law Firm Making Waves

In the field of law, dominated primarily by white men, the disparities are glaring. Several studies, including one by the National Association for Law Placement, indicate that in 2021, only about 10% of partners at major firms were people of color, and women accounted for approximately 25%. 

However, Zakiya J. Norton, Esq. and Somita Basu, Esq., the founders of Norton Basu, LLP, are challenging this norm. This minority women-owned estate planning and probate law firm has offices in Los Gatos, Santa Clara, and Los Angeles, California.

How They Met

Zakiya and Somita began their journey in 2013, volunteering at Bay Area Legal Aid in San Jose, California. Their synergy on multiple complex cases and a shared sense of humor led them to open their practice after just three months of collaboration.

Currently in its ninth year, Norton Basu, LLP, is growing. With the addition of an Associate Attorney, as well as a full-time Director of Marketing and Business Development, Zakiya and Somita demonstrate a focused determination to excel in law and business, as well as to contribute to the local community by way of educational workshops, mentorship of law students, pro bono work, and volunteer efforts on the boards of local non-profits.

Pathway To Success

During the early days of starting their law firm, Zakiya and Somita relied only on themselves. They educated themselves because they did not have experienced attorneys or mentors in their family or social circle who could provide guidance and direction. They took advantage of no-cost or low-cost resources. Trusting their instincts and the power of perseverance, they gleaned a lesson from every challenge and remained agile enough to change course whenever necessary rapidly.

Lack of funding was also a formidable challenge. Perhaps because start-up money isn’t as readily available to minorities and women, Zakiya and Somita had to bootstrap their beginnings by risking their savings to invest in themselves and the power of their alliance. Fortunately, they made quick advances by acquiring loyal clients and establishing solid referral partner relationships, which allowed them to gain access to capital and expand the practice.

Leading by Example

Zakiya and Somita lead by example to inspire change in the industry and educate others about the challenges minorities face. They have generously mentored female attorneys branching out independently and have given presentations to attorney groups, including “Free Your Mind: Identify and Eradicate Hidden Bias” for the California Lawyers Association.

A Circle of Support

As Zakiya and Somita set out to grow the firm and increase the volume of clients they served, they were amazed to find that other female lawyers were a tremendous source of encouragement. Even female attorneys in the same area of law referred clients and became a pillar of support.

This might be because those women, too, have faced gender bias in the legal industry. Zakiya and Somita developed a mutually beneficial liaison with the women in their sphere of influence, which has created a collaborative environment.

3 Tips for Survival (and Success) As a Minority Female in Law

What pearls of wisdom do Zakiya and Somita share with budding female legal professionals? Here are their three crucial pointers for those standing on the threshold of their legal careers:

  1. Play the long game: Steady diligence and determination will pay dividends, but not instantaneously. Be prepared to experience setbacks or encounter obstacles. Fierce self-reliance may be your best asset.

  2. Leverage the power of networking: Building connections with other lawyers, various professionals, and people who may turn out to be your strongest advocates is priceless, and it can open the door. Make it a point to meet people who can mentor you, serve as a resource, or simply cheer you on. This may include volunteering for non-profits or contacting key allies to maintain relationships proactively.

  3. Think business: Business savvy and an excellent counselor can give you a competitive advantage. If you are at the helm of your own firm, having an accurate grasp of the financial picture is vital. 

Fortified by the words of Michelle Obama, “Always stay true to yourself and never let what somebody else says distract you from your goals,” Zakiya Norton and Somita Basu continue their trailblazing journey, leaving a path for other female lawyers to follow and emulate.

Article by
Zakiya J. Norton and Somita Basu
Norton Basu LLP

Zakiya J. Norton is a big-picture thinker who practices with precision, sharp insight, and a touch of humor. Zakiya delivers innovative, top-notch advice in terms everyone can understand. Known for her ability to grasp the family history and personal intentions that inform each estate plan, she offers compassionate counsel and no-nonsense legal strategies in her affable, straightforward speaking style.

Somita Basu has a knack for unraveling legal, financial, and mathematical mysteries while paying meticulous attention to detail. Always analytical and objective, her tactical methods allow her to identify the optimal way to achieve any goal. With a thorough, hands-on approach, Somita expertly advises on complex matters with diligence and grace.