Listen to Your Heart and Your Brain to Understand Your Path

Kendra Brown, Associate Legislative Counsel for Earthjustice, speaks candidly about her journey to environmental law and commitment to helping others.

Capitol Building
Kendra Brown works in Earthjustice's Washington, D.C. Policy & Litigation Office. (US Capitol / Flickr)

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As a child, I loved helping others. The desire to aid those around me seemed to be an offshoot of my upbringing as the daughter of a church pastor, affectionately referred to as a “Preacher’s Kid” or “PK.”  To some this may seem to be a huge negative, implying rigid constraints and structure, but as a “PK,” I was taught to live a life committed to sincere service to others.

I helped my parents by leading services, cleaning the church, teaching youth classes, participating in song services at retirement homes, and even serving frequently in the church kitchen to ensure all service attendees were fed.

As a youngster, these were things that I was obligated to do, but as I progressed through life, I took great pride in assisting others and ensuring individuals had what they needed.  This, in turn, transformed into a sincere desire to assist others in one area that has an impact on us all—the law. Why the field of law?  At a very young age, I understood the need for the law and the power of the law. I knew right and wrong, and I knew that the law was something that we must all understand and abide by. I wanted to learn more.

Law School

Once I knew I wanted to go into the field of law, I had to make a choice regarding which law school would be most well-suited for my goals. On my path to law school, I gleaned a great deal of advice from many individuals regarding how to select a law school.  From judges and professors to corporate attorneys and prosecutors, individuals shared their own experiences with law school and words of wisdom. I knew that I must look at the programs of study a school had, the school’s acceptance rate, the minimum scores, GPA ranges for the school, as well as the tuition and overall cost of attendance.

Because I grew up in Northern Virginia and was very close to the Washington, DC metropolitan area, where there is no lack of law schools, it was my sincere desire to stay in the area to attend law school. But, all roads led to a small school in New England over nine hours from Washington, DC—Vermont Law School. I never would have envisioned by any means that I would come to love a school so far from all of the things that I knew—my family, church, and friends—but I did.

Vermont Law School offered the education and the location I needed to progress in the field of law, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. With the motto of “law for the community and the world,” I felt Vermont Law School had exactly what I needed for success. Yes, it was nine hours from my family, but the picturesque landscape, the peaceful community, the limited distractions, and the amazing faculty were the environment that became my home away from home. And I must say—the maple syrup and blueberries were a wonderful added bonus!

Law School Activities

While in law school, I participated in a number of activities. I was extremely active in the National Black Law Students Association, serving in various roles including northeast regional chair and ultimately as national chair. I also served as my school’s ABA representative, Honor Code Committee representative, work-study student for the law school dean, student ambassador, and on the board of the Student Government Association. This allowed me to be highly involved in student affairs on my campus as well as in frequent conversation with the leadership of the school to ensure student voices were heard.

While at Vermont Law School, I was extremely active in the law school community and found the school to be a perfect fit for me. I received a wonderful legal education, and was exposed to an area of law that I had little knowledge of prior to attending Vermont Law School: environmental law. This would plant the seed for the work that I know undertake.

Job Requirements

As an associate legislative counsel for Earthjustice, I work with the policy and legislation team to ensure individuals have access to courts and justice. I work with coalitions, members of Congress, and regulatory experts to remove barriers to court access for individuals who have been wronged due to inadequate safeguards and standards in the regulatory system. Additionally, I cover judicial nominations for Earthjustice.

The requirements for my role vary from day to day, but the ability to think critically and quickly are absolutely essential to my position. I must consistently process large amounts of information, analyze, and summarize data in a persuasive manner.  Additionally, because I work as legislative counsel, I must have a high-level understanding of the legislative process. As is the norm for any individual working in the field of law, it is essential to also possess strong research and writing skills. Finally, I must be able to convey complex information in a clear and concise manner to further the work of my team and organization.

On any given day, I must constantly monitor the proceedings in the House of Representatives and the Senate to ensure I am tracking my issue areas. I have to stay abreast of any news related to my issues so that I do not miss any changes. Even what seems like the smallest change can have a major impact on regulations and laws. Something as small as the word “and” or the word “or” can have major implications on a regulation and compliance with the regulation.

I love the work I do, because I am having an effect on the lives of individuals around our nation every day. From my childhood until today, I know my purpose is to make life better for those around me. I am extremely grateful that I am able to fulfill this dream I have carried with me. While each of us has a different path, our life experiences shape us into who we are. Every day I am simply grateful for the opportunity to make a difference.

I am honored to share my story with the Earthjustice community.

This story was originally posted by Law and Practice Today on January 14, 2015.

Kendra received her law degree from Vermont Law School and completed her Master of Divinity at Howard University Divinity School. She was part of the Policy & Legislation team from 2014–2015.

Established in 1989, Earthjustice's Policy & Legislation team works with champions in Congress to craft legislation that supports and extends our legal gains.