One law school course can alter your career trajectory. Just ask Guerby Noel, JD ’14.
Guerby Noel, JD '14
When Noel entered Miami Law, he didn’t know he would dedicate his career to fighting to protect the rights of low-income individuals in Miami. Initially intending to focus on business law, his path was permanently changed after participating as a 2L in the Tenants’ Rights Clinic through Legal Services of Greater Miami Inc.
“Working in legal services was everything I hoped for in law school,” said Noel. “I saw that I was able to make a change for individuals.” Connecting directly with people and seeing the impact of his work in his clients’ lives spoke to Noel, and he knew he had found his path. Now a Staff Attorney at LSGMI, Noel focuses his work on tenants’ rights, bankruptcy, and small claims matters.
Born in the Bahamas, Noel moved to Miami when he was two years old. While attending William H. Turner Technical Arts High School, he participated in the public service academy, which focused on criminal justice. He enjoyed learning about the law as a tool for public service and began his undergraduate studies at FSU as a criminology major. After excelling in a business case competition, he shifted his focus to finance and real estate with a minor in economics. As graduation neared, the business and finance path as a career did not excite him. He recalled his passion for the law that he developed in high school and decided to pursue a law degree. As Noel knew he wanted to stay in Miami after graduation, his decision to attend, Miami Law was easy.
Once at Miami Law, he quickly became an engaged member of the community. As a member of the Society of Bar & Gavel, he took part in many service opportunities, and he greatly enjoyed the time he spent volunteering to tutor youth through Empowered Youth. Through this program, Noel assisted youth who came to campus on Saturdays with math, writing and studying for the SAT or ACT. Noel also served as the Managing Editor of the Race and Social Justice Law Review and as a Student Ambassador.
He spent the summer after his 1L year working as a judicial intern and, then, after his experience with the Tenants’ Rights Clinic as a 2L, he continued to work as an intern at LSGMI throughout his 2L year. He was awarded the HT Smith Fellowship through LSGMI that allowed him to stay on through his 3L year and he was offered a job there after graduation.
Currently, Noel continues the work he first started to pursue as a 2L, representing tenants and fighting to preserve affordable housing in Miami. For example, he recently represented a number of tenants who lived in a condemned building in Coconut Grove. He worked to prevent their evictions and pursued affirmative claims against the landlord. His clients paid a monthly rent of approximately $400 and were unable to find other affordable living options in the area.
Due to Noel’s advocacy, a majority of the residents have been accepted into a public housing program, where they will be paying rent based on their income and all have moved into more affordable housing. “Unfortunately I see similar situations like this happening all over in Miami. Families are being displaced, and LSGMI keeps stepping in to help in the hopes of putting tenants in the best position possible,” said Noel.
Noel also co-directs the Small Claims Court Clinic where he oversees clinics held twice a month. He trains and supervises volunteer lawyers from around the city to advise individuals who have claims seeking $5,000 or less. Serving approximately 25 individuals per night, his work with volunteers provides an invaluable resource for individuals who would otherwise not have access to legal advice.
For law students interested in going into direct legal services, Noel suggests that they take a similar path as he did-- “the best way to showcase your skills is to go in early as a law clerk. Social justice and public interest always need help, so go out and volunteer,” he said.