What started as a dream to find the best way to help others when I was very young has somehow decades later became a reality. As of December 16, 2021, I have been fully sworn and admitted, and am currently licensed to practice Law in all Courts within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (BBO #pending). I always wanted to be able to say I’m licensed to “practice all courts.”
Law school was a wild ride. What follows is a blend of personal and professional experiences along the way.
As a Southerner with a deep drawl, I had to learn to understand the New England accent from my Civil Procedure classes with a beloved Professor who rightfully hounded me almost daily, and sounded like Sean Connery.
I lost hundreds of friends, family, and loved ones due to the pandemic. I found out my mother, who was homeless and unable to be located after years of searching, riddled with cancer, and suffering from years of untreated diagnoses, had passed weeks prior from a heart attack while living at a state ran adult care facility – the night before my first year of finals. Transitioning geographically to a place without relatives was not the easiest thing to do as a small family, but with the support of my Wife and the Labor movement we were able to make it through; and, welcomed our newest addition to our family, our baby daughter, halfway through law school.
The latter half of law school was virtually remote, despite the campus being only a few minutes from where I had been living. Without my peer group, I wouldn’t have been able to graduate Cum Laude. I was fortunate enough to count myself among the published academics through my scholarship during the pandemic, by being pushed to reduce my thoughts to paper regarding workers’ rights and then cite them, from several notable academics and jurists (looking at you in particular MGT, JB, DM, SS, JH, RJPS, MPS, BLF, BSP, & DAB).
But, what is even better than being an academic is that I found my tribe within the Labor movement before I graduated, and am proudly a dues paying member of General Teamsters Local No. 251. Note though that while I am honored to serve the Local Union of my Sisters and Brothers in the capacity as its Lead Negotiator, I do not practice law in any capacity for the Local Union or its related entities. I am but a worker serving my Sisters and Brothers in our plight for positive freedom, and shop floor democracy – as I have been my entire career. You truly need neither a law degree nor a bar license to engage in collective bargaining. See generally, the National Labor Relations Act.
The book No Contract, No Peace by acclaimed author Robert M. Schwartz itself is a great introduction if you’re interested in learning how to negotiate better terms for the working class. What made me want to transition from organizing and representation for members, to negotiating contracts was in large part the scholarship and published writings of a friend, Joe Burns, my experiences winning certification campaigns while fighting for the rights of my Sisters and Brothers on the job, and the encouragement of many other leaders in the Labor movement.
Often I remind people that growing up in the heartbeat of the Southeast’s push to increase union density in the 90’s, I was fortunate to get to know many of the then-up-and-coming Leadership within our movement in different organizations on terms as “Aunts” and “Uncles,” when in reality they were Stewards, National and International Presidents, or in some cases elected Members of Congress. Those experiences helped me to learn that we must continue our fight internally to guard against the disastrous facets of business unionism in every form.
The journey to becoming a lawyer gave me several key areas of insight about myself. Notably, we read and reread a case surrounding the 1996 Atlanta Olympic bombing. At some point, I began to be able to recall the disturbing memories I had of that evening while at the Olympics in Atlanta that year; at the age of eleven. My family and I had just left Olympic Park and had returned to our hotel a few short blocks away mere moments before the detonation occurred. Had my Dad’s sense of timeliness from serving in the Navy and later in civil service not been so focused that day, who knows if you would be reading this.
Prior to law school somehow I had compartmentalized and buried those memories, but examining the case forced me to reconcile the many years of trauma I endured afterwards by ignoring the matter. Prior to law school I had relocated to Atlanta for about a decade to focus on organizing new unions in the Southeast, and at the depths of depression found myself struggling with alcoholism – at times confronting portions of that painful evening by drowning my sorrows in a bottle and suffering in silence. Sober now for many years, academic exploration allowed me to begin recognizing and healing from one of my deepest wounds, by understanding the facts of the case. I now live openly about my PTSD diagnosis, my journeys before and after longterm sobriety, and struggling with ADHD as a co-occurring diagnosis. The best part of being an open and honest person is not hiding from your own encounters with struggling in life, but wearing those hard earned lessons proudly.
I’m proud that I am one of the newest admitted members of the Massachusetts Bar, which knows all of the above (and then some). I am also proud that I am a Public Interest Scholar and Honors Graduate of the only public law school in MA, the University of Massachusetts School of Law. The Public Interest Law Fellowship offered by UMass Law is easily one of the most robust programs in the nation, focused on creating public advocates for Justice. I found the tenor of UMass Law, and the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers, to be the most holistically focused on encouraging healthy practitioners and sound practice in the nation, and it is one of the many reasons why I relocated to New England.
If you’re considering becoming a lawyer, know that all of law school is a stress test. While my background and experiences are in many ways specific to me I must confess that I am not that unique. Law school is designed to put one through the rigors of practice, the emotional trauma of the issues one may see on a daily basis, and to help one’s self in many ways learn how to navigate all of that while applying doctrinal knowledge. If you find yourself struggling, know you are not alone and that there are plenty of people who will gladly speak with you confidentially.
If you’re a law student in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, I personally found the resources from LCLMA useful. And, if you’re looking for a career path into the Labor movement, check out the Union Jobs Clearinghouse or the Peggy Browning Fund.
I would personally like to take the opportunity to thank several Professors (who know who they are) from UMass Law & Flagler College, the many practitioners in my life that helped guide me to law school, my entire family, my support network, and my friends I’ve made trudging the happy roads of destiny.
But particularly, my Mother, may she always requiem in pace, who provided me the inspiration to want to fight the inequities contained in our society at a young age through her own struggles.
My Father and Step Mother (who rightfully deserves to be recognized more as my Mom), who showed me how to comply and then complain, how to tackle management with paper cuts, and how to hold myself accountable with pride, by teaching me unionism at the dinner table.
My Grandmother and Great Grandmother, who taught me how to say “bless your heart” (the right way), and the value of our family’s hard labor in the farming communities of Alabama and North Florida; and, their personal efforts to build equality through Solidarity in the Southeast from the Bread and Roses movement through the 1990’s.
My Grandfather, for his dogged ability to demonstrate character in the light of adversity; and, who taught me about our family’s history as immigrants to this country dying in the mines and steel mills of industrial America.
And, of course my two children and amazing Wife – my high school sweetheart; who help me stay centered and grounded, and remind me every day that the pieces of paper below are representative of a hard earned and lifelong struggle, that were only possible with the love and inner peace one can only find within themselves – but are just pieces of paper.
Practice All Courts