When Amanda Preston was a little girl growing up in Jamaica, her teachers called her a chatterbox. By the time she was fourteen, so many people had said she would make a good lawyer, she started plotting it into her lifetime trajectory.
"Jamaica doesn't have a well-developed TV or movie industry," she says, so where else does a loquacious, smart, and certain student go?
The 25-year-old chatterbox is giving the student address at the Miami Law Commencement on May 7th.
“My goal in my commencement speech to our class is to remind us of the countless, amazing opportunities that we had to get really involved during law school,” Preston says. “We were more than just students; we were also a community of fresh talent who got excited about scholarship, public interest, trials, arbitration, and mooting, as well as working with real clients as much as possible.”
Preston, an only child, grew up near the University of the West Indies in Kingston, where her father is a nuclear engineer and her mother a professor of modern languages. Cows wandering onto their property from a nearby pasture was an all too common occurrence and she would run around trying to shoo them back. Mongooses, too, were frequent visitors.
"I had a very laid back, easy going childhood," she says. "And I was looking to go somewhere completely different than where I had been. Sex in the City was my only point of reference, and I wanted to live in New York and be Carrie Bradshaw, or at least be near her shoes and wardrobe. I got into Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. not realizing it was the land of Uggs and North Face."
She wasn't completely disappointed with her proximity to Manhattan and graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Hofstra (her honors thesis was on the infamous Jamaican drug gang, the Shower Posse), and applied to law school.
Preston missed being near family and connecting with the West Indian community, so Miami was the obvious choice. She became a "halfback," someone who moves away from their roots, then comes halfway back.
She found her footing at Miami Law, earning a Dean's Scholarship, and another from Kozyack, Tropin & Throckmorton. She would rise to executive editor of the University of Miami Inter-American Law Review for the Fall issue, contributing an examination between Jamaican legislation and dance hall culture.
Preston honed her skills on the Charles C. Papy, Jr. Moot Court Board, and, not surprisingly, won Second Best Oralist at the 2015 Kaufman Moot Court Competition (and participated in other moots, including the St. John's University Securities Dispute Resolution Triathlon). She was a fellow in the Miami Law Investor Rights Clinic, interned at Legal Services of Greater Miami, and was Professor Jill Barton's research assistant.
But Preston found a home, and a calling, at Siegfried, Rivera, Hyman, Lerner, De La Torre, Mars & Sobel. She clerked there as a 3L and will begin working there as an associate practicing construction and condominium law after graduation.
“My three years at Miami Law taught me how to read, analyze, and argue the law,” she says. “But more importantly, it taught me how to be a professional, how to collaborate on legal projects, and how to be of service to others.”
Jamaica will always hold a place in her heart. She stays in touch with her island origins though family and friends in Miami’s Jamaican community. “I want to work with groups both on the island and in the diaspora to see opportunities for young entrepreneurs and professionals increase,” Preston says. “Even without cows in the yard, Miami is plenty interesting.”