WELCOME TO LAWYER STORIES

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I launched the Lawyer Stories Instagram page because we all have a story. When I talk to other lawyers, I often find myself not asking them about their cases, but rather asking about their inspiration & motivation along the way to becoming attorneys, challenges they have encountered and their views about the legal profession.

My idea was to create a gallery of attorneys and law students and recount their stories in the form of a narrative. First started on Instagram in July 2017, the community has evolved into a global network of diverse individuals connecting and sharing their stories on a social media platform that is developing into a truly inspiring community. Personally connecting with legal professionals from all around the country and internationally has been an uplifting and motivating experience, especially during our country's current social and political climate.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed, commented, followed and engaged with Lawyer Stories in a positive way.

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what's your story?

My father was a Vietnamese boat refugee, leaving behind my mom, my siblings and myself at the age of 1.  When I was 7 yrs old our family reunited to reside in a small village in the south of the Netherlands. I was a very quiet girl and would spend most of my time filling up notebooks with drawings, sketches and poetry. I am, at heart, a creative and artistic person and I just love being around creative people. They have a way of looking at the world that for me makes it a more meaningful, vibrant and inspiring place. That's why I love the combination of Intellectual Property and the media & entertainment industry.

After more than 10 years experience, I decided to quit my high paying general counsel position and moved from Amsterdam to Perth, Australia. No, it wasn't to pursue another career, I wanted to escape the Dutch cold and combine my legal knowledge with my desire to see the world. Building up my virtual legal services business from scratch wasn't easy and on top of that I had to overcome challenges of living in a foreign country with no support network. There were certainly times that made me question my decision to leave my comfortable life in Amsterdam. It is also true that it is something I have never once regretted. This journey has changed my life in so many amazing ways. Now, after almost 4 years living abroad, full-time travelling and working, I am currently residing in Bali, Indonesia. I have the privilege of working with creative professionals from all over the world from the comfort of my hammock, on the beach or anywhere there's internet. I would hope that this inspires some people to occasionally step outside of their comfort zone and chase their dreams. 

Nicole Tien, LL.M

Nicole Tien, LL.M

I never actually planned on going to law school. In high school, I job shadowed an attorney and thought it was the most boring thing. I love writing and learning about people, and my dream for a while was to be an anthropologist or an Anthony Bourdain-style writer. I changed my mind last minute during my senior year of college, took the LSAT, and got accepted by every law school to which I applied. For me, law school made sense. My goals were always informed by a sense of empathy, a desire to uplift marginalized voices and facilitate social change. As someone who is gay and learned Spanish as a second language, I try to approach my understanding of individuals and their unique circumstances with that perspective. It’s easy to be overwhelmed with academic pressure or negativity in the news, but I try to stay grounded and focused on the need for both those who can navigate the law and those willing to serve others. I’m a 2L now, but I don’t have any specific career plans just yet. I’m mostly interested in international, immigration, civil rights, or criminal law. Excited to see what’s ahead! 

Robert DeSoto

I am twelve years old lying flat in an 10 inch high space of the back of my dad’s old VW, on top of a huge of wholesale men’s suits.  We are on our way to a flea market where he will sell the wholesale suits (hopefully most of them so there is more room on the car ride home).   Once we arrive I set up my table and lay out all the wholesale earrings I purchased with my allowance money; and sit there all day selling them.  At the end of the day, I was thrilled that I had multiplied my allowance by simply buying something and selling it.  That was the start of my entrepreneurial bug which has never worn off.

 

I continued my entrepreneurial efforts after undergrad, opening a restaurant, selling real estate, and flipping houses.  After six years of building businesses and “selling stuff for more than I paid for it”, I decided to go to University of Connecticut School of Law to do something more intellectually challenging.  As it turns out, my entrepreneurial spirit continued to plague me (yes, sometimes it can be a detriment in ways) after I graduated law school.  I decided to open my own practice founded in an more transactional flat fee approach, emphasizing volume. With my background in real estate, I focused on real estate closings and evictions; and became extremely successful statewide in the world of housing law in Connecticut.  My concern was that website like Legal Zoom would take away business from lawyers with the low prices and that people do not want to pay attorneys for hourly rates.  After twelve years of practice, when a client pays for a service,  I still get that same feeling as I did when a flea market customer bought a pair of earrings from me. Better than that, I feel as if I am able to help property owners by making having an attorney represent them more accessible with my flat up front fees.  My lawyer style stems from my father’s go to phrase, “Be sincere, Not serious.”  My office staff enjoy working with me and although we work very hard with high volumes, we spend a lot of time laughing.  The people on this account have so many inspiring stories, I thank everyone for sharing.

Yona Gregory

I left Ecuador with my family when I was 10 years old. We went through a very traumatic experience that left us with no choice but to flee. Life in the U.S. thereafter was challenging to say the least, ranging from extreme changes in family dynamics to overcoming language and cultural barriers. Although I love my country of origin (Ecuador) we never felt safe there. The criminal justice system there is broken- and truthfully almost non-existent. Ecuador has long been racked by corruption and the weak judicial oversight and investigative resources perpetuate a culture of impunity. Having such experience as a frame of reference made me appreciate and be fascinated by the American criminal justice system. While it is not perfect by any means, there is at least a system in place. My life experiences of having to move from one country to another influenced my decision to become an attorney. I witnessed injustice first hand in my country, I also know first hand the woes of immigrants who come to this country and who leave EVERYTHING behind to seek a better life for themselves and their families. I also know the woes of living in (and leaving from) a country devoid of a functional justice system and plagued by corruption and crime.

In 2018, I decided to launch my own practice, The Alonso Law Firm- focused on immigration (mostly in cases involving deportation/removal defense, adjustment of status and asylum cases) and also criminal defense (a practice area I find particularly fascinating).

My first hand experience with the struggles immigrants face allow me to take a more compassionate approach to my cases and clients.  The Alonso Law firm is focused on providing those who are in need of help, be it criminal or immigration defense, with conscientious and humane legal representation. These practice areas are very stressful yet very rewarding and I would not have it any other way-there is no feeling more rewarding than being able to change the life of others for the better. As Paul Shane Spear once said “As one person I can’t change the world, but I can change the world of one person.” That principle is what keeps me fueled on a daily basis. 

Evelyn Alonso, Esq.

I have started The Erica Rose Law Firm PLLC, which I feel combines all of my knowledge, experience, passion, and expertise. I represent and advocate for single parents as well as others going through family law issues such a divorce and child custody.  I also am practicing entertainment and media law and guiding individuals in the entertainment industry to  make wise career decisions as well as protect their personal and professional images.


I was originally inspired to go to law school by my younger brother, Ben Rose, who is also a practicing attorney in Houston. At the time that I made the decision, I was living in Los Angeles and working as a Page at Paramount Pictures, and had just been a contestant on the popular television show “The Bachelor”.

I decided to move back to Houston for law school and join Ben at the University of Houston. While in law school, I continued my career in reality television and filmed several shows. Therefore, it made sense to me to move back to LA after law school and earn my Masters of Laws (LLM)  in Entertainment and Media Law from Southwestern Law school.

After completing my LLM, I moved back to Houston to be closer to family.  I am married now and have two young daughters.  I took and passed The Texas Bar Exam when I was nine months pregnant with our youngest daughter Aspen – she was born five days later! The day I found out that I had passed my Bar Exam was one of the happiest days of my life.


I started my career working at a big family law firm, however I ironically found that I was not spending enough time with my own family.  Starting my own practice was not the easiest decision but I knew that it was the right one for me and my family. Also, I wanted to be able to expand my practice areas, to include entertainment and media law as well as general civil litigation.


I am really proud to be the only attorney in Houston who I know of who has a masters of law in entertainment and media law. That degree was honestly harder for me to earn than my JD. I really did learn so much in the program and I feel that combined with my experience in the entertainment industry sets me apart from other attorneys in Houston.

I am willing to be flexible as well when it comes to fees because of my strong desire to help those who cannot advocate for themselves.

In addition, I have started a podcast called Legally Mom. On the podcast,  other attorney moms and I discuss relevant legal issues, current events, and trying to find that work-life mom balance.  We interview guest who are making a difference in the legal and mom community. I hope that our podcast can be a platform to inform, inspire, encourage, and connect.

Erica H. Rose, Esq.

I was born in Tehran, Iran, in the 80's during the Iran-Iraq war.  My parents, who went to college in the United States during the 70's, decided to move back to the U.S., and this time for good.  I moved to Los Angeles, when I was 4 years old, and that is when I began building my network. As a Plaintiff's attorney in Los Angeles, nothing is more valuable than my reputation and my network, which consists of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances.

I decided that I wanted to become a lawyer very early on in high school.  My entire childhood was spent on the playground standing up to bullies who would pick on other kids.  Any time I saw any type of injustice, I was outspoken about it even as a child.

In high school there was an instance where students were having an issue with the school district, with regard to the music program.  My friend Darren Schultz and I single-handedly petitioned every music student in the school district.  After obtaining hundreds of signatures from multiple schools, we presented our case in front of the school board.  At the end of our presentation, (or oral argument I suppose), we had persuaded the school board to side with us, with them adding that we were both extremely articulate with our speech and work.  Years after high school, I got back in touch with Darren and found out that he had become an attorney too. I don't believe in coincidence, only destiny.

I always tell people, my personality is not this way because I am an attorney, but rather that I am an attorney because I have always been this way.  I am an advocate.  I have always been outspoken, and I've always advocated for the little guy.  That is exactly what I still do today, as a Plaintiff's attorney litigating against prominent corporations and Insurance companies, on behalf of ordinary people.  

Niki Ghazian, Esq.

At 12 years old I was arrested for committing a burglary with two of my best friends. I remember sitting in the back of the police car and the officer telling me, “I was hoping you’d run. I wanted to release my dog on you.” My father met me at the police station and his eyes were filled with tears. He had come to this country all the way from Jamaica looking for a better place to have and then raise kids. But I had failed him. I had turned into everything he worked so hard for me to not become. Luckily, because this was my first offense, I was given an opportunity to enter into a diversionary program by the Broward County State Attorney’s Office. This is where I would meet a judge that would go on to change my life. He looked at my report card, and asked me, “What the f*ck are you doing here? You’re extremely smart and can be whatever you want to be in life.” After he said this, I remember immediately thinking that I wanted to be like him. I wanted to be a lawyer. Ever since that day, I did every single thing with the idea in mind of later becoming a lawyer. Fast forward 15 years, and I started my first legal job as a prosecutor. I began working at the Broward County State Attorney’s Office - the very office that enrolled me into a diversion program as a 12 year old boy. While working at the State Attorney’s Office, I was then able to work with children and extend them the second chance that I had previously received. 

Josiah Graham Esq.

“One more word and you end up in the box too.” The judge paused, studying to see if I flinched, waiting for me to say something. “Now sit in the box!” she commanded. My client was already in the jury box, his bond revoked. “Am I under arrest too?” That was what she was waiting for. “Put him in the box!” she ordered, and her bailiffs put me in the jury box next to my client. And this unfairness, hanging like a stinking fog over that courtroom, didn’t feel surprising or unusual. Defense lawyers were being intimidated daily, charged with contempt, and now this. I was freed when my client’s case was sent to trial - we weren’t ready but drew a fair jury who acquitted him after 27 minutes of deliberation.

 

Was that what radicalized me? Or Occupy, when I was convicted of contempt for throwing water on a prosecutor during a trial? Or was it Ferguson? Not law school, where I was just another liberal kid smoking weed in the law library because it was “only malum prohibitum, man.” Joining the ACLU led to NORML and the NLG and 15 years later to my current practice of defending protesters, radicals, and dissenters.

 

After countless trials and thousands of clients I realized what the problem was - lawyers are the agents of oppression. We don’t need the law to teach us the difference between right and wrong - don't hurt other people. To paraphrase Kropotkin, the unnecessarily codified truths are inextricably mixed together with the mechanics of oppression to make up the law which serves the powerful and shits on everyone else. Fuck the law.

 

Take up the fight. Free Josh Williams, defend the J20 and the Galleria 22, justice for Mike Brown, for Anthony Lamar Smith, Isiaah Hammet, and Kiwi Herring. Black lives matter. Free all prisoners and fight for the complete liberation of all people forever. You went to law school thinking you’d be a champion of freedom, and let me tell you, comrade, you can. So what are you going to do to change your practice from one of oppression to one of liberation?

 

Joseph P. Welch, Criminal Defense Lawyer

Joseph Welch

I want to pass along some really good advice that I found very helpful in my own career. Boxing gets me through life. For any aspiring lawyers: law school, and then building your practice, is rewarding, but can also be draining and overwhelming. It is dangerously easy to neglect your personal life in favor of your profession. But there’s a great quote from a young author – “don’t throw away parts of yourself.” Don’t skip going to the gym, seeing friends and family, your hobbies, etc., to meet the demands of a legal career. If you do, you will wind up unhealthy, unhappy, and ultimately unsuccessful. All of your professional success flows directly from your efforts. You are the goose that lays the golden egg. I box because it keeps me healthy and balances my life. Don’t throw away the parts of you, that make you who you are; embrace them! These are the things that will keep the golden goose healthy and producing for years to come.

Jordan Jones

Like many others growing up, as a young child, being an attorney was my main and only real professional goal.  Looking back, I believe it was mainly due to surface gratification, things like the constant exclamations from adults of "when you grow up you can be a doctor or lawyer," being able to wear designer suits, compensation statistics, and watching law and order.  The goal of being an attorney, founded on these paper-thin premises, existed until I was in my junior/senior year of undergraduate school and saw the economy absolutely crash. The booming economy from the last couple of years, which has transcended presidential administrations, has allowed people to turn a blind eye to 2007-2009 where the economy was routinely losing 700,000 jobs a month and people's financial existence was being wiped completely out.  I still remember sitting in my college apartment and seeing the countless distraught faces being interviewed on the news as they were trying to cope with the fact that everything that they had put away for retirement (401k's, pensions, life savings) was gone.  At that point, I found my professional purpose. I could not personally stop a down global economy, but I could do my part to help others understand the importance of maximizing their employee benefits to help build wealth and mitigate down economies. At this point and with my purpose stronger than ever, I have graduated from a top law school and business school, obtained law licenses in Texas, Minnesota, North Dakota and the District of Columbia, and went to work at a Fortune 20 company with a focus on collective bargained labor agreements, ERISA compliance, and drafting employee benefit plan documents (medical, dental, vision, HSA, savings) impacting 1.1 million participants (employees, retirees and dependents).  It is beyond fulfilling to incorporate these participant's ideas and thoughts in my designs and drafts, and truly having them know their voice matters.  Whether I am drafting a governmental required document that a participant will eventually see at annual enrollment or going on a road show to verbally explain the benefits directly to the consumer, striving towards excellent benefit packages for employees and their families and keeping them mentally engaged on their future feeds my purpose. To this end, I also teach Employee Benefits and ERISA Litigation at a prestigious law school, impacting one potential voice at a time. 

Jared Miller, Esq.

As a queer, transgender, Asian immigrant who entered law school in 2015, I feel simultaneously privileged and terrified to exist as a young lawyer during this period of history. When I optomistically began 1L year that August, the queer community's palpable excitement over the recent Obergefell victory, which granted same-sex couples the right to marry, seemed impenatrable. Still, in the back of my mind, I felt like I had arrived at the party after its conclusion, and that I would still be too early in my career to provide much meaningful legal aid in support of the remaining civil rights battles for queer rights. I clearly couldn't have been more wrong. 

 

One year later, I witnessed the election of a man possessing nothing but disdain for the fundamental pieces that comprise my identity rise to power against the will of the majority. Since then, each one has come under federal attack, most recently in the executive decisions which will administratively exclude transgender people from accessing basic civil rights protections in housing, education, employment, and public accommodations. In doing so, the President's message of exclusion has been conveyed indelibly: that the lives transgender people, like myself, do not merit even the most basic of recognized dignities as we move through society. Recently, I have found my stray thoughts wandering to my own inward debate about whether my passport will be revoked for my naturalized citizenship or my transgender status first. 

 

I have dealt with being on the wrong side of power imbalances my whole life, and through that, I have learned well how to grit my teeth and fight tooth and nail for my own existence. That drive is what originally fueled my desire to attend law school, and it's what has enabled my successes so far. I was already a law student before I met another transgender attorney, so I have made every effort to forge my own way and continue to clear the path for those that will follow. This year, I graduated law school and passed the Bar. On Monday, I will officially swear in and take my place as a licensed attorney. My career is just beginning, and I'm just getting started. My story #wontbeerased.

Jordan Blisk

Coming from a country with absolutely no political freedoms or rational, binding laws, but rife with corruption and hypocrisy within a one-party system, I knew that I wanted to become an advocate in the legal field. I was born in Cuba. At age 12, my parents decided to flee to the United States with my younger brother and me. From a tender age, I have actively searched for opportunities to make a difference and gain the knowledge and mentorship needed to pursue a career in the legal field. At age 14, I started attending college classes, and participating Model United Nations debates that promoted human and civil rights projects for all countries. At 17, I was the first and only student in my high school to graduate with an Associate’s Degree along with a high school diploma. At 19, I successfully completed my undergraduate education and earned a Bachelor’s Degree, while interning in local law firms and courthouses. 

Although I have remained steadfast in working towards my goals because I knew exactly what I wanted, I have learned to not put blinders on while racing towards the finish line. Instead, I enjoy the process with a heart full of optimism, positivity, and determination. 

I am now a second-year law student at the University of Miami School of Law, and my interests to this date include personal injury, and family law. I plan to sit for the Florida Bar. 

Thank you @lawyerstories for sharing my story on this platform. Please feel free to reach out if you find we have common background or would simply like to reach out!

 

Claudia Diaz

Juris Doctor Candidate, Class of 2020

University of Miami School of Law

Claudia Diaz

At twenty years old, I, along with some others, were arrested for Battery. It was your typical college scuffle between fraternities. I remember the process like it was yesterday. I remember waiting for the police to show up on scene. I acted in self-defense. Why would I get in trouble, right? I was wrong. Soon, the cold, hard steel handcuffs were placed on my wrists. My body was escorted into the back of a police car. I remember sitting in a cell, with random strangers, wondering when I would get out and who could I call to help me. 

Later that week I met with a lawyer and was fortunate enough to hire someone who truly cared about my future and my case. My charges were dropped. It was at THIS moment that I knew I HAD to become a lawyer and become a voice for those who didn’t have one. 

While studying law, I became a teaching assistant for my criminal law professor, interned for a Judge, and worked at my local State Attorney’s Office, where I eventually landed my first job as a prosecutor in Palm Beach County. The saying goes “the best offense is a good defense.” To know how to score, or in other terms, to know how to build a case and prove all the elements beyond a reasonable doubt, is to be better prepared when called upon to break it down. 

More than four years ago I switched sides and became a criminal defense attorney. I represent the entire spectrum of individuals and cases. Blue collar average Joe or white collar professional. Misdemeanor DUI to felony trafficking drugs. You name it.  

Being a criminal defense attorney is not always about not guilty verdicts. It is about being there for someone when they are at their lowest point and providing them with real, honest, and zealous representation. It is about understanding their struggle to achieve the best results possible for their specific situation. It is about ensuring that the Government does not act unlawfully. 

This is my truth. This is my lawyer story. I do not hide from it. I am proud of my turning point. One mistake or arrest does not define who you are as an individual. Be honest. Be respectful. Be courteous. Be smart. Lawyer up. BETTER CALL SHAF

Matthew Shafran

I’m not your conventional trial lawyer.  The first reason, in all honesty, is I don’t look like what most people expect a trial lawyer to look like – I’m a 6’4, 190 pound former ball player, and a 31 year old black man.   One could argue that when I walk in to court to try a case, I don’t really fit in as one at first glance.   But that changes the first time I open up my mouth to speak to a jury.  There’s no other place in the world I feel more comfortable. 

 

I didn’t really fit in in law school either.   I spent my first year of law school at Saint Louis University and was the only black person in my section.   I studied alone primarily.  But at the end of the year I was fortunate enough to grade near  the top of my class, and thereafter transferred to Washington University in St. Louis to finish up my studies.   Looking back I remember that whenever I would get down or overwhelmed, I would draw on my inspiration for wanting to become a lawyer in the first place.   And that inspiration came from perhaps the greatest trial lawyer of all time, in my opinion, Johnnie Cochran.   He was one of the most courageous lawyers that I ever studied about, and is largely the reason I became a trial lawyer to represent injured victims.  

 

He's also a large reason why I had the courage, after receiving a half a million dollar verdict a month and a half ago, to go out on my own to start my firm, JL Wilson Trial Law, LLC.  I look forward to continuing the fight for injured victims, and starting a new legacy through my firm. 

Joseph L. Wilson, Esq.

Why do I LOVE helping entrepreneurs and business leaders as an attorney? Because I am one of them!  

 

I grew up in a small business and sports family in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  My father and uncles ran a few party stores, a pharmacy and a bar.  All hands on deck to manage the business A to Z.  As such, I learned at a young age to not only appreciate and respect the grind, but HOW to grind.  

 

After high school, I took my talents to Detroit to play college basketball and thereafter landed in law school.  I initially thought I wanted to be a transactional attorney, but the trial life had me at “All Rise.”  It allowed me to better exercise those competitive juices (like basketball).  I embraced the grind and became a national expert in trade secret litigation (among other things).  Along the way, I was blessed with 4 amazing kids, a beautiful wife and the opportunity to pursue other passions (personal training, coaching and broadcasting).  It is the ultimate “Work Life Juggle,” but I love the grind and truly helping others.

Bernard J. Fuhs

Becoming an attorney is the culmination of years of studying, applying, focusing, and staying persistent in the wake of uncertainty and failure. It was the last day of bar prep, and I ran straight home for warm meal and a good night’s rest. That night, the inconceivable occurred: I was woken by the sound of my mother’s shrieking cry for help as she desperately attempted to resuscitate my dad from a fatal cardiac arrest. Later that month, I walked into the testing center in a fog of grief so dense, I stared blankly at the Scantron with emptiness and indifference. Nevertheless, I kept going until I got that fateful message: “Congratulations on passing the bar.”

 

Taking on your client's burdens is a duty so fundamental to the practice of law. You have to be the loadstar, the faithful guidance in the wake of whatever legal uncertainty they face, whether incarceration or fighting for child custody. No horn book, study guide or case brief can prepare you to commit to helping others find their way quite like losing it yourself does. I urge you all to have faith in the wake of failure, keep moving forward-even if you can’t see what’s ahead. Keep showing up until you get your fateful message.

Aleksandra Jako, Esq.

I’m Attorney Beatrice Bijoux, Managing Partner of The Bijoux Law Firm. Born & raised in Stuart, FL & born to parents who were both Haitian immigrants...I was raised in a humble and loving Christian/Catholic household. I was taught at an early age anything could be achieved with God, hard work, & a quality education. My parents escaped Haiti due to the political instability of the nation. My grandfather was an actual political exile because he opposed the totalitarian rule & the brutal national police force in Haiti. Both My parents came from families who were in the merchant and agricultural industries. My mother left her career as a merchant in the Caribbean and Latin America, after her entire savings was stolen & wiped out from Haiti's unstable banking system. My father also escaped Haiti's unstable economy and moved to the United States in the early 80s to work as a laborer picking oranges and grapefruit and also doing construction work all across the southern United States before moving permanently to South Florida. I managed to conquer the obstacles of growing up in the lower middle class neighborhoods, ghettoes, & poverty (even though my father still told me I was entitled, just by living in the U.S.A., as these American ghettoes were nothing compared to Haiti’s 3rd world adversities, poverty, & political atmosphere) by dedicating my time to education, hard work, and making a difference in the community. I went on to earn my Doctor of Law Degree from Nova Southeastern University, Shepard Broad College of Law in 2016. At the tender age of 25 years old, I not only earned my doctorate degree, but also passed the Florida bar exam on her first attempt allowing me to become an official Florida Bar Licensed Attorney. 6 months into my career, I was able to open the doors of my very own law firm at the age of 26 years old. The reason I became an attorney is because I admire the rule of law & healthy democracy in the USA, the idea of being a voice for the voiceless, and having the privilege to be someone’s advocate in their time of crisis & need. I hope to become a Female President of the United States & give back to a country that has given me so much.

Beatrice Bijoux

In 2013, as I was about to graduate from law school in Poland with a combined JD and  Masters of Law, things in my life turned upside down. I decided to move to Canada.

 

That the common law system is different than the civil law system was no surprise as I had studied both in Poland.  I knew coming to Canada that I would not be able to practice law with my current degree. I planned out my accreditation path, step by step.  I resolved to practice law in Canada by 2019.

 

The first step was to upgrade my legal English fluency. To help,  I started working as a paralegal in a local law firm. Expanding my technical vocabulary was not the only benefit of starting from the bottom; I learned from lawyers and legal assistants and loved every single minute of it. After a few months, I was ready to go back to law school and work my Common Law accreditation. 

 

Fast forward 2016/2017: I completed the most excruciating program in history of law (you may have noticed by now, I have a teeny-tiny tendency to exaggerate). To achieve the standard required,  I had to take nine classes in one year, five of which were two-semester classes. There were many late nights, re-heated coffee and some stronger drinks (hey, I'm Polish after all!).  In the end - and somewhat to my disbelief - I passed all my exams and became an articling student at a law firm I had dreamt of joining.

 

I finished my articles was admitted to the Alberta Bar. Next on my agenda is getting admitted to the Nunavut and the Northwest Territories Bars. My main focus is aboriginal law. I work on class actions concerning the rights of the indigenous peoples of Canada.

 

The pain of discipline is hard but it’s way more satisfying than the pain of regret.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

 

There are many things that I wish I could re-do, or do differently, but today I am 100% sure I made the right decision by pushing forward and pursuing my law career in Canada. Thank you for reading this and for supporting me!

Cheers!

Mary Grzybowska, LL.M.

I was fourteen years old the first time I advocated in a courtroom. It was at my father’s sentencing hearing. I am the daughter of a single immigrant mother and a drug addict. Failure was not an option. 

After graduating law school valedictorian, I began pursuing my dream to become one of Chicago’s finest products liability defense attorneys. I have not forgotten where I come from. 

In a world where corporate lawyers sometimes forget to have a soul, I am reminded to be my authentic self, to be kind, and to have empathy. I am motivated to inspire others that they too can rise out of the class they were born into.

Symone Danielle Shinton, Esq.

Symone Danielle Shinton, Esq.

I’m a constitutional litigator in Washington, D.C. (barred in California and D.C.) fighting to keep church and state separate under the First Amendment and separately, to procure fundamental rights for nonhuman animals. I am the Senior Counsel for the American Humanist Association (AHA) (full-time) and an attorney for the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) (part time). At the AHA, I have served as lead counsel in 25 federal cases, including before the Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Circuits-winning nearly all thus far. I have presented oral arguments before the Fourth Circuit (twice), the Fifth Circuit, and the Eleventh Circuit, and have filed a number of briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court. I have appeared on national and local television stations (including Fox News twice and MSNBC), and am regularly quoted in media outlets, including New York Times, USA Today, and the Washington Post.

 

At the NhRP, I draft briefs and lead research for our groundbreaking cases seeking fundamental common law rights (i.e. bodily liberty) for autonomous nonhuman animals (so far, chimpanzees and elephants) through the writ of habeas corpus. In essence, our aim is to change their legal status from rightless “things” to legal “persons” with the capacity for basic rights. Our cases have captured the interest of the world’s leading legal scholars, scientists, and journalists. We are also featured in an HBO documentary, Unlocking the Cage.

 

I graduated from Vermont Law School in 2012 (cum laude), Columbia University in 2009 (MPA), and Pitzer College in 2008 (BA). I went to law school specifically to pursue my lifelong interest in animal rights. I volunteered for the NhRP throughout law school and interned for the AHA. Both organizations offered me a position before graduation and gave me a flexible schedule so I could juggle both jobs. I began litigating as soon as I passed the July 2012 California Bar (and waived into D.C. thereafter). I am also admitted to practice in the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, and D.C. Circuits, and the U.S. District Courts in Colorado, Florida, and California.

Monica L. Miller, Esq.

No last words… No goodbye… I was a senior in high school, sitting at an awards ceremony, anxiously waiting to go on stage to receive my honorary certificates for academic excellence when my phone lit up.  I was told my father was involved in an “accident.”  He was taken to a nearby hospital where hours later, he passed away.  The residents came out and said, “He said something, but we didn’t understand what.”  He walked out of the house that morning to go earn a living for his family and never came back.  There aren’t enough words to describe the thereafter… The tragic loss of my 40 year old father in a truck accident due to the negligence of others moved me to become a plaintiff’s personal injury attorney.  I made it my passion to seek justice on behalf of injured people – a powerful concept that resonates deeply with me.  I completed my undergraduate studies at UCLA earning a Bachelor of Arts cum laude in Political Science and obtained a Juris Doctorate degree from Southwestern Law School.  Since the date I was sworn in, I have represented plaintiffs in wrongful death matters and individuals who have sustained catastrophic and traumatic brain injuries.  As with all matters of the heart, I found what I love to do, day in and day out – justice for the people…

Suzanna Abrahamian

I grew up in South Florida with a German Mother and an African-American Father. I never really knew that my family was any different than anyone else’s family… until the world told me. When they did, when I was a child, it was often unkind. A teacher of mine, at some point, told me the story about the Lovings in Loving v. State of Virginia and how two brave, young volunteer attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union took the criminal convictions of the Richard and Mildred Loving, after the interracial couple having committed the crime of simply loving one another despite their differences, to the Supreme Court and had bans on interracial marriage declared unconstitutional. Had it not been for those ACLU attorneys, Bernard S. Cohen and Philip J. Hirschkop, who took on this case, I may not have existed at all, as it shaped our laws and our culture toward acceptance of interracial unions. In realizing that two young eager attorneys made my very existence a possibility, I knew that I wanted to be a part of change in this country as we grow and become more open to ideologies once forbidden. To date, a picture of the Lovings hangs in my office, along with the quote originally written by Judge Bazile when asked to overturn the Lovings convictions : “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” Although it is an ugly quote, it is but a reminder to me of how far we’ve come, how much the law can change and how much power I, as an attorney, have in my hands to perfect that.

Anastasia J. Mahone, Esq.

I am a personal injury lawyer based in Miami, Florida. My practice focuses on representing the injured and their families as plaintiffs in cases involving: injury cases on cruise ships, civil trials, premise and motor vehicle liability litigation.

Why I Became a Lawyer: During high school in Wichita, Kansas one of my dearest childhood friends, Carrie Marcus, was diagnosed with incurable cancer. At the time, I did not even know what that meant. Carrie missed most of our senior year. And when she came back to school, she parked in a handicap space. She did not have the handicap decal and the school gave her a bunch of parking tickets. One day in class, she was relating this to our teacher. He told her to tell the principal. I asked if I could go and help her. 

I went to the principal and “argued” her case. He could see that she was ill, far more than I had realized, and agreed to waive the parking tickets. She thanked me for speaking for her. That event has stuck with me throughout my life. I had a feeling of enormous happiness, knowing that I was able to help my friend. I was always told that I would make a good lawyer. No one ever said that I would make a good anything else—not a good bicycle racer, football player, cook or doctor. It was always, “You would make a good lawyer.” I was not sure I wanted to go to law school. I was intimidated by the big books that law students dragged around. My father told me I would love law school. I thought he was crazy since I had always hated school. He was right; I was wrong. Once in law school, I discovered I liked the idea of representing people. 

I graduated from law school in 1991 and I decided to focus all of my energies into the representation of the weak, the hurt, the forgotten, and those victims who cannot speak for themselves. I have refused representing big business, insurance companies, or the government. To me, every client is Carrie Marcus, and I am proud of it.

Spencer Aronfeld, Esq.

Though only seven years old when we immigrated to Canada, the thought of revisiting my homeland, Guyana, has never suggested itself since departure. When I allow myself to consider why, I realize that I have intentionally suppressed every opportunity for it to return, even with the knowledge that the visit would be temporary. The idea alone invites flashback upon flashback, all unpleasant.

I still remember that night so vividly—it was 3:00 am, October 14th, 2002. Bullets from every angle, shattering the peace of the night as window panes crashed inwards and bullets became our bedmates. I remember barely daring to open my eyes, dreading the damage. My father lay on the ground helplessly, his arm the picture of carnage. Next to him, a pistol, shell casings spilt across the floor. I watched as my mother, a strong, competent woman of the subcontinent, cry as she ran to help him. Thankfully the next morning brought the light of good news. My father would survive his injuries.

As my father began to recover in the following days, one thing became overwhelmingly clear. Our family could not remain in Guyana. Typical of the country, the shooting was never properly investigated and no charges ever made. Canada presented itself as an idyllic refuge for immigrants to seek a better life and raise children. This migration to North America is how my law journey began.

I'm often asked, "why law school?" Why this career, that requires long hours and essay upon essay and research until you're bleary-eyed, when there are so many other options. The answer has always been simple though. I have a responsibility, as a son and as a victim of a blatantly ignored act of violence, to honour the incredible sacrifices my parents have made and contribute to the prevention of mishandled and unprosecuted cases. My parents worked 14-hours a day and seven days a week when we first moved to Canada. Their sacrifices have been endless, all to allow me to pursue my dreams. Beyond that, no matter how cliche, seeking justice for individuals that receive little to no assistance and are often marginalized has always been a worthy cause to me.

Harvard University - MA Candidate 

NWC Law School - JD Candidate

Michael Dawud

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” —Mark Twain. 

I don't ever remember wanting to be anything other than a lawyer. Going to law school was not something I stumbled upon, a journey I took to prove a point or an unexpected detour in my original life plan. It was a lifetime goal and when the time came, I was fearless because I knew it was my calling.  It felt natural to me because it was my purpose. Yet, after 5 years of practicing, a Masters of Law, and a move that required taking a second bar exam, I still felt a thirst for something more. I knew I was not born to be stuck in a bureaucratic haze. I was so unhappy, uncomfortable and felt a knot of dread everyday as I drove into the office. Deep down, I knew I needed to find the "where" within my "why". So, I decided to make a bold move. I planned, saved and ventured.  The day I quit my "big firm" job was the day I truly found myself.  It was scary, exhilarating and fulfilling all at once. It felt like jumping off a bridge with my hands spread wide. That leap was not just grounded on my faith, it was built on my passion for the law. A year ago today, my law firm was born and I can say today that it's one of the best decisions I have ever made. I am happy because I have found Immigration Law, a practice grounded in passion for family unity, to be my niche within my purpose. To be the best lawyer you can be, you can't wake up every morning dreading going into work. The wealth of inner peace and fulfillment that comes with loving what you do is “happiness in service” that trickles down to your clients, family, colleagues, opposing counsel, and everyone who come across. 

 

Immigration Attorney, The Law Office of Ral Obioha, PLLC

Houston, Texas

Barred in Maryland and Texas

Ral Obioha, Esq. LLM