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The Plain English Attorney
In July, our legal assistant, Kayou Lee, received an email from an inquisitive ninth grade homeschooler with an unusual personal request.

Fourteen-year-old Alyce from Henderson County always wanted to be in law enforcement, and recently decided that she wanted to be a lawyer. “I’m writing to you because I would like to shadow you as a school project to get more hands on knowledge. I hope by doing so I can learn about what it takes to be a stupendous lawyer.”

After the initial surprise and some thought, Kayou wrote a detailed response to the student including a few words of wisdom: “The goal is to learn about something that really inspires you to want to continue to pursue this field. I encourage you to not be afraid to ask questions and call around to several firms. … Knowledge will help steer you in the right path in this field, or in any field.”

Because of the long distance from Alyce’s house to our firm’s Raleigh office, shadowing would not be practical. Kayou, however, offered to make a four-hour drive to meet Alyce and her mother at a small café in Ashville that was a short drive from their home.  Once there, a long talk ensued – with both mentor and student learning something from the encounter.

Following is Kayoua’s personal story of her meeting with Alyce…

It was a great pleasure meeting with Ms. Alyce Hyder on Labor Day weekend; and what better weekend than the weekend of the Apple Festival in Hendersonville, and the Bacon Festival in Asheville.

I’ll admit that I was nervous going into this, for many reasons: 1) What could she possibly learn from me? 2) I am not an attorney, and here’s someone who wants to know more about becoming an attorney, and 3) I don’t want to be an attorney. It was upon hearing her speak and answering her questions that I realized that I was talking to me… or a 10-years-younger version of me.

I was approached by a voice asking, “Are you Ms. Lee?” I turned around and saw Alyce standing there, eager to shake my hand. Alyce’s energy took me back to the peak of my college career, and what it was like when I was on path to pursuing a career in law. Though those days are long outside of my interest, I felt it may be a nice change of pace to show her the many angles of legal services. Alyce presented many insightful and challenging questions that I was not prepared for, but made me really appreciate where I am today.

Early on, she had mentioned how she was transitioning from an interest in law enforcement to legal services; so, naturally, there was still an interest in criminal law. She added that she would be a defense attorney, if she had to choose. She talked about her interest in family and criminal law, and how the processes were most intriguing to her. She shared her experience about her many sit-ins in court to observe some criminal cases and how cool it really was to see everything first-hand. Her father works in loss prevention with Belk, and when he had to appear in court, he’d show her around the courthouse and had her see a few cases appear before the judge. She even had the opportunity to speak to several attorneys, and exchanged some of her stories with them.

Shortly after talking, she presented her first question to me: What was the most surprising aspect of the field for me? I had to gather my thoughts on this one because there was SO much to consider. To sum up my response, I talked about being from a small town and how sheltered you are from everything that was occurring around you. It was upon entering the field that I got to see another part of my community that I never knew existed. That’s kind of what this field does; it opens your eyes to things you cannot even imagine at any age.

The second question was about what personality I thought would be needed to be successful in this field. I, for one, can vouch for the many personalities I’ve encountered in this field and couldn’t see this falling on only one type of person. Though one personality type may be more present than others, it is never just one type to succeed in this field. She mentioned that she had met other attorneys who have told her they didn’t like their jobs, and that she shouldn’t do it. I laughed and responded that I, too, received that advice. I explained that after awhile, you learn that it’s never in their words that they’ll reveal how they truly feel about their careers, but it’s in their actions. I advised that the next time she’s in court for observation, she should make note of how an attorney presents their case and themselves. 

She asked what I did in high school to prepare myself for this career path. I couldn’t lie on this question, so I admitted that I lost sight of my career in high school. With being so focused on being a rebellious teenager, I didn’t think I wanted to go to college right away. However, my mother pushed back hard against me on my choices and I’m glad she did because, had she not, I would not be where I am today. Alyce’s mother was delighted to hear that and wanted to make sure Alyce put that one down for the record. My best advice to her about high school was to keep good grades! Doors will open up for you when you work hard!

She asked for any final advice that I could give her. All I could emphasize was how important it is to be kind. I explained that it’s easy to lose yourself in what you do and become easily flustered and negative, but never let it get the best of you. From personal experience – and true to Maya Angelou’s words – you will forget what people look like and what they did, and you may forget what they say to you, but you will never forget how they made you feel in any given moment. No one wants to work with someone who is rude and inflexible. My example to her was working with Jeff, and that I know I am in a good place because of him. He always demonstrated patience, kindness, and consideration by always making time to ensure I was prepared and knowledgeable for any situation. This also made his job a lot easier.

We carried on about school experiences and upon mentioning my involvement in mock trials during my college career; Alyce announced that she would be partaking in a mock trial event soon. It was exciting to hear how involved and determined she was about becoming an attorney, and at such a young age!

I truly hope that she never loses sight of this endeavor because I know she’ll become a great attorney one day. Yes, Alyce…even girls can become attorneys – great ones too! #RBG #SDOC #Sotomayor #Kagan #SCOTUS #girlsruntheworld



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