Influence, Inspiration and Lessons: A Look Back on 15 Years of Practising Law

Today, October 19, marks fifteen years for me as a practising Attorney-at-Law. Sometimes it feels like a lifetime ago that I donned my robe and bands (the only time I’ve ever worn them by the way) and swore on a bible to do my best when representing my clients. Other days, it feels like just yesterday. I was 23 years old and two days prior I had started what would turn out to be a 7 year journey at a prestigious law firm and had no inkling about what the world had in store for me.

To be honest, while I had a fairly good idea about what firm life was like, having interned at a smaller firm for a number of years, I wasn’t mentally prepared for what would come my way. I don’t think any of us really are, especially when you’ve never worked full-time before. Apart from the long hours and late nights, the first few years were an experience, from the fantastic to the terrible. Then again, so were the years that followed. I always say that I’ve been fortunate enough to have gained a wide range of experience at a number of institutions, which is a positive thing. I worked in a large firm, I’ve been in-house counsel at large conglomerates and small 5-person companies, I worked with sole practitioners and even on my own and took the time to complete a post-graduate qualification. I learnt many, many lessons along the way.

While I met some awesome (and some not so awesome) people over the past few years and had experiences that I would rather forget, I want to focus on a few people whose guidance shaped who I am today as an Attorney and a person generally. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t countless others for whom I am extremely grateful but here are those who stand out foremost in my mind.

The Intellectual Property Secretary

“Danielle, when you become a boss, make sure you treat people properly!” That was Shirnelle, who churned out trademark applications, renewals and everything in between like nobody’s business. She was quick, efficient and was damned good at what she did. I met her as an intern at an older law firm and we became work buddies, enjoying little moments of laughter down in the small area where some of the clerks sat and where I was stationed for the first 3 years of my summer internships.

I was young and naïve and she set me straight, showing me the ropes of firm life. She would always emphasise treating others the way you wanted to be treated and even though that was drilled into my head from at home, she would always remind me that no matter how senior I would become in the future, to exude humility when dealing with those who I supervised. Basically, you will get out what you put in.

The Clerks

Richard and Sean, my big brothers and Charmaine, my big sister, again at that internship firm. They took me with them on daily trips to the various Registries to learn the ropes from the ground up. I really enjoyed those days. The boys teased me relentlessly but also protected me fiercely and answered any question I had about the work without judgement. Charmaine was a gem whose kind spirit I will never forget.

While Richard and Sean have both moved on from these roles and the firm, to this day I can still call on Sean (who is in a similar field) for guidance and if I see Richard anywhere it is like old times. I’m glad for the experience and happy to have met them.

The Managing Partner

I posted a short tribute to Mr. Gittens on my Instagram page a few weeks ago after his passing and scratched the surface of his influence on me. I remember being somewhat intimidated when we first met as he was the Managing Partner and I was this young woman who had never worked full-time in her life. However, he put me at ease quickly with his warm (and loud) laugh and his genuine desire to try his best to make everyone comfortable.

His open-door policy made it easy to discuss difficult files with him and he was also interested in our well-being outside of work. He gave me his blessing when I needed time off to study and encouraged me to tackle more complex matters. While everything was not perfect, I can say without question that the short time that I worked directly with him was one of the best of my career.

The Supervising Partner

Rosalind was someone who I enjoyed working with at a difficult time of my career. She took time out of her busy day many times to educate and assist with client difficulties. I know she wanted the best for me and to this day, she remains one of the seniors who I can call and chat with about anything, legal and non-legal. You know when you call someone with good news and you can feel through the phone that they are happy for you? That is Rosalind.

The Conveyancing Secretaries

All I will say about Alicia is that she is patient, kind and a life-saver. She used to remind me that it made no sense letting anxiety take over because that’s when mistakes could easily be made. She is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met and I am thankful that I met her when I did. Kerry-Ann, thank you for bringing laughter to some of the rougher times. To both ladies, your organisational skills are impeccable, to this day I still use some of your methods to get my matters together.

The Company President

I met Hubert while working for a Canadian company. He cared about our little office and I have carried many of this supervisory skills with me. He was on time, if he said he would meet a deadline he would and he was kind. He seemed to really enjoy his time in Barbados and we had many laughs during the year I worked with him. One thing I remember distinctly is the manner in which he dealt with breaking the news to us that the Barbados office was being dissolved. I could tell it pained him to tell us but he handled the situation in a way that showed me that it is not necessarily what you do but how you do it that makes the difference.

The Sole Practitioner

Thank you Dawn for giving me a place to do business a few years ago when things didn’t work out the way I expected at previous employment and I wasn’t clear about my next career move. She listened to me and offered a space and her resources until I found a more permanent job. That was a tough time, thank you so much for your assistance.

The Corporate Administrator and the Executive Secretary

Laurin. There are few people on this earth who I would say truly live a life in the Christian faith. Laurin is one of those people. She is an amazing person who provided so much guidance over the few years we worked together. A true calming force and a person who was the perfect complement to our department and on top of it all, a master multitasker.

Julie. The jokes, the sad moments, the pep talks. Our little corner was a fun one. Even though you did the work of way more than one person, you would still take time (sometimes even 5 minutes!) to assist where needed. You are one of a kind and a boss organiser!

Thank you both for reminding me that truly beautiful people do exist.

Let me take this time to acknowledge all the support staff who I still see from time to time and some of whom have become dear friends. I am forever grateful for your help and guidance. You all are the real MVPs! I said it five years ago and I’ll say it again. We would be nowhere without our secretaries, clerks, administrators and Registry staff. You certainly know more than I do about practical matters and the way the system works and you deserve a mountain of respect. Thank you.

What does the future hold for me? Thanks to a recent change of career circumstances (thanks Covid-19!) we’ll see what happens over the next few months. Whatever happens though, I know that I’ve been handed enough lemons to make plenty lemonade and with the “nuggets of goodness” (Thanks Yendi Phillips!) that I’ve picked up over the years and continue to pick up, I think I’ll be just fine.

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