Matthew Robinson ’21: Setting a Standard of Excellence

Robinson shares how he found community as a member of the Black Law Students Association and what the law means to him.

Hometown: Miramar, Florida

Law for me is . . . “excellence. And what I mean by that is our job is to always strive for a certain standard and a certain level of excellence when it comes to advocacy. Ensuring that our writing best represents our clients, ensuring that we are advocating in the way most advantageous to our client. So for me, law has always been a quest towards excellence.”

Why the law? Robinson set his sights on law school when he was in elementary school and credits his high school mentor, Michael Gilfarb, and his family with supporting his dream. “My parents came to this country [from Jamaica] in 1984 with very little, but they’ve managed to make a lot and give me a lot of opportunities,” he says. And he plans to pay that encouragement forward. “I believe when you get, you gotta give. That’s what I was taught from my parents . . . particularly as a Black person in this arena, in law.”

Law School goals: When Robinson arrived at Columbia, his plan was to “be a well-rounded attorney and get a diverse set of experiences.” He did so by participating in a wide range of activities, including the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot Court, the Mediation Clinic, and Columbia Law Review, where he served as the diversity editor. 

Finding community: As a member of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA), Robinson not only made “some of my best friends” at law school but also found another way to open doors for others. “A lot of what I do [as co-chair of BLSA admissions] is just ensuring that future Black students, in particular, feel that they have the knowledge and the resources and the mentorship to really feel comfortable with applying to law school and succeeding in law school.”

Honors and activities: James Kent scholar; co-chair, Black Law Students Association (BLSA) Admissions Committee; diversity editor, Columbia Law Review; member, Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot Court.

Next steps: After graduation, Robinson will work as a litigation associate at Cravath, Swaine & Moore in New York City. “I’m excited about finally having the opportunity to take [everything I’ve learned] and put it into practice,” he says.