Jobs were disappearing when Miami Law graduate Joanna Thomson, JD '08, entered the legal profession. Only one day after she took the Florida Bar, her clerkship with the First District Court of Appeals was revoked due to a lack in funding. After three months without work, she was hired as a contract attorney at an antitrust law firm where she had clerked during school.
"I knew that was not what I wanted to do," she said about the type of work she was doing after graduating from law school. "I got to work on huge cases, but there was no client involvement or court appearances." Thomson knew that she wanted to be in the courtroom as opposed to working solely in an office. Actively litigating cases is how she envisioned her career as a student. In law school, she served on the Inter-American Law Review and worked as a research assistant for Professor Edgardo Rotman, a senior lecturer in international and comparative law. She also participated in the Mock Trial Competition in the fall of 2007, making it to the semi-final round. During the summer of her 2L year, she obtained an internship at the Florida Supreme Court for then-Justice Raoul Cantero-a life changing experience which fed her desire to be the best lawyer she could be.
"It makes you more aware of what you need to be doing," she said. "It helps you see what judges expect of you, and what type of analysis and involvement they need from you in order to make a decision."
She published an article during her third year about "Regulating Unsettled Issues in Latin America under the Treaty Powers and the Foreign Commerce Clause" in the Inter-American Law Review.
Now, four years after graduation, Thomson works as an associate for Weiss Serota Helfman Pastoriza Cole and Boniske in their Coral Gables and Fort Lauderdale offices. She represents private and government entities in state and federal courts throughout South Florida. She also recently submitted an article to the Florida Bar Journal regarding the effects of Bell v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqubal, addressing the standard of review for dismissal in federal court. She is married to her law school sweetheart, Andrew; they met each other on their first day at Miami Law and married shortly after graduation. And, she is five-months pregnant.
Despite having entered the legal profession during one of the most difficult economic times in America's history, the former Dean's Fellow still maintains her passion for law, her values and family. Today, the Miami Law graduate has wise words for students who are walking along a similar path.
What's the best advice you were ever given?
When I was sworn in to the Florida Bar by then-Justice Kenneth Bell, he made four points to live by. In being a lawyer, first be motivated. Second, be civil. Third, never lose sight of the goal of justice. And fourth, do not let the interest of your client supersede your higher responsibility to your profession or to your God. That advice means a lot to me.
What's the worst advice you were ever given?
The worst advice I have ever been given about the legal profession, is: 'It's just not worth it. Just give up.' I've heard that more than once.
Are you the attorney you've always wanted to be?
I'm on the way to getting there. I certainly wouldn't say I've reached all of my goals yet.
If the attorney you are today could talk to the student you once were, what would you say?
Enjoy – and take advantage of – being in school. You don't realize this as a student, but school is such a great opportunity. You have so much freedom to study any area of the law that interests you, to get involved with organizations, to make and develop friendships. Once you're in the professional arena, your world narrows somewhat. Now I don't have as many opportunities to explore avenues that interest just me.