Attorney, Author, Motivational Speaker, and Professional Coach
The 9th Annual Samuel N. Hecsh Window on the Working World of Law Feature Story*
Angela playing with white-faced capuchin monkey, Honduras
Intro: Evolving from a young student in law school to landing her dream job with a prestigious firm, learn how Angela Winfield realized there were a lot more layers of success she wanted to unroll. See how she discovered, developed and uses other talents in a style of her own that enables her to achieve her goal of helping as many people as possible move forward in life.
The Story: I am Angela Winfield. In my different roles as attorney, author, motivational speaker and professional coach, I help people break through barriers, overcome obstacles and resolve conflicts so they can succeed in their personal and professional lives.
I practice law at Hiscock & Barclay, a law firm with 200 attorneys, 9 offices, 30 specialized practice areas and one of the top 250 firms in the U.S. I got my job through the traditional route. At the beginning of my second year of law school I did on-campus interviews and summered with the firm between my second and third years. Based on my credentials and performance that summer I was offered a permanent position before graduation. After practicing law for a few years, I realized there was even more I wanted to contribute. So, I worked with my firm and created a position where I now have the freedom and flexibility not only to practice law but, to speak, write, and otherwise motivate, educate and inspire people to reach their highest potential.
There is no true typical day for me. I have plans and ideas for what I want to accomplish in a particular day and, in addition to that, the day brings what it will. It is not uncommon that an emergency motion, client crisis or some other unexpected task demands my immediate attention. Generally, however, on days I'm not working from home, traveling to deliver keynote speeches, attending meetings or participating in conferences, I go to my law office. Leaving my house at 6:40 a.m., this is an hour commute by bus. The vast majority of my time is spent researching legal issues and writing memorandum of law and briefs. My legal practice focuses on commercial litigation meaning representing businesses and individuals in civil (non-criminal) disputes. Within this area, I further focus my work on representing parties in federal and state court appeals. Unlike what is commonly thought, I am in the courtroom only occasionally.
Even though I've always wanted to be a lawyer, during my career exploration stage, I had summer internships and job experiences ranging from volunteering as a candy-striper, shadowing a physical therapist, being the secretary in a youth employment office to being responsible for creating the first-ever newsletter for a not-for-profit organization. I also served as a paralegal to a civil rights attorney. These experiences taught me about what it's like to work in an office, improved my writing, oral communications and interpersonal skills. These experiences also provided me with opportunities to be independent and practice my mobility and self-advocacy skills. In addition to these work experiences, I participated in various academic and extracurricular programs (both mainstream and for the blind) that broadened my horizons, enhanced my prospective and heightened my cultural awareness. Most important to note is that these experiences benefited me in my current job in that they helped me to be Well-rounded and to build my network. I strongly believe that taking opportunities, whether or not they seem directly related to your end goal, helps you gain the skills and confidence you need to excel.
If opportunities in your target field or industry are available seize them. That is what I did once I was in law school. I got laser focused and participated in legal clinics, got involved in moot court, worked on a legal publication, clerked for a trial court judge and got actively engaged in activities that would give me practical knowledge and skills. However, even if that perfect internship does not present itself right away, keep in mind that the well-honed skills, increased maturity and personal growth you will gain from less-than-perfect jobs are necessary and transferable to most jobs. So, get that experience and make the most of it!
Technology is absolutely key for me and is an essential part of how I get my job done. Reading and writing briefs, conducting legal research, making travel arrangements, are all things I do electronically. The technology I use includes JAWS, Kurzweil OCR software and, last, but certainly not least, the iPhone. For mobility purposes, I am a Seeing Eye dog user.
My advice to those specifically interested in entering the legal profession in private sector, big firm practice is to know what you are getting into. The hours are long, partners and clients are demanding and you may not always feel appreciated or even feel like what you're doing really matters. Usually, these thoughts occur around 1 o'clock in the morning when you're tired and trying to finish up that brief. But, that all being said, if you know what you're getting into and doing it for the right reasons then go for it. If you are passionate about the law, a gifted analytical thinker and are not doing it for the money or the prestige you should do well. While money and prestige can be good, it is never enough on its own to really make it worth the effort and struggle. When looking for work and applying for jobs do your homework and choose a firm with good, thoughtful people with integrity. This will make it a tremendously rewarding job.
In general, your success depends upon your ability to open people's minds to what is possible for a person with a visual impairment, as well as your ability to open doors for yourself. Here's how to open doors and minds. You must
O - develop a healthy, positive and proactive outlook;
P - formulate a well-reasoned strategic, step-by-step plan;
E - obtain the requisite education about yourself personally and your potential profession/industry; and
N - build a supportive network of mentors, advisers and peers.
OPEN. These are what I call the four master keys to success. I used them during my developmental phase and continue to use them in my own personal and professional life. I talk about them in my speeches, work on them with individual coaching clients and discuss them in detail in my forthcoming book tentatively entitled OPEN: How to Create A Life You Absolutely Love Living, By Tapping Into the Power of the Human Spirit.
Bottom-line is to know yourself; your strengths, weaknesses, interests, abilities and talents. Figure out not only what you want, but why you want it and what it will really do for you. Then put things in place so you can go out there and get it!
The Contact: Angela Winfield
For more information about Angela and what she does visit her website Blind Faith Enterprises, LLC.
*The American Foundation for the Blind is pleased to present "The Samuel N. Hecsh Window on the Working World of Law," funded by the Samuel N. Hecsh Fund at the American Foundation for the Blind. A new article in memory of Mr. Hecsh appears annually.
After losing his vision, Mr. Hecsh attended law school—with some help from a scholarship from AFB—and had a satisfying career. Feeling he could not continue his previous employment, he met with many lawyers who were blind and attributed his success as a blind attorney in part to his encouragement from these mentors.
We thank his wife, Muriel O'Reilly, and daughters, Janet and Caitlin Hecsh, for choosing to honor his memory in this special way. The Samuel N. Hecsh Window on the Working World of Law is designed to encourage other people experiencing vision loss to choose to enter the field of law.
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