Paulette Brown to Become the First Black Woman President of the American Bar Association

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(NNPA) This August, another glass ceiling will be shattered when Paulette Brown begins her term as president-elect of the American Bar Association and becomes the first Black woman to ever ascend to the position.

Brown will serve as president-elect for one year before taking over as president in August 2015.

Brown was raised in northwest Baltimore as the daughter of two working parents, Wilbur and Thelma Brown, who protected her and kept her so focused on her school work that she said she had never even heard of marijuana until she reached college.

Brown entered Howard University as a freshman with the intention of becoming a social worker, knowing that she wanted to help people. Far from her mind was the possibility of leading the 400,000-member ABA, which sets standards for lawyers and law schools throughout the country.

“It never occurred to me,” said Brown.

Over the course of that first year at Howard, however, she realized law, not social work, was her true vocation. After graduating from Howard, Brown received her law degree from the Seton Hall University School of Law, and has been practicing law since 1976. She is a partner in a New Jersey law firm where she specializes in labor law, employment law and commercial litigation.

“When I first started going to court and so forth,” said Brown, “I had the usual experiences. ‘Are you the defendant? Are you the court reporter? Are you the plaintiff? No? Well then, who are you then?’ It never occurred to them that I could be the lawyer.”

Despite her election to the ABA’s top post, she said she still faces such assumptions.

“I’m still asked whether I’m a flight attendant,” she said. “As recently as two weeks ago.”

Photo credit: American Bar Association

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