As a purpose-driven, inspiring and dedicated professional, Neena Speer is a lawyer, a published writer, & an inspirational speaker. Also, she is the founder and executive director of Step 1-2-3 Mentor for Life Initiative (step123mentor.org) which is a non-profit geared towards developing lifelong mentors for students K-12 and college levels.
Currently, Neena has written three published articles and has been asked to speak on various topics ranging from diversity and leadership, to the importance of integrity at the 2016 National Diversity Pre-Law Conference and Fair, at The University of Alabama School of Law as a presenter in 2017, a panelist in 2018, and at a recent 2018 Sisterhood Summit held in Brooklyn, NY. Her fourth and most recent publication being her featured novel Dear Future Lawyer: An Intimate Survival Guide for Minority Female Law Student published this September 2018 which provides a guide and journal to help minority women navigate the trying times of law school with an interactive encouragement companion. Neena has a BA (in French), a BS (in Psychology) from Howard University and a JD from The University of Alabama School of Law.
Speer recently passed the Alabama Bar Exam and is excited to begin a career dedicated to helping impact her community one person, one step at a time.
Book title: Dear Future Lawyer: An Intimate Survival Guide for the Female Minority Law Student
Author: Neena R. Speer, Esq.
Walk me through the step-by-step process that you went through to get to where you are today. What was the first thing you did? Next?
The first thing I did was cry. I cried a lot and prayed even more because law school was hard. The next thing I did was write a letter to myself called "Dear Future 1L" to help encourage me. I was told so many times that I couldn't write well in law school. Thus, I fell back on the writing I knew I did well: creative writing with motivational messaging. I was up one night just typing out this letter to chronicle each and every person I met, the feelings I felt, and the lessons I learned. I wrote it with a passion and energy in my writing much like I did when I was younger. I saw the obstacles I faced as challenges to empower me. I saw that "failing out of law school" class I was in as a chance for me to learn how to be truly thankful for resistance. For me, I did not find a job my first year out of law school. For me, I had to take the bar exam more than once. Those are realities that people who go through law school experience every day. There is no such thing as a cookie cutter success. Along this journey, you will hit a wall. It is up to you to decide how you want to pivot. This book became my pivot. I wanted to leave a future lawyer much better than I was when I was starting law school. I was the first in my family to go to law school. I had one mentor to look up to who told me I could do it. That was it. I am not okay with telling people :if you do everything you are supposed to do, it will work out." Why? Because sometimes even if you do all you can, it does not always happen. I was failing 1L year after going to countless office hours, studying for hours, making my own outlines, skipping games to study, asking for help, and I still did not fair better than my classmates. I studied for the bar and I cry thinking about how close I was to passing to have to sit down and study all over again. There is a skill in each of us to be amazing forces of nature in our crafts. One craft and skill I have is to help people. I am able to see dysfunction, struggle, and discord and be transparent enough for someone to read my story and learn how to beat their own inner struggle. That is why I wrote Dear Future Lawyer.
How did you find the need you wanted to address? What does your work say about you?
My book is a collection of self-reflection after entering and graduating from Alabama Law School. Shows such as How to Get Away With Murder, do not show the true hustle or obstacles you will face while in Law School. More importantly, they don't show that the BAR is is unlike any test you've ever taken.So much is riding on that one test: a job, higher pay, your ability to give legal advice, etc. Don't get me wrong, these shows are awesome but it's not the reality. Law school is so glamorized in Hollywood! Although this book is about my journey, the message could be implemented at any time in someone's life. A DELAY IS NOT DENIAL. Just because something we really want doesn't happen on our timing doesn't mean it will not happen at all. Sometimes these delays give us time to reconstruct or reevaluate if this is actually what we want.
If a kid walked up to ask for your advice and you only had a few minutes to give ‘em your best tip, what would it be?
If I had to give the youth one piece of advice, it would be to keep hitting the "reset" button in their life. I like to live my life as the sun does daily. We see the sunrise in the morning and fall at night. The sun is a symbol that even when darkness happens in our lives, we can start over on the brighter side of things. It is never to late to start over or "revise" your life!
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