Black Lives Matter: Tiffany’s Journey into Law
Tiffany Walker shares her journey into the legal sector, offering advice and tips on overcoming systemic racism.
Tiffany Walker, Attorney at FVF Law
My Law School Experience:
Law school is a unique challenge that you can never really prepare for and a different learning experience than anything you’ve experienced before. I went to Loyola University of New Orleans’ College of Law. I was always comfortable as a student there as I felt it was a progressive school. As a black law student, the discussion of historic civil rights cases (Brown v. Board of Education, Plessy v. Ferguson, etc.) can sometimes be a little touchy and uncomfortable, but I saw hope in the fact that the white students in my classes seemed eager to learn about these cases and grow.
My Tips for Current and Future Law Students and Young Lawyers:
The workload is intense so you must learn time management skills and you absolutely must do all the reading. As intimidating as they are, don’t fear the cold call! The rest of the class is so relieved they weren’t called on, that they aren’t even listening to your answer.
I believe it’s important to have a group of friends for support and survival throughout law school. Friends with different backgrounds and experiences will help you grow and expand your perspective, so seek those people out. It’s also important for black students to support each other. Often, law students of colour are the first in their families to go to any kind of graduate school. It was helpful for me to have a group of friends that understood the extra pressures that can bring.
Being black in America comes with its own set of challenges.
Law school and the legal field are formal places. It’s common for black law students and young lawyers to try and mould themselves to fit into a “white box”. My biggest piece of advice to law students and young lawyers is to be authentically you. Differences make the legal profession better. Don’t shrink yourself to become what you think you are supposed to be or what you think lawyers are supposed to look and act like. You have something important to offer and altering that is a disservice to yourself and the legal field.
Making a Difference in the Legal Field:
Similar to how it’s important for Hollywood to tell stories including people of colour, it is also important for the legal field and other professions. When black children see people that look like them as lawyers and doctors and movie stars and teachers, it’s easier to image those paths in their future. My father is a police officer and I saw a lot of lawyers growing up. But I didn’t see many black lawyers or black female lawyers. All races need to be represented in the legal field and I am proud to be part of that story and to let young girls know there is a place for them in law.
Being black in America comes with its own set of challenges. That experience helps you empathize with a wide variety of people. It can help you connect with your clients in a different way than your white coworkers.
And if something happens in your workplace, don’t just swallow it and move on. People can’t change and grow if they don’t know they’ve done something wrong. Don’t be scared to speak up. The people that hired you did so for a reason, and they care about you.