Quinshawna Landon knew she wanted to be a lawyer "from birth," she says. "My mom said I came out of the womb arguing."
Growing up in Harlem, "there was a lot of going to church, doing choir and singing all over the place," but heavenly anthems were not what propelled Landon toward an accomplished education. It was her grandmother, Lizzie Mae Landon.
"She took the time to make sure I really understood school in my formative years," Landon recalls. "She instilled in me the joy and desire to learn and set a high standard. When I didn't get valedictorian but salutatorian, I was yelled at."
Landon graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Business Administration and a concentration in finance from DeVry University in Atlanta. In the same town, she received a MBA with a concentration in Finance from Keller Graduate School of Management. At Miami Law, she was honored with a Dean's Scholarship and made the Dean's List. She took part in the John T. Gaubatz 1L Moot Court Competition, and received the Dean's Certificate of Achievement in Legal Research and Writing. She was the treasurer of the Black Law Students Association and Articles and Comments Editor of the University of Miami Law Review.
As if that were not enough, Landon worked in the Tenants' Rights and Federal Appellate clinics and on the Historic Black Church Program, helping to gather the history Coconut Grove. Landon received the Public Interest Exemplary Service Award from the law school's HOPE Public Interest Resource Center for her work in the Grove church program, as did two other students, Erica Gooden and Erika Kane. (Three additional students – Margaret Kelsey, Gracia Guzzi and Daniel Goggin – received the Public Interest Exemplary Service Award for their work in other endeavors.)
Landon interned for this spring's Commencement speaker, Judge Adalberto José Jordán, JD '87, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, and worked in the Office of Civil Rights and Liberties at the Department of Homeland Security.
In spite of that burdensome schedule, she is graduating in the top 2 percent of her class.
Landon has all the charm of a Southerner but the determined grit of a New Yorker, and her contagious laugh bubbles up from deep inside. It should surprise no one that she will be relocating to Washington D.C. this fall to work as an associate at Arnold & Porter, founded in 1946 and well known for its trial, corporate and anti-trust work.
"Quinshawna is, without a doubt, the most natural student and most generous in terms of her relationship with her student colleagues," said Professor Charlton Copeland. "She is confident and smart without every appearing as if she knows all the answers. She is one of the best I've seen here at Miami and anywhere I've been. I can't wait to read about her. She is going to be a fantastic lawyer."
Sadly, Landon's grandmother, who passed away in 2008, will not see her granddaughter graduate. "She will be there in spirit," Landon said.
But Lizzie Mae Landon did make it for an earlier highlight of her granddaughter's life – the day she sang for the mayor of New York, David Dinkins.