Jasmine Edwards' Hollistic Law
While Edwards has always had a passion for helping people, she found her role as a social worker very limiting. So after about 18 months, she returned to New York and enrolled in City University of New Yorkâ€™s Law program fulfilling a life long ambition.
[Profile: The Holistic Attorney]
On the day Black Star News interviewed Brooklyn based attorney Jasmine Edwards, the CUNY educated lawyer had a personal and eye-opening encounter with the law.
That July morning while rushing to get out of the house she forgot to take her wallet and didn’t realize it until she got caught in an intersection at Utica and Eastern Parkway. When the police approached her vehicle and asked for identification, she reached for her bag and that’s when she remembered: the wallet was at home.
“This humbled me,” Edwards admitted. Further the former social worker said that it reminded her of what others must go through every day. While Edwards was given a ticket after the police called relatives to verify her identity, she wonders what would have happened if she were a young Black man wearing jeans.
Edwards is now warning everyone to keep a copy of their driver’s license in their car. Spreading this kind of message is par for the course for Edwards since educating people about the law is her life’s work.
Ever since she was a little girl growing up in Queens Village, Edwards knew she wanted to be a lawyer. “Growing up I was exposed to situations involving friends and loved ones that were intimated and uninformed about the legal system and as a result were harmed, sometimes irreparably,” explained Edwards.
Perhaps a crucial point in her life came when she was 10. Her family was visiting relatives in Guyana where she met an aunt who was wearing a colonial style wig. When Edwards inquired about the wig, the aunt told her that she was someone who explained the law to the common man.
Determined to follow in her aunt’s footsteps, Edwards went on to graduate from the Law and Humanities Institute program at Benjamin Cardozo High School. Then she earned a Bachelors Degree in Social Administration from Temple University. After graduating from Temple, she stayed in Philadelphia taking a position as a social worker for families who had been victims of child abuse or neglect. Her job was to offer the families guidance and assistance.
While Edwards has always had a passion for helping people, she found her role as a social worker very limiting. So after about 18 months, she returned to New York and enrolled in City University of New York’s Law program fulfilling a life long ambition. She says she chose CUNY because of the law school’s focus on public interest cases and legal advocacy. Also she liked the fact that CUNY has a large number of women and minorities represented within the student body.
Today Edwards describes her approach to law as “holistic.” She handles cases ranging from criminal law and civil litigation to estate planning. When asked which area she prefers, Edwards says she couldn’t choose as her “varied practice” fits her personality. “I take a tremendous amount of pride in assisting all of my clients, regardless of their income, background or level of education, understand the legal process and help them achieve the best results possible.”
Edwards credits her parents, both of whom were born in Guyana, as being crucial factors in her own development. Edwards admits that it was difficult being different. “I was the only kid in class whose parents weren’t from the US.” Also her parents were very strict. As an adult Edwards says she can see the benefit of the structure they provided and why they kept her on what she calls a “short leash.”
The late Professor Luis Degraffe was also an inspiration to Edwards. Degraffe, who taught at CUNY Law for over 20 years, ran the “Third World Orientation,” an academic empowerment skills program for first year students of color. The program gives the students a two week head start before classes begin. Around this same time before entering law school, Edwards read “In the Meantime” by Iyanla Vanzant. The book taught her how to look inside for answers. “It’s easy to blame,” she says, “but you have to blow by all this stuff and do what you have to do.”
In addition to her paid work, Edwards will take on some pro-bono cases for low income clients. She’s also very active in other volunteer activities. Currently she serves on the Board of the Jamaica YMCA, Girls Talk Inc. and the Versie B. Towns Foundation. The Versie B. Towns Foundation is named after the late mother of Congressman, Edolphus Towns whom Edwards counts as a mentor. “Everything goes back to children and community,” she said. “I had a lot of help along the way and I think it’s important to give back.”
Edwards is also a member of the Association of Black Women Attorneys, the Brooklyn Bar Association, the New York State Bar Association and Coalition of 100 Black Women.
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