Mills & Edwards:
1. Access. Many of the top firms believe that they can do business with our communities without us. They don’t feel that they necessarily need to have black attorney’s working for them to have access to our community. As long as we as a community allow that to continue firms will feel that they do not need to hire black attorneys. Every firm that I have every worked at it was over a period of years that I was there before I saw another black attorney, which leads me to the second major barrier.
2. Elevation. Most people fall into one of two categories when they come into a firm. Either you are a worker bee, or someone who they see as a rising star. The challenge is that we don’t always have enough people that are elevated to positions that have decision making power. To be able to choose who is hired next. There are lots of young gifted, energetic, and bright young black attorneys out there and a lot of times we just need the chance.
You have successfully launched your own Firm Mills & Edwards. What led you to the creation of your own Firm?
Mills & Edwards: Freedom. The freedom to make our own choices as far as who we want to represent, how we want to represent them and how we conduct ourselves as attorneys. One thing that happens when you are at a firm or working for someone else is that if there is a conflict in ideas or the belief system you lose. You are working for them so you have to follow their lead. We have both had experiences where someone came in and needed help, but because a business decision was made that we were not a part of we could not help these people. You get to a point where you simply refuse to allow this to happen. If we believe in someone we help them.
How important are building relationships with city & government officials, other lawyers, and members of the communities in which you serve?
It is not only important but necessary. The knowledge you gain from surrounding yourself with different people allows you to walk away from a conversation brighter and more knowledgeable than you were before. Our strength is relating to a jury, and that comes from us being comfortable in any situation and having a vast amount of experience from dealing with all different types of people. How can I really speak to a member of the community if I don’t understand the community they have come from. It broadens our understanding of people and that is why it’s necessary for anyone toÂ build relationships with as many diverse relationships.
I believe when we deal with other people whether they be government officials, or other types of lawyers we become the windows to the soul of who we are as a people. We expose them to us and to the community because of the backgrounds that we have.
What Three Pieces of Advice Do You Have For Existing Lawyers and Those Pursuing a Career in Law?
- Push Past Your Limit – Identify where you are and have a vision of where you want to go. Be willing to go beyond that stopping point. Wherever that stopping point may be push yourself further so you can accomplish whatever your goal may be.
- Hustle – You got to have a motor on the inside. Determination, perseverance and be willing to get up when you get knocked down. As long as you aren’t knocked out you can still get back up and fight.
- Be Authentic – Don’t develop this false understanding of what a lawyer is supposed to say, how they are supposed to dress, or who they are supposed to be. If you take on this persona of who a lawyer is you will wake up unhappy because you are going against things that you feel are important. You have to work too hard to become a lawyer to put yourself in a situation where you don’t want to do it anymore because you don’t think you’re helping as much as you can, or that you can’t be yourself. Be yourself, and remain true to who you are.
Daron Pressley (@daronpressley) is an entrepreneur and former Fortune 500 sales and marketing executive who has been featured on outlets including Fox45 News, Black Enterprise magazine, and The Washington Post. Knowledgeable in marketing and branding, Pressley works with professional athletes, organizations, and individuals to develop strategies to create, build, and grow brands. As a speaker Pressley has reached over 20,000 students. He provides dynamic insights on leadership and branding via his Website,Â DaronPressley.com.