Young, black, lawyer-ed, and paid: Meet the trailblazer who is knocking down barriers in the legal field and uplifting women while she does it
When I think lawyer I think OJ Simpson trials, Bentley, & getting paid to argue in court. I also think Mafia, Law & Order SVU, and public defender. However, like any other profession there are many more less scandalous but equally rewarding fields in law. Like bankruptcy. Meet Raychelle Tasher, a nationally recognized young attorney who practices in the area of bankruptcy, restructuring and business litigation. Raychalle took childhood experiences and shaped them into a career. A career that is as prestigious as a doctor but still allows for the work- life balance perfect for a mom.
Raychelle has been honored by the National Bar Association as a 2016 “40 Lawyers Under 40” Nations Best Advocate Award and is a recipient of the Florida A&M University College of Law Distinguished Alumni Award. She is most known for her work in diversity and leadership in the legal profession, and is notably the first African American woman president of Ms. JD, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing young women in the legal profession. Raychelle also co-founded the Bankruptcy and Restructuring affinity practice group for the National Association of Women Lawyers. She is considered to be one of the top rising stars in the legal profession and is a frequent speaker on gender equality, leadership, and diversity. She is not only a woman of influence but an advocate for change. Check out her interview with Beaut&Beast below:
- What made you want to pursue a career in law, in specific bankruptcy? My interest in bankruptcy began as a child when my mother experienced her own financial devastation raising three children. I saw how the “fresh start” of bankruptcy allowed her to move forward with her life and make better financial decisions for her family’s future. Once I got to Florida A&M University I studied economics and was interested in consumerism. In law school, I felt that bankruptcy law was the best way to bridge my interests in economics, political science and banking.
- What are the steps to take in order to become a lawyer? I suggest that anyone interested in becoming a lawyer find a few practicing attorneys to speak with before they make a final decision on their career choice. Take a lawyer out for coffee one morning and pick their brains. Find out what the pitfalls are of the profession and how you can overcome them in your own journey to the Bar. Next, I would search online for pre law resources that can provide greater insights into the process to becoming a lawyer. Ms. JD has an entire section of its website dedicated to all things pre law. I think that is an excellent place for anyone to start. I recommend speaking to pre law advisers at your undergraduate campus and find out what upcoming programs might be available and also any free law school planning events.
- What are some of the entry level positions you can get into with a law degree? In this day and age, there are so many tradition and non-traditional career paths for people with Juris Doctorate degrees. I have colleagues that went straight into private practice working at law firms and colleagues who have decided to forgo practice and work in policy. I think there are opportunities for whatever path you choose and the great thing about a law degree is that it gives you a variety of career options to select.
- Do you spend the majority of your time in court? Yes, as a bankruptcy lawyer, I spend a fair amount of time in court. My practice is based in federal court and the timeline for a typical bankruptcy case is often shorter and moves quickly through the court system. I enjoy having a mix of office work and court work. It makes for a different experience every day.
- What are some of the challenges you've faced in this field? I would say that keeping up with bankruptcy local rules and procedures can sometimes be challenging. Bankruptcy law is a based on the United States Code which is designed by Congress. There are also local rules which each court in each district implement. This requires bankruptcy lawyers to constantly keep up with changes and causes them to have a great understanding of the bankruptcy law. Which is a good thing!
- How did your perception of a lawyer differ from becoming an actual lawyer? For me, growing up I did not know any lawyers in my family or community so everything I initially learned about what I meant to be a lawyer was from television shows like The Cosby Show, Girlfriends, Living Single. These shows displayed black women attorneys who were very successful and seemed to have it all. It was not until I landed an internship my senior year of college with a black woman attorney that I realized how difficult the legal profession could be and how much I would have to endure as a diverse lawyer.
- What's the next level career wise if you get tired of being a lawyer? After you have been a lawyer for some time, you can go on to be a judge at the state or federal court level, you can become a partner or shareholder at a law firm, you can create your own consulting business or even teach at a local college or law school.
- How time consuming is your profession? Is there a good work and life balance? The legal profession is a very time demanding profession. However, I do think that you can successfully have a work and life balance if you set boundaries. What this means, for example, is that each day you take an hour in the morning for mediation, or ensure that you do not work on Sundays. For me, I enjoy working out and I reserve up to two hours in the evening to work on my mental and physical health. I think this makes me a much happier lawyer and in turn I have better work product and I enjoy my every day work life.
- How quick was it for you to transition from being a graduate to an employee? Any last tips to be successful and smooth that transition for future lawyers? The transition from being a graduate to employee can be difficult for some because the job market for lawyers often depends on the economy. To make the transition into the work force easier I recommend law students figure out a plan early in their law school careers and have an idea of where they would like to practice and how they would like to practice. I knew coming out of law school that I wanted to work in a niche practice area and I began to network in that area to gain opportunities. It is so important that networking and connecting with other lawyers becomes a part of a law students journey. You never know who might know of an upcoming job opening or can provide you with a recommendation.