Legal Professionals Discuss Education, Career and Race

By Dan Hiner

On Thursday, about 80 Youngstown State University students and faculty gathered in the President’s Suite in Kilcawley for Sisters in Law, a panel of successful black female attorneys who spoke to students interested in law careers.

Dayna R. Terrell
Dayna R. Terrell stands and answers questions while Carla Baldwin and Christa Sanford listen while sitting on the Sisters In Law panel.

The speakers were Christa Sanford, partner of Baker Botts LLP. in Houston, Dayna R. Terrell, a general practice attorney and Carla Baldwin, a Youngstown juvenile magistrate.

Tiffany Anderson, director of YSU’s Africana Studies program, moderated and set up the event. She said the panel was designed to inform students about legal diversity, law education and a potential career.

One of the most important concepts discussed at the panel was “the wall”, a term used by law students to describe the difficulties of the first semester of law school, such as stress and fatigue.

Sanford said students call it “the wall” because it’s the point where you stop thinking in an educational mindset and start to view the world from an attorney’s perspective.

Terrell advised students to take an LSAT prep course before applying to law school. She said the higher a student’s score, the more likely a scholarship will be awarded. She also said students should take a BAR review class before taking the actual test.

All three panelists said race doesn’t play a part in their careers. They admitted they’ve felt out of place and dealt with clients that were prejudiced, but it never impacted their work.

Baldwin, who’s also an adjunct professor at YSU, said she always teaches race-related issues at some point in the semester. She said the most important part of handling any client is cultivating a relationship despite someone’s prejudice.

“I always say, just because it’s not your reality, doesn’t mean it is not a reality,” Baldwin said. “So don’t fight someone else’s reality. Learn, understand and then the community is always better when we understand where everyone else’s coming from.”

Later, the three panelists discussed what it was like to be a black female in a law profession. Myreah Williams, a sophomore political science major, said it was a great opportunity to see professionals with the same gender and race as her.

“I just feel like it’s very important,” Williams said. “I feel like we need to have more lectures like this for law students because there are a lot of pre-law students here and a lot of minorities in the political science field that we need or that we want to see.”

Williams said the fact all three speakers were younger also helped because their age made their experiences “more relatable because they’re not out of touch” with the students in attendance.

Kitwanna Bailey, a sophomore philosophy major, said the panel gave him insight into opportunities after law school and insight into experiences for a potential black male lawyer.

“First I thought this is for women, but then I realized we have one common thing, which is being a minority,” Bailey said. “The advice that they had was empowering for me and I think that those experiences are just the same — talking about being different based on race and how they’re impacted if in the legal world.