By Chelsea Liddy Pivtorak
Marathon runner by morning, structured finance attorney by day, and community organizer by night, Steven Hanton, ’12, has time for it all—and then some.
Hanton, who was recently promoted to partner at Nixon Peabody LLP in Boston, knew early on that he wanted to pursue a career at a Big Law firm. He quickly gravitated toward transactional law, with a particular focus on securitizations, lending arrangements, and other types of debt financings. His practice currently centers on banks and other financial institutions that provide corporate trust, fiduciary, and agency services.
After 10 years with Nixon Peabody, he credits his colleagues with creating an environment where he has been able to thrive. “Often in the legal profession, if you’re not straight or white or a man—or if you’re different in any way—it can be challenging to find the right level of mentorship and sponsorship to keep you going,” he says. “As a Black gay man, I’m thankful to have landed with a really good group of folks at Nixon Peabody whom I connect with and who have really invested in me. Without the support of my mentors, I don’t think I’d be in the same place.”
Hanton makes a point of paying it forward and using his platform to help others. In addition to mentoring law students, recent graduates, and junior attorneys at his firm, he serves on the board of the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association. Hanton also focuses on using his hobbies to give back; he started running as a way to stay healthy and clear his head but more recently saw an opportunity to use the pastime for the greater good. Earlier this year, he ran the Boston Marathon, dedicating his race to fundraising for the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center, a nonprofit that provides educational, workforce development, and youth-oriented services to Asian and other immigrant communities in Boston.
A longtime activist in the gay community, Hanton recently co-founded an LGBTQ+ organization that seeks to foster joy among queer and trans people of color, provide scholarships to those in need, and make Boston a more welcoming space. The group, Men of Melanin Magic, coordinated numerous Boston Pride festivities in June, and Hanton hopes to continue scaling up the organization’s presence in the city and beyond.
Hanton also is looking to build connections on a global scale. Last year, he was the American Mandarin Society’s inaugural Rhodium Fellow in International Trade and Economics; the fellowship is part of a professional development program geared toward Black Americans who are interested in US-China relations. Hanton, who has studied Mandarin since he was 17, also sees it as an opportunity to broaden the scope of his practice and career trajectory. “The US relationship with China is going to be important no matter which lens you use. I think it’s about making sure that space is diverse and harnesses the wide range of expertise Americans can bring to bear,” he says. “I hope to leverage my fellowship experience in ways that can benefit my colleagues in our offices in China, as well as our Chinese clients.”
Hanton is cognizant of his relatively unusual place in the legal world, and staying active with mentoring and community engagement adds fuel to the fire that keeps him going. According to a 2020 diversity study conducted by the National Association for Law Placement, a mere 0.9 percent of partners across Boston identify as Black. “I don’t take my position of privilege lightly, nor any of the education or hard work that I have put in. I’m currently focused on building my practice, challenging myself, and doing good work for clients,” he says. “I’m really grateful for the institutions I’ve attended, and I’ll always credit Michigan for teaching me discipline and consistency, and for helping me achieve my potential. I don’t know if I could imagine my life in another way—it’s all about finding your personal balance.”