My decision to attend law school and become a lawyer was motivated by my deep sense of justice and commitment to advocacy. There’s a family story I like to tell to help explain those motivations:
When I was very little (two to five years old), my family lived in a small town in Mississippi and my father was the pastor of the local church. The church was home to my pre-school–the only such school within 20 miles of our home. Though the school was not run by the church, the leadership of the school and the church were essentially the same.
A young black family that lived nearby had a daughter who was my age, and they applied to send their daughter to the pre-school. The board of the pre-school sent the family a note, written on church letterhead with my father’s name on it, saying that the pre-school would not admit black children. One of the pre-school teachers made the decision to move class out of the church building and into her own home so that the family could send their little girl to school. My parents moved me into that teacher’s class as a statement against the school’s racist policies. My parents had been vocal opponents of racism and this gesture was met with some support in the community but also a lot of anger. Eventually, the deacons of the church asked my father to resign. The result was a vote of confidence that was split 50/50. My father told the deacons he could not pastor a church in which only half of the leadership supported him, and that he would begin looking for a new church to pastor. That search took a year.
I didn’t know it then, but during that year my parents were afraid for our family’s safety because of their actions and beliefs. My father was no longer invited to meet with other pastors or speak at other churches. My sister and I were no longer invited to birthday parties. My mother walked my sister to the public school every day, out of fear that someone would say something to her or threaten her. She was six years old.
Although I was too young to remember those events, I have grown up with that story my whole life. It left a great impression on my thinking about social justice and equality. Our legal system has many flaws but, ultimately, it should support justice. In my practice, I seek to be a compassionate lawyer who can act as bravely as my parents did in the face of injustice. One of the biggest problems facing our legal community today is unequal access to our justice systems. When the average lawyer charges $400 an hour, a huge section of people are immediately prevented from having a professional guide them through our complex legal systems. By using a sliding scale fee structure, I can focus my practice on serving people who have traditionally been overlooked and have issues that many lawyers would be unwilling to take. In this small way, I hope to change the way people can access justice.