Ms. JD Celebrates: Board Member Keisha Stanford

Editor's Note: In our final post celebrating Ms. JD's birthday month, board member Keisha Stanford looks back at what Ms. JD has done for her and the way serendipity played an important role.

Ms. JD has taught me that our paths are as much about serendipity as they are about preparation. More than four years ago, in the midst of a stereotypical 1L freak out, I received an email about a conference in New York. Every rational part of me (i.e., that little voice reminding me that I had reading to do, outlines to prepare, practice exams to take) said that I should decline the invitation. But for some reason, I ignored my normal inclination to take the safe route and in the midst of planning a conference, figuring out summer housing, and trying to simply make it through my first year of law school, I decided that I would take the 6+ hour flight from San Jose to New York to find out what Ms. JD had to offer.

In a long list of unexplainable decisions in my life, Ms. JD counts among the many of which I am immensely proud. Like many women, I spent many years tepidly feeling out relationships with other women. I am not sure if it was the fear of things going terribly awry, bitter cat fights, or a reliving every stereotypical sitcom portrayal of women. Regardless of the reason, I had begun to believe that few women supported other women and had become increasingly selective about my female friends. I found this reality to be disheartening, since I owe many (if not all) of all my successes to the love and guidance of a truly amazing woman — my mother.

But after leaving high school with one truly amazing female friend, graduating college with two wonderful female friends and discovering other nurturing and supportive women in graduate school, my first job and law school, I realized that my life was enriched by the women I worked with, laughed with, and with whom I shared my goals and aspirations. These women, some of whom I’ve known for almost half of my life, have become my foundation; my reality check when things get too out of whack; my sounding board when I think I’ve almost (but not quite) managed to figure out how to have my cake and eat it too. When i decided to go to New York in January 2008, I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but I knew that my life in the law needed amazing women just as much as my life outside the law.  

Four years ago, I could have respectfully declined the invitation to attend the conference to found Ms. JD’s first national organization for women in law school. I am so glad that I didn’t. As much as the legal profession needs Ms. JD, I, personally, needed her. I needed to know that there was a place for me in the profession. As a first generation lawyer, I needed to know the power of networking and personal branding. As an ambitious young lawyer, I needed to know the importance of short-term and long-term goals and realistically setting milestones. But most of all, I needed to know these women—the founding members of this organization.

As I’ve struggled to define the lawyer that I want to become, Elizabeth, Karen, and Jessie have served as my guides. Coaching me through clerkship interviews, reminding me of the importance of family (and a good glass of wine among friends), or just being a sounding board for my new plan to not only break through, but completely obliterate the glass ceiling. These women are my legal career.  As Jessie would say, these women are my “Old Girls’ Club…The Early Years” (along with a few others).  

I am honored to have spent the last several years working with these women to grow this organization, and I am excited by what the future holds.  Elizabeth and Karen are irreplaceable and will still remain part of the Ms. JD family as the inaugural members of the Board Emeritus.  The new members of the Board bring energy and insight, as well as maintain our connection with young women embarking on their legal careers.  And those of us who have been on the Board for a while now will continue our work advancing the cause of women in the legal profession, mentoring and supporting those who are still learning the ropes.  

I will end by saying, though initially the point of this post was to wish Ms. JD a happy 6th birthday, it has become more of a thank you.  Thank you Ms. JD — for the gift of fellowship, an immense professional network, and an amazing group of women that push me to work harder and strive for greatness in a challenging profession.  But most of all, thank you for the lesson that women’s victories are everyone’s victories!

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