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Awakened Convos: Attorney Jasmin Robinson Chats on the Importance of Lawyers Advocating for People of Color

Attorney Jasmin Robinson, better known as Attorney Jas by her clients, is a law school coach and an entrepreneurship lawyer. She created ‘Jas Talks Law’ because 5 percent of lawyers are Black and that is something that she is working to change, literally every day, there is not a day that goes by where she is not working on that goal to increase that percentage.

She also does entrepreneurship and entertainment law, where she specializes in trademarks, contract, and any business legal needs. She has workbooks, online courses, and different resources to help future lawyers, clients and creatives. 

Currently, her firm has given over $2 million in law school scholarships, “It has just been amazing what chasing your passion can do for you,” Jas explains. “It has really been a dream come true.”

I recently interviewed Attorney Jas where we chatted on the importance of Black lawyers and our community being represented the way they need and should be.

Watch the interview above or read below:

The Empress Dee:  That is so wonderful. Have you always aspired to be an attorney?

Attorney Jas:  Yes! I wanted to be a family lawyer ever since I was in middle school. In my family, I saw my parents go through their divorce and almost everyone in my family has gone through some type of family law matter. So from middle school on, I was dead set on becoming an attorney. When I got to Hampton University (The best HBCU ever), I wanted to know how to become a lawyer and then I went on to law school. 

The Empress Dee:  That is amazing, and I am so glad to hear that. One thing that I noted about you is that you make it a priority to diversify the legal field, can you tell us, why have you made that one of your many missions?

Attorney Jas:  When you think about The Black Lives Matter Movement, when you think about mass incarceration, when you think about housing laws, voting laws, when you think about discriminatory practices in the workplace, you have to ask yourself…who is in charge of holding people responsible? Let us stay in the criminal realm for a second, the judge at the end of the day. Eighty-eight percent of the time the judge is a white man, based on the fact that 88% of lawyers are white men.

 So, when you have sentencing…even with the D.A., or the public defender, you get this public defender that does not look like you, they do not know where you came from and does not even understand and then you end up taking these bogus plea deals, because you just had someone that was pushing your paperwork…having no one to really advocate or to understand why you did what you did. There is no one who advocates and says that they need to get their client help instead of just locking him away. If you think about any area of the world, the law is involved, but time and time again, we are not the ones that is using the law for our best interest because we are not represented by the law.

The Empress Dee:  I definitely agree, and I am glad that you mentioned that because one thing that I have noticed is that a lot of times if we are not involved in any way in the legal system then we really do not know about it until we somehow get placed in it. 

Speaking of diversification and bringing more Black people into the field, what would you say are some of the advantages that Black people can gain by having Black attorneys?

Attorney Jas:  That flows well based off of the last question because at the end of day…if everyone on this live, if you just stop and think for a second, what if every Black family in The United States of America, had a lawyer to call on. If someone gets arrested, they could call uncle whoever, call auntie…every family has that go to person. When you get that deal or that contract thrown in your face, because you are a young guy from the projects and they just throw a contract in your face trying to sign you but you have given away all your masters rights, let me call auntie and make sure that this is right. 

We come from a place of slavery, that is our origin here, we were not able to advocate for ourselves and that has trickled down into the legal field. If every family was really able to advocate for themselves…game changer. 

The Empress Dee:  Yes, we would definitely be in a different place. It is crazy how you are flowing right into my next question because I wanted to ask if you felt that it was necessary for the Black family to have attorneys on a retainer, why or why not and obviously you do feel that it is necessary for them to have any attorney, so how would they go about that process?

Attorney Jas:  I would not necessarily say that you should have an attorney on retainer because that means that you would be giving a lawyer $3-5,000 just in case you need this or if you need that and I would not put that pressure on people because that may cause them to shy away if they do not have that money available. But what I will say is…if you are going to be in the streets, you should have the money available, there is no reason why you are in the streets doing what you are doing and you do not have about $5000 set aside just in case you need a lawyer one day…it does not make sense, if you get locked up, now we have to use grandma’s house to get you out of prison…no (they both laugh as Attorney Jas apologizes for going off on a tangent and believes that that is a whole other conversation).

What I recommend is that you at least know who they are, you need to know whose number to call, you should have those connections in place so when you need to do what you need to do, you are able to do it. But if you are in the entertainment business, if you are an entrepreneur, have your own small business, you can go on retainer with a firm such as mine. I have some clients in exchange for having me on retainer, meaning that they have paid for hours in advance, they get a lower rate and I usually have a consultation where we discuss their needs, so then I would subtract from their retainer.

 So, if it is about a trademark, then I will deduct from the amount of money that was used for the retainer and that works out, for example, you have a business and you are growing, you are not going to need an attorney just one time, one week it may be a trademark issue, the next week you may need to negotiate with a vendor, the following week, you may have new employees and now you need to have an employment agreement or an independent contractor agreement,

If someone sends you a cease and desist letter, you will need an attorney to respond to that. The bottom line is, know who attorneys are especially being in the type of work that you are in, you should definitely have some folks on speed dial. 

The Empress Dee:  Going back to your coaching experience, what are some of the topics that you emphasize with your students?

Attorney Jas:  First and foremost, I find that the future lawyers that are most successful are the ones that really understand why they are going to law school. So, you have some future lawyers who say things to me like, I am going to law school because I like to argue, or I am going to law school because of SVU (Law and Order) or How to Get Away With Murder, or I am going to law school because I have a family member that is a lawyer or I just always wanted to go…those are future lawyers that tend to give up halfway through their law school admission test practicing, studying and all of that because they have not really nailed down why they are going to law school. 

The best future lawyers are very specific, and they say things like I am going to law school because I am sick of attorneys like Daniel Cameron (State Attorney in Kentucky who did not present homicide charges to the grand jury in the Breonna Taylor case) making us look bad, very specific and to the point. He does not represent the 5% and he is as I would like to put it a “coon of a lawyer” for real. 

The Empress Dee:  What would you say are some of the greatest challenges in being a Black attorney?

Attorney Jas:  One of the greatest challenges that I did not realize until recently is that no matter how many degrees I get, no matter how many clients that I represent, no matter how well I am doing as an attorney, I still may be mistaken for the defendant in the courtroom. When I get pulled over, I forget that I am an attorney. I cannot even advocate for myself because I just want to make it through the traffic stop. I think that it is very important that I am doing what I am doing, coaching future lawyers, changing the narrative of what a lawyer looks like, getting people to understand that this field needs to be diverse. 

There should not be a moment…again every family should see lawyers and see Black people represented in that number and that is just not the case, which is why I started Jas Talks Law and we have done over $2 million in law school scholarships but aside from just the mistaken identity and all of that in being a lawyer, I would also say that taking good care of yourself mentally and spiritually outside of work and balancing that with your practice, coaching…it can be a challenge at times because life is still happening. If you have to go to court tomorrow and advocate on your client’s behalf and you also have life going on. I just purchased a town house and that does not stop. But at the end of the day I would not have it any other way.

The Empress Dee:  Thank you for sharing that. With that being said because I know that you talked about having mental strength and taking care of yourself spiritually, can you recall a time that you became emotionally involved with the cases that you were dealing with?

Attorney Jas:  The cases that get me emotionally involved are the ones where I feel like my client is being taken advantage of. For example, I do trademarks, you submit your application and then there is a trademark examiner that works for the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office), that comes behind you and reviews your application and makes sure that it is right. Well I feel like sometimes if you are not represented by me first and you file your trademark application on your own, and then hire me once there is an issue, some of the issues that they point out are so trivial and it seems like they put up road blocks when you are not represented by an attorney.

I see certain issues playing one way for one group of people, but I see issues in court that play out another way for a different group of people. It is when I notice that things are not fair that really upsets me the most because I know at the end of the day when I take off this attorney hat, that could be me, you could try me like that. But that is why I like doing what I do because I make it clear…people look at me and they think, you are a pretty girl so we can take advantage of you…no, no, no…when it is time to talk business and you are trying to get over on my client and me, listen we are going to handle it period. 

The Empress Dee:  Absolutely and that is so beautiful because you are so passionate you will always have that fuel to keep doing it and not get discouraged by certain things so that is awesome and it flows right into my next question.

Do you believe that being African American or an African American attorney affects the rate of successful rulings or cases that you have?

Attorney Jas:  Yes, for sure. Let’s think about the Crown Act which came out of California. For those that do not know, The Crown Act basically made discrimination based on the texture of your hair illegal in terms of employment and things like that but if you think back, who first pointed out this issue, I can assure you that it was not a white man. Diversity…being that Black lawyer that helps draft that legislation, that is just a clear example of what it means to have that representation in the room because now you have someone in the room that can say that this is a problem. A lot of times “they” do not even experience that so they cannot speak on it, they cannot even dream of legislation that only affects us and when you have that Black lawyer in the room who is there to see things from a different perspective, the Black lawyer in the room is the most beneficial thing that you can do. 

The Empress Dee:  I love it, thank you for that. With the constant display of social injustice shown on social media, have you seen an increase in Black students pursuing law?

Attorney Jas:  Oh yeah and it is funny because I tell future lawyers to be straight to the point with why you are going to law school. Sometimes, they pull back but then when I really get them talking…it’s like okay, you are going to law school because you are sick of Daniel Cameron (State Attorney in Kentucky), you are sick of prosecutors not zealously going after these police officers…you are sick of that and it is okay to say that. 

A lot of times, future lawyers feel like they have to tone down their reasons for going to law school. I tell them that at the end of the day you do not want to go to any law school that does support why you are going. Are they really going to have products or programs and curriculums that suit your interests…no they are not. I see so many people that are just realizing that the legal field…increasing the 5% is their contribution to Black Lives Matter. 

The Empress Dee:  I really value your approach to that because I think that a lot of people are used to being conservative in spaces like that so they do not necessarily, like you said, want to be very vocal about why they are going. I think that with this new millennial mentality, we tell it like it is and just keep it real. 

I know that you are also working towards dismantling systemic oppression, how would you say that you are contributing to this movement specifically?

Attorney Jas:  I hate watching television shows like, ‘First 48’ and you see these young men who go into the police station and into the interrogation room and they just start talking and they get so scared they say much more than they need to say. They never thought for a second to say, let me stop and call an attorney. A lot of times, it is because they do not even know who to call. Because of that, if you have ever seen the movie or documentary called ‘13th’ (Filmmaker Ava Durvernay explores the history of racial inequality in the U.S.), they talk about the 13th amendment and mass incarceration and how all of that contributes to systemic oppression. But even before you get locked up, it starts when you go into the interrogation room and do not ask for an attorney. You do not advocate for yourself and the next thing that you know, you are contributing to this bigger cycle.

Increasing the 5%, again when you think about if every Black family in the United States of America had a Black attorney that they could call on, for good or for bad reasons, that is just one way to contribute to eliminating systemic oppression. 

The Empress Dee:  How do you feel that Black people as a whole can contribute to this movement?

Attorney Jas:  Everyone’s role is different. But one thing that I have noticed is I go to the airport, the grocery store…when I leave my house… period, they see me and then they see my 5% of lawyers are Black hoodies, shirts whatever it is that I am wearing, it’s like wait, is that real. There is never a time when I go out of the house wearing my merch that is does not spark a conversation. So what I am getting is the importance of bringing awareness. Having the conversation that we are having right now, buying some 5% merch, wearing it when you are at the airport, just getting the conversations going. 

A big one for future lawyers is that when they share with their families that they want to go to law school, a lot of time the response is negative, whose paying for it, that is the big one or that it takes too long, there’s no jobs. I know that as a whole to contribute to this movement we have to be more encouraging to those who want to attend law school. That is why I am doing this interview with you because I want more people to know about Jas Talks Law and what I am doing, the workbooks, the on-line courses, everything that I have available because if you do not have a family lawyer, then I am your family lawyer.

We have to spread awareness and we have to encourage our future lawyers to go to law school, if you do not have a lawyer in your family then I am your family lawyer, hit me up…I am your sis, I am your cousin…whatever but the bottom line is we have to increase this 5% it has been that way since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. passed away, which was over 50 years ago. I just pray that before I go away from here that it is at least at 6 or 7% give me something. I have a lot of resources available, so I am not just telling you that we need more lawyers, but I have the resources that you need to help make this a reality. 

The Empress Dee:  You are so amazing and thank you for that. I am sure that you have a whole lot of wisdom pertaining to this but what are some characteristics that you feel a person must have mentally in order to be equipped for your line of work?

Attorney Jas:  Just a quick story, I remember being in law school, I could not sleep for 3 whole days. My constitutional law class was one of the hardest classes I have taken in my life. There was one night where I was on the side of bed just rocking back and forth and I could not sleep and all that I could think about was my class. At the time I did not realize that my mental health was being affected by law school, specifically anxiety and depression. One characteristic that you need to be successful in law school and as an attorney is having a good wrap on your mental health. I know that World Mental Health Day was recent (October 10th), but I encourage everyone, if you really want to be successful in this profession, take care of yourself mentally…it is so important, physically as well. 

Be familiar with what your triggers are, there are so many layers to mental health, and I find that the people that manage their mental health appropriately, they are doing the best. Because you are going to have some days when you wake up, even if you are not a lawyer, there will be some days when you wake up and mentally you are not right, I have been there…I am still there some days. But it is just knowing how to cope with that, because you still have to go to class, you still have to show up for your client, you still have to be in court…you have to know how to cope appropriately because in this profession, our profession has one of the highest suicide rates…it is real. We are not taking care of ourselves. so taking care of your mental health is the best ingredient. If we had to create a little mixture for the perfect law student, a big chunk of that is definitely going to be a law student that takes care of their mental health. 

The Empress Dee:  Thank you for sharing that. I have never heard all of this stuff, so I am glad that I have had this chance to speak with you because this is very informative. A lot of these things, I did not know so I appreciate you for putting these things in the forefront.

Do you have any new projects that we should know about or events?

Attorney Jas:  The holiday season is vastly approaching, so I would encourage everyone to visit my website, www.jastalkslaw.com and subscribe because starting next month we are having specials on the workbooks, our on-line courses, and of course our merch. If you are a future lawyer wearing my hoodie, wearing my shirt, not only helps me to continue what I do because I work this full time, so not only does it help with that but it also helps to bring awareness. So subscribe to our email list and if you are a future lawyer when you subscribe you will receive our free law school application timeline.

*(The Southern Regional of the Black Law Student Association, she recently had an event), if you go to @SRBLSA on Instagram, you can learn more about her workbooks and on-line courses). 

But what I did specifically for you guys and just as a thank you for having me as your guest, I created a discount code so if any of your followers, if they want some merch, if you want to get the future lawyer in your life our personal statement workbook, you can use discount code: Purpose to get 15% off of your purchase.

If you go to my page you will see how to get to my website and that is just for you.

The Empress Dee:  Awesome! Thank you so much and I will definitely be investing. Thank you so much for your time and all of this great information and all the knowledge and wisdom that you shared with us. We wish you the best of luck on all of your business ventures (Attorney Jas extends the same sentiment), have an amazing day.

Attorney Jas:  You too and feel free to reach out, my email is info@jastalkslaw.com or shoot me a DM, find me on Instagram, let’s stay connected, anyone that knows me knows that I am the most accessible person.

The Empress Dee:  Thank you so much again.

ABOUT AUTHOR

  • Destinee Porter

    Destinee (The Empress Dee) Porter is a Restorative Justice Facilitator for Sexton High School in Lansing, MI. She is also the CEO of Empress Training Inc. which, educates young African American women about their African Lineage promoting self-love, divine femininity, and the expression of knowledge and grace. In the near future she aspires to become a Life Coach and Therapist for young men and women of color.

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