A second-year Miami Law student, Jennifer Jumbo-Davis, has won a paid summer internship in the Fort Lauderdale office of Becker & Poliakoff, as well as a $5,000 tuition scholarship from the firm toward her last year in law school.
Partners in the law firm made the announcement of its First Annual Diversity Fellowship Awards during a luncheon at Miami Law. Another law student, Raciel Perez, who attends the University of Florida's Levin College of Law, received an identical award, and will work in the firm's Miami office.
"I guess a lot of us don't get opportunities to learn at a firm like this," Jumbo-Davis, a native of Chicago and registered nurse who served in the Army during the Gulf War, told guests at the luncheon. "I'm hoping that this will prepare me for when I graduate a year from now, and that I will be confident to practice."
In an interview after the announcement, Jumbo-Davis said that as the mother of two boys, aged 2 and 4, and a job as a nurse at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, it was "very difficult" to both attend law school and seek other work. "Opportunities are harder for me," said Jumbo-Davis, who provides pro bono assistance to children and young adults in Florida's foster care system and participates in the Honey Shine program, which provides mentoring to young African-American girls from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Jumbo-Davis managed also to work in the Miami-Dade State Attorney's office last summer, an experience that she suggested had led, even if indirectly, to the Becker & Poliakoff fellowship. "I was able to prove myself," she said, "in that amount of time."
Growing up, she said, there were no professionals in her family, and college – let alone graduate school – seemed a distant ideal. "I never had the support to go to law school," said Jumbo-Davis, who earned a nursing degree from Florida A&M University and a Master's in Health Service Administration from Florida International University.
In his remarks at the gathering, Miami Law Vice Dean Patrick O. Gudridge seemed to presage Jumbo-Davis's words when he said, "Those of us who are in this room almost without choice are trying hard to make sense of the difficult problems we find every day." But he saw great hope in the achievements of students like Jumbo-Davis.
"We are creating generations of judges, legislators, U.S. Senators and really great lawyers – at whatever law firms will be in 10 years," Dean Gudridge said. "You folks have made the transition to the 21st century in a big way. We run on diversity."
Perry M. Adair, a partner – also known as a shareholder – at Becker & Poliakoff, said at the luncheon that it is a privilege "to do what we do."
"It is endless, the things you can do" as a lawyer, Adair said. "You can change people's lives and really make a difference. Don't ever lose sight of the fact of how great it is to be a lawyer."
Gary Rosen, the firm's managing shareholder, said in a statement released by his office that "promoting diversity is an important part of our firm's values and a key element in our firm's success."
"We take enormous pride in this new fellowship program," Rosen said. "It is designed to encourage and support diversity in the legal profession by attracting and supporting future leaders who are committed to this important goal."
The firm's competition for second-year law students requires that recipients have outstanding academic credentials, demonstrate leadership ability and commitment to public service, and have made meaningful contributions to the diversity of their community. The presentation at Miami Law was attended by several Becker & Poliakoff attorneys, including Yolanda Cash Jackson, a member of the firm's management committee and leader of its diversity initiatives.