Education alum trades classroom for courtroom
Brandon Adams says teaching experience will make him a better attorney
By Kathryn McPhail, email@example.com, 803-777-8841
For most students, the path to law school doesn’t include a stop in a fourth-grade classroom – well, at least not as the teacher of the class. But first-year law student Brandon Adams says he has always colored outside the lines and encouraged the children in his class to do the same.
Adams, who grew up in Cayce, South Carolina, was raised by a family of educators and school administrators, including his mother, uncle and grandfather.
“I always looked up to them and thought I might be interested in a career in education,” Adams says.
When he was a junior in high school, he mentored the students in his mother’s kindergarten class and fell in love with working with children. The experience piqued his interest in following in his family’s footsteps to become an educator or to find a profession in which he could mentor and serve.
I wouldn’t say I am done teaching. I’m just in love with the process of learning. Now, I’m trying to find a way to connect the two things I love – law and education.
Brandon Adams, education alumnus and law school student
Adams attended the University of South Carolina where he earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the College of Education. His first job after graduation landed him in a familiar place.
“I actually taught at Claude A. Taylor Elementary, the same school I attended as a child,” Adams says. “Funny how life brought me back there.”
After teaching for two years, he realized that he wanted to get an advanced degree but didn’t want to become a school administrator.
“I know it sounds kind of unexpected, but law school just kept coming up in my mind. My family was shocked when I told them I was considering law school because I was happy teaching,” Adams says.
During his Thanksgiving break from school, he talked to some attorneys who solidified his decision to change career paths. He spent the next few months teaching fourth grade by day and studying for the Law School Admission Test by night.
“I spent hours at the library studying after finishing the school day, then I would rush home to grade papers and wake up to do it all again the next day. It was exhausting.”
The hard work paid off. He scored well on the test and was soon interviewing for law schools around the country. Adams says those interviews always turned to one topic — his teaching experience.
“They wanted to know how I could manage children every day. I told them that you see the world in a different way when working with kids,” Adams says. “My students came from a variety of backgrounds — poor, wealthy, good homes and bad environments. As a teacher, you have to find a way to reach them all, to keep their attention, juggle their questions, get them to listen to what you’re saying. You have to think quickly on your feet and that’s a skill attorneys need, too.”
In the interviews, he joked that negotiating contracts couldn’t be more intimidating than a few heated parent-teacher conferences he encountered. And, he said, his undergraduate degree in education taught him to think critically, analyze both sides of each issue and uphold his personal and professional ethics. His perspectives and experiences impressed the interviewers, and Adams was accepted in the University of South Carolina School of Law.
Going from being a teacher to a student again was an adjustment for Adams. It meant leaving his comfort level as a teacher to transition to the legal field, where he had no experience. But with time, Adams found himself becoming as passionate about law as he was and still is about teaching.
“I wouldn’t say I am done teaching. I’m just in love with the process of learning. Now, I’m trying to find a way to connect the two things I love — law and education.”
To do that, Adams is working as a clerk at a Columbia-based law firm that represents school districts, and he says would love to teach law one day.
“Teaching wasn’t a steppingstone for me,” Adams says. “I will always love and appreciate those moments with my students.”
He says that as a teacher, he considered himself a public servant and wants to serve others no matter his career.
“I don’t want to become an attorney for financial gain or political reasons. I want to advocate for those who can’t speak for themselves or those whose rights are being infringed upon. Teachers serve the community and as an attorney, I plan to use my skills to serve as well.”
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