barbara-a-atlanta-1439920081

Barbara A.

Atlanta

In January 2014, I reached the point in my career to which I had perhaps always been working — my own law firm. When I was growing up, it was very important to me to have a career, a profession. At the time I was thinking about journalist or U.S. Ambassador to France, but a 9th grade career placement test came back with … lawyer! Interesting. I enjoyed lively conversation designed to persuade people to my point of view on all topics, but I didn’t really see lawyer. I was too shy to be a lawyer. I focused on persuading only people I knew well to see things the way I did.

My parents were the first and only children in their families to go to college, and even though I was in the middle of the age range of cousins, none of my older cousins were going to college in mid-to-late 1980s. There weren’t any lawyers, doctors, engineers, or teachers in my family tree.

When I was in 10th grade, a wonderful English teacher started a high school debate program, which led me to a college debate program and eventually away from my lofty goal of color commentary for the Boston Red Sox to the practice of law.

If my English teacher had not started that debate program and encouraged me to join, I do wonder what my life would be like today. I emailed her at the beginning of my first year of law school (7 years after graduating high school) and thanked her for being the most influential non-family member in my life. I think you have to be open to doing things outside your comfort zone. It was not easy for me to join that high school debate team, but it changed my life.

And that 9th grade career placement test, as it turned out, was just wonderfully accurate. Justice, fairness, and equality are core parts of my being and fuel my passion to help close the Opportunity Divide in my role as Co-Chair of the Year Up Atlanta Leadership Council.

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