Lawyer as presenter-advocate-storyteller
UC Law student approaches law from a holistic perspective
JáNae Powell, a rising 3L at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, is returning to her hometown in California this summer. She’ll be working in the Contra Costa County Public Defender’s Office. Powell was attracted to their holistic approach to the law. This approach considers clients as individuals, taking into account the wider impacts that the legal process can have on their lives outside of the courtroom, and seeks to help them prepare for the future.
It seems like a good fit, given that Powell has approached her professional development in a holistic manner—nurturing a variety of talents that combine to create a well-rounded, multi-skilled attorney. As a student at Deer Valley High School, Powell discovered the student-run news cast and knew she wanted to be a part of it. “We had so much fun with it senior year, both on and off camera,” Powell remembered. “That’s when I knew I needed to do something that put me in front of people.”
Powell attended the “other UC” (the University of California, Santa Barbara), where she majored in film & media, with a minor in professional writing. She lists several media personalities among her influences, which include Angela Rye and Amanda Seales. Rye is a founder and CEO of IMPACT, a political advocacy group, and a frequent CNN contributor. Seales is a comic, author, recording artist, and actress who co-hosts The Real.
Seales is the creator of Smart, Funny, and Black, which Powell attended in Columbus. The show pits black celebrities against each other in a game that tests their knowledge of black history and culture. “It was Seales who introduced me to the term “multi-hyphenate”; having multiple layers of talent and interest and seeking the key to bring them all together,” said Powell.
Powell sees this as an especially important insight for a lawyer. “The more well-rounded you are, the more you can bring to your clients. That’s why we learn a little bit of everything,” said Powell. Her love of media and public speaking has led her to pursue opportunities in criminal law. In addition to working at the public defender’s office this summer, she has just completed a fellowship with the Ohio Innocence Project.
“There’s something very powerful about being in a courtroom, advocating for clients,” said Powell. “It speaks to that part of me that loves being in front of people.”
Next fall, Powell will explore a different setting as part of the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic. There, she’ll help entrepreneurs navigate the legal aspects of running a business. “Although it’s not for a large audience, it’s still presentation and advocacy that I really like, sharing the expertise in a more intimate way,” said Powell.
There's something very powerful about being in a courtroom, advocating for clients.
Powell continues to develop her creative side as well, and is pursuing a graduate certificate in professional writing. She believes writing and storytelling to be a critical part of practicing law. “I always kind of knew that, but Critical Race Theory (taught by UC Law Professor Emily Houh) was a course that really helped make it salient for me,” said Powell. “The way the law is presented, through rhetoric and semantics, can really impact you and your client. And it’s important to understand the entirety of someone’s story: where they’ve been, where they are, and where they’re going.”