Today we’d like to introduce you to Briana Givens and Monique Larmond.
Briana and Monique, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Briana Givens: I am 27 years old. I am the first attorney in my family. I was born and raised in Palm Springs, California. I grew up living in low-income apartments with my siblings, as my mother struggled to keep a roof over our heads. I watched my mother work multiple jobs and attend school in order to build a stable life for us.
After high school, I attended community college for two years at Cerritos College in Los Angeles. During my time at Cerritos, I volunteered as a student-athletic trainer. I received my Associate degree and transferred from Cerritos to the University of California, Riverside (“UCR”) where I studied Political Science/Law and Society. While at UCR as a full-time student, I worked two jobs. My first job was with AmeriCorps as a tutor to give back and help children in low-income communities. My other job was as a weight room attendant at the UCR recreational facility. I received my bachelor’s degree in 2014.
I attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law from 2014 to 2017. In law school, I was nationally recognized as a member of the first All African-American Women Law Review Managing Boards in California history, along with my business partner Monique Larmond. I also wrote an article that was published in our law review journal.
I always knew I wanted to start my own firm. I just did not know how or when I would.
I worked at various law firms in order to gain experience in different areas of law including, employment law and personal injury. After about four years of working at law firms as a law clerk and associate, I decided it was time.
Monique and I are looking to officially launch our firm in March of 2020. Our practice will focus on transactional law and family law.
Monique Larmond: I am from the Bronx, New York, the last stop on the five train to be exact. About five years ago, I decided to trade in New York’s harsh winters for Southern California’s palm trees to chase my dreams of becoming the first attorney in my family and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I miss my family and friends from New York all the time but I try to visit them as often as I can.
I grew up in a strong Jamaican household, it was a household of eight and my parents constantly pushed us to be better than the last generation. Their mantra was “we have arrived (to the U.S.), now where are you taking us?” For me that meant working extremely hard and fulfilling my dreams of becoming an attorney. I left home at 17 years old to attend one of the greatest SUNY, Binghamton University, where I double majored in Economics and African Studies. While at Binghamton I was actively involved in numerous organizations and joined the most dynamic and illustrious organization, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, where I gained even more sisters and formed everlasting bonds.
After college, I went on to pursue my Master’s in Business Management with a concentration in Sports. At the time, I was riddled with fear and thought that I wasn’t ready for law school, but while I was in grad school that fear subsided and I knew I was ready. I never thought I would leave the east coast to attend law school but I met a random customer one day while working at Sephora. She sold me on Thomas Jefferson School Law, and I applied. Since TJSL gave me a generous scholarship, I decided it was time to venture to the West Coast. So, Alison from Danbury, Connecticut wherever you are, thank you for changing my path and steering me to Southern California.
Attending law school was one of the best decisions I made. I met some amazing people in law school who helped me grow and helped me to excel beyond what I ever imagined. While in law school, I externed for a Federal District Court Judge and worked at a civil litigation law firm and gained experience in the insurance defense world. After law school, I gained further experience in insurance defense, where I defended personal injury matters for a large corporation. After working at my first firm, I decided I wanted to do more transactional work and began working for a boutique business and real estate law firm.
My journey thus far in the legal field has been an interesting one but I am looking forward to finally fulfilling our fantasy and launching our own firm and show the world what us women can achieve.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Briana Givens: I have encountered more obstacles than I can count, but I have always felt like an underdog. One of the obstacles I had to face was dealing with my mental health in law school and thereafter. The legal profession can be extremely demanding and requires thoughtful decision-making skills. There were times when I became completely isolated from the world because I was studying for a test and working on cases. I found that self-care is important and helps in achieving productivity and happiness.
Monique Larmond: It is has been a struggle being a woman of color trying to embark in a professional career because many times we are overlooked and undervalued. We have to work twice as hard to get a seat at the table. While you’re on your professional journey you also have to endure people doubting you and second-guessing your choices, which can be taxing at times because if you do not remain confident, you will begin to doubt yourself.
As Briana mentioned, the financial difficulties have been real. When you finally finish law school or any schooling and start your career, your first thought is yes, I am finally going to make money! However, the harsh reality hits when rent is due, the bills start rolling in and the loan providers start knocking on your door. So being a young professional adult in America comes with major financial struggles, especially when you do not have a safety net or other financial means set up to help ease some of your financial burdens.
My advice to young women who are embarking in the legal field or any professional field is to find a solid group of like-minded individuals who you can turn to when things are rough and you feel lost. It is important to know you are not alone and that there are a lot of other people in your shoes. So do not be afraid to reach out and ask for help!
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Givens & Larmond Law Group – what should we know?
According to the American Bar Association’s 2019 Report on Lawyer Demographics, only 36% of lawyers are woman. As a biracial African-American and Hispanic woman, Briana was shocked to learn that only 13% of lawyers are Hispanic, and 8% are African-American. These numbers are important because it is crucial for minorities to have access to educational resources to pursue professional career paths to help diversify the legal profession. It is also important that minorities become apart of the legal profession to seek justice and help change laws that target specific groups of people.
Our job is more than just representing a client, it is representing a community. We will primarily focus on transactional law, which includes business and real estate, in addition to family law. Due to our diverse backgrounds, including but not limited to, our experience in the legal field and our unique paths that led us to where we are, we have the ability to connect with clients from all walks of life. With the rise of entrepreneurship, we have the ability to provide individuals with a realistic, efficient and modern-day approach to help with their legal needs.
We’re interested to hear your thoughts on female leadership – in particular, what do you feel are the biggest barriers or obstacles?
As the statistics previously stated show, the legal profession is a male-dominated industry. As women navigate their way through this profession, they face many challenges, including, the missed opportunity to become partners, the lack of support and mentorship received from their colleagues, and very few firms offer the opportunity to have work-life balance. This makes it more difficult for women to have a family and a thriving career. This has led to women leaving the legal profession at alarming rates. We believe having the flexibility to be our own bosses and establish our own rules alleviates some of those challenges. Women can be successful and find happiness in the legal profession, but it is up to us.
- Website: http://thegllaw.com
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Givens & Larmond Law Group