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  • Writer's pictureJovanna Bearden

How I started my first law firm

Way back in 2007, I was a starry eyed law school graduate. After moving across the country and passing not only one but two bar exams with flying colors, it was time to make my mark on the world - it was time to find a job. During my time in law school I trained in a very specific area of law. Not only was I a bankruptcy clerk, helping the attorney I worked for prepare bankruptcy petitions, but I trained in helping people enforce their rights under the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (otherwise known as the FDCPA). This is a Federal law that lets a consumer sue a debt collector that behaves in an unethical, unfair, or deceptive way while they are collecting a debt. It was my plan that I was going to use this knowledge of the FDCPA to get a job in the town I now found myself living, St. Louis.

I eagerly assembled my resume and started hand crafting cover letters for each law firm I sent it to. I knew getting a job right out of law school might be a challenge, but I had 2 years of legal experience. I had a published decision discussing my hourly rate earned for my work. (Owens v. Brachfeld, No. C 07-4400 JF (PVT), 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 102381 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 5, 2008)) Surely this wealth of knowledge and experience would land me a job!

Boy was I wrong.

After weeks of cold calls, following up on resumes, and meetings, I was still just a part time cashier at Kohls with a law degree.

Out of desperation, I took a contract position for a bankruptcy firm doing glorified paralegal work. I worked my ass off at that job getting paid not nearly enough for as long as I could, until a personality conflict with the firm’s owner led me to the lowest point thus far:

I was fired.

I had never felt like more of a failure than I did after coming home that day. Living with family and saving up money, I took the next few months to reflect on my time in my newfound city, the decisions that had led me to the firm where I was oh-so-unhappy and to ponder what was going to be next for me. It was May, summer was upon me, so I spent some of the money I had saved up and did some traveling. A visit to my grandparents led me to start a bible study that ended up changing my life.

There are 31 chapters in the book of Proverbs. So, you can very easily read one chapter a day, reading chapter 31 every other month. So on May 1 I started. I read one Proverb a day and when I got to Proverb 22 I thought it was cool that it talked about going to court.

June 22 I ran across that court Proverb again, and I read it a little more carefully, Don't take advantage of poor people just because they are poor. Don't beat down those who are in need by taking them to court. The Lord will stand up for them in court. He will take back the stolen goods from those who have robbed them.” Proverbs 22 : 22 - 23. How cool, I thought. God really does care about everything.

July 22 rolls around and this time, when I read that Proverb, I felt like God was yelling it at me. I stopped and read it again. And again. I realized that what I did with my career wasn’t going to matter or be successful unless I did it with and for God, and this was what he wanted me to do. He wanted me to stand up for the poor in court and take back what was robbed from them. With my newfound marching orders, I began the process of forming Longo Law Firm.

The road ahead wasn’t easy, but this founding principle has guided every decision I have made with my career since that day.

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