2011 Alumna Kim Carter enjoys practicing law as an associate at the distinguished labor, employment, and immigration firm Carothers DiSante & Freudenberger LLP. “I love that every day is different,” she states as she reflects on the personal and professional experiences that brought her to where she is today.
Carter grew up in a single parent home with her mother, whom she described as “very poor and illiterate.” Those conditions and Carter’s mother’s drive to sue those who attempted to take advantage of her resulted in Carter’s early exposure to court filings, accelerated reading ability, and making the important correlation between the law and justice.
“Various other experiences in my family drew me towards wanting to know more about the law and ways that I could protect myself and my family,” Carter said. Under circumstances that echoed the greatly publicized Trayvon Martin killing, at the age of thirteen Carter’s older brother was shot and killed by a member of the neighborhood watch. Later, at the age of fifteen, she would testify as a witness at her cousin’s criminal trial and with the Judge’s help, realized the rules of law could be used to introduce valuable evidence and that African Americans like the presiding Judge Jones could have an influential role within the justice system. “It was Judge Jones who was my first real-life example that minorities can work within the system and succeed,” Carter explained, “I often told myself, ‘If Judge Jones could do it, so could I.’ And so, I did.”
Carter points out, “I choose Thomas Jefferson because of its reputation of catering to working adults.” Carter left her position as a workers’ compensation insurance adjuster to begin law school. “Initially, I was terrified, because I left a salaried job to pursue a legal education without a verifiable income.”
While working part-time as a law clerk and note-taker for student services, Carter juggled her obligations to her family, including her two young children, and school. Despite her initial apprehension Carter graduated Magna Cum Laude and obtained her Juris Doctorate at the same time her husband obtained his bachelor’s degree. Carter largely credits her success to the support she obtained from Thomas Jefferson. “The truth is, I had the benefit of an incredible network of supporters, including the faculty, staff and administrators at Thomas Jefferson,” she acknowledged.
“When I started law school, my goals were to complete my legal education, pass the bar, and get a job. Everything I did during the process, contributed to these goals.” Carter states. Her involvement included moot court, career services, alumni chair for BLSA, student worker, judicial extern in federal and superior court, Diversity Fellow, Peggy Browning Fellow, and a volunteer at the Employee Rights Center.
“My work experience and the academic success I enjoyed helped me distinguish myself from other recent graduates and hands down contributed to my success. But I have to say, networking sealed the deal,” said Carter, whose current position arose from her involvement with the Diversity Fellowship program. “I am forever grateful to career services department for insisting that I take part in as many networking opportunities I could balance, without sacrificing academics,” she continued.
In addition to Career Services, Carter is also appreciative of Student Services for their support, Admissions for their guidance and continued encouragement, and Communications for their on-going support of TJSL events and organizations. “TJSL Faculty are simply the best. I have learned the black letter law and developed lasting relationships with many of my former professors that continue to this day. I have also developed relationships with faculty who never taught me a class, but poured into my development in very unexpected ways.”
It is not surprising Carter found her niche in employment law after working at a theme park as a teenager, a position which familiarized her with unions and collective bargaining agreements, later taking a position as a union steward while employed with the DMV and finally as a workers compensation insurance adjuster. When asked what the most rewarding part of her position at CDF is, Carter states, “I find it rewarding to work on cases that assist employers with dealing with the maze of California wage and hour laws. It is a difficult legal environment to navigate because there are so many laws that are in place and laws that are changing or going into effect each year. I also find it rewarding to educate my clients and their workforces,” and emphasizes, “…my ultimate goal is to help others and this is one of the ways I currently get to do that in my position.”
Carter has learned for any recent bar passer it is important to know your strengths and avoid second guessing yourself. “You have all the tools you need to succeed, except for maybe confidence. Confidence is not something that can be taught in a book. It comes by experience. Take advantage of every experience you have and learn from each. Ask lots of questions and learn from the experience of others. Constantly reevaluate your performance and be honest with yourself. And, above all, collect mentors for various aspects of your career and personal development, take their advice, really take their advice, and be appreciative. I have found people are willing to help those who help themselves,” Carter concluded.