Caribbean-American Heritage Month: Meet Jamaican born Attorney Stacy-Ann Telfer
By Raychelle Tasher • June 10, 2015•Careers
June 2015 was proclaimed National Caribbean-American Heritage month by President Barack Obama on May 29, 2015; click here to read the full proclaimation. During this month we celebrate the amazing accomplishments of Caribbean-Americans across the United States. Here, at Ms. JD we are celebrating female attorneys of Caribbean-American heritage who are blazing their own path in the legal community through their unique culture and traditions.
To kick off Caribbean-American heritage month, I had the privileage to interview Attorney Stacy-Ann Telfer. Learn more about her below!
Please tell us about your Caribbean-American heritage. What country are you from?
I’m from the island of Jamaica. I was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and lived there for the first 14 years of my life before eventually moving to the United States.
Can you please provide a brief summary of your professional background?
I am attorney in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. My practice is based out of Silver Spring, Maryland, and I am licensed to practice in Maryland and pending in DC. I currently practice in the areas of Business Law, Family Law, Personal Injury, Immigration, and International Business and Trade.
While in law school did you know that you wanted to work in your particular field?
My desire to work with small business owners domestically and throughout the Caribbean definitely manifested as early as my 2L year in law school. Once I knew what I wanted to do, I began taking the necessary courses and clinics to better prepare me to practice in Business and Trade.
What are some cultural differences that you have experienced as a Caribbean American attorney?
Since I left the United States at an early age, I’ve had the opportunity to adapt early to the American culture. However, even after spending over a decade in the US, I still encounter cultural differences as a Caribbean American attorney. For instance, the Caribbean culture is much more relaxed and easy-going then the American culture. My experience is that overall, American clients – and even attorneys – tend to be more detail oriented and involved in the entire legal process. Both cultures have their advantages and disadvantages, as Caribbean people can be considered as being too laid back, while Americans can be considered as being too uptight and demanding. With this knowledge in mind, I realized that I needed to relate to both cultures in different ways.
In law school did you connect with any other students or lawyers of Caribbean descent?
The law school that I attended didn’t have a huge pool of Caribbean students, but I was able to connect with the few that were there. We’re still friends to this day.
Can you name lawyers and mentors who helped you along your career path?
I attribute my success in graduating from law school and growing as an attorney to a number of people who I consider to be mentors. While in law school, three key professors – Professor Mary Wright, Professor Brenda Reddix-Smalls, and Dean Donald Corbett – were instrumental in helping me along my career path. As an attorney, I have to give much credit to attorneys Andrea Ewart and Joseph Taiwo for serving as my mentors during my “growing pains” as an attorney. All of my mentors have been nothing but candid with me, and have provided sound advice which kept me strong and realistic during the many times I was confused, frustrated, and just plain felt like giving up. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have mentors in your corner!
What is your country’s motto and what does it mean to you?
I love this question because my country’s motto means so much to me. The Jamaican motto is “Out of Many One People.” To me, this means that although there are many different people of all shapes, sizes, colors, and ancestral roots that make up the Jamaican body of people, at the end of the day, we are still united as Jamaicans. This message is powerful because it creates loyalty among those who share a common background. As a Caribbean American, a black female, and an attorney, I have made this my own personal motto. I have made it my mission to help those with a similar background as me, just as my mentors, family, and friends have with me.
How can Caribbean American women attorneys inspire one another?
Put simply, Caribbean American women attorneys can inspire one another by telling their stories, much like I’m now telling mine. There will be times when, because of cultural and gender differences, you will be mislabeled and challenged by those around you. When I experience times like these, I look to the stories of fellow female Caribbean American attorneys, many of whom I’ve never even met, and lean on their courage for strength and support. By using multiple platforms to tell your story, you will inspire other women in similar situations statewide, countrywide, and even worldwide.
What keeps you motivated?
My family and my fiancé are my biggest motivation. Everything I do is for them, and even when my motivation level decreases, all I have to do is think about the sacrifices they made for me and I am once again determined to push myself to be a better person.
Any words of wisdom for our readers?
Given the current state of the job market, many attorneys feel as if they have to settle for jobs and positions they don’t want to be in. To these attorneys, my advice would that although you may find yourself in that position initially, do NOT be complacent and lose sight of your dream. Always have that goal of being the [insert area of law here] attorney with a [insert dream lifestyle here] in the forefront of your mind and continue to strive to fulfill that dream.
Stacy-Ann Telfer is a Maryland licensed attorney practicing in the Washington DC metropolitan area. Ms. Telfer received her Juris Doctor and Master of Business Administration from North Carolina Central University. At NCCU, Ms. Telfer worked as a Student Attorney with the Small Business Clinic and assisted small businesses with entity formation and business contracts. Currently, she practices business law, international trade & business, immigration, personal injury, and family law. Prior to law school, Ms. Telfer obtained a Bachelor of Science in Food and Resource Economics from the University of Florida, specializing in agribusiness marketing and management. Ms. Telfer is also the legal contributor to various blogs. In her spare time, she enjoys reading books on many different topics, as well as participating in social reform activities in her local community. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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