One Year As A Lawyer - Reflections on A Life in Law.
May 9th 2015 - I added the words ESQ to my name. A title that had taken 3 years to earn in theory but in reality considering the fact that at the age of 6 I had chosen the legal profession, it felt like my whole life and educational career had lead up to that moment.
The pure magical moment when I heard my name called by one of my favorite legal minds & law school father (Professor LaGard Smith), walked up the stage praying my black stilettos would hold me up, shook some hands, smiled for some pictures, shook some more hands and received my 'diploma'
The moment when you get called back on stage as one of the 3 people in your class to receive a graduation award.
That moment when you know that you have earned a professional degree by your sheer brain power - no handouts, no favors, no politics, no friends in high places. Just you, your God, your brain, your note book, your perseverance, your tears, your charts, your grit, every single day for your entire educational career. That moment when you look out into the crowd and see your people, the ones who went through all of it with you - the good, the bad, the ugly. They showed up for you over and over again.
A moment that in reality doesn't last more than 30 seconds but feels like an eternity.
I hope everyone gets a moment like that a few times in life.
While those were some of the most magical days of my life and the fact that 2 days post-graduation I was getting on a plane and flying home to Africa (a grad gift from my daddy) only made the magic of that week prolonged, I have realized that the days following graduation were the real test of character.
Africa was pretty great - especially when I got to use my knowledge of Immigration law to help a disabled immigrant at the airport who was being mistreated. That was great. But coming back to U.S soil and having to spend the next 2 months, my first 2 months as a lawyer, studying for the Bar exam was not great at all. The 2 days of taking the Bar Exam was only great because I got to spend those nights at a fancy hotel with one of my favorite people. Spending the next month trying to figure out what I 'wanted to do with my life' and applying for jobs was incredibly disappointing and heart wrenching. Waiting for 2 months after the Bar Exam to find out whether I passed the most important exam of my career was excruciating.
As life would have it, September was a good month for me. I started working a pretty great Law Firm that had everything I was looking for in my ideal post-law school first job and I found out that I passed the Bar Exam (after several panic ridden days).
Life as a first-year Lawyer has taught me a few things especially that you are at the very bottom of the pool when it comes to lawyers. Stay gracious and humble at that realization. The learning curve is huge. No matter how many times you read about 'work-life balance' the first time you are faced with the the decision to take work home and offset that balance, you will choose to take work home. Have lots of grace on yourself, there will be a few mistakes and disappointments. Don't take the results of a case personally. Ethics rules are your best friends. Always use a disclaimer.
Life as a brown woman in Law has taught me well how to be a minority in a profession where people automatically assume that you are the client and not the lawyer (even when you have a power suit on).
Life as an African in the American legal system has taught me that no one is ever going to say my name right the first 10 times - be gracious anyways.
All things being equal, good days & hard days - law was my semi-magical choice and I don't regret where its taken me and whats its taught me about myself and about the world. Thats the thing about choices though, you just have to make them and be open to learning from them. I chose law and its been a semi-magical year of being entrenched in it. I cannot wait to experience more years with this profession and see where it takes me!