Arnedia Wallace, SULC

[Editor’s note: The IFLP archives include several student profiles that document the impact of the program on students’ lives.  With the students’ permission, the IFLP leadership team wanted to share these with a broader audience. Regarding Arnedia Wallace, after three weeks at the IFLP Bootcamp at Colorado Law in the spring of 2019, she went on to a 7-month field placement in Cisco’s legal department, where she earned glowing reviews. wdh.]

For Arnedia Wallace, life has been a series of defining moments—some difficult, others spectacular—that have helped her find her career path.

One of six children, Arnedia  grew up in a small village in Louisiana with about 150 residents.

“We didn’t have a lot of money, so my mother would tell us we had to do well in school,” she said. “I brought home straight As in sixth grade, and she said, ‘Now I know that if you’re working your hardest you can do this.’ And that became the standard for me.”

From Basketball Star to Mentor

Arnedia continued to excel at school—and on the basketball court. During a high school game, she collapsed and had to be  taken away by ambulance. A diagnosis of exercise-induced asthma ended her athletic career.

“It was devastating for me,” she said. “I thought basketball would be a mechanism to pay for college.”

Her mother encouraged her to find other ways to succeed. With her newfound spare time, Arnedia began mentoring younger girls in her church community.

“I found it fulfilling,” she said. “That’s when I knew I wanted to go to law school.”

She graduated first in her class as an undergraduate at Southern University and A&M College, an 1890 land-grant institution in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She then returned for law school at the Southern University Law Center, one of six law schools at a Historically Black College and University (HBCU). At the end of her first semester as a 1L, however, Arnedia was disappointed to find herself in the middle of the class grade-wise.

“I thought I wouldn’t get a job because I equated rank with success,” she said.

But a phenomenal experience as an intern at the Special Olympics turned her thinking around. She worked on a diversity and inclusion handbook that was ultimately distributed nationally. The success of the project helped banish her insecurities.

“I learned that it’s me who defines me, not my rank,” she said.

IFLP: A Not-To-Be-Missed Opportunity

During her second year of law school, a professor encouraged Arnedia to apply to the Institute for the Future of Law Practice (IFLP).

“I saw the opportunities IFLP offered,” she said. “You’re telling me I could be in a pool of individuals who will be exposed to firms and companies of this magnitude? There’s no way I could pass it up.”

Attending the 3-week IFLP Boot Camp and Internship Program in Boulder during the summer of 2019 surpassed her expectations.

“IFLP gave me exposure to technology,” she said. “I didn’t even know that I needed to know these things; now I’m on the cusp of something just breaking in the legal industry. Without IFLP, I wouldn’t have understood that technology is the bridge to legal access.”

When she found out Cisco was interested in offering her a 7-month internship immediately following the boot camp, she postponed her law school graduation to take advantage of the experience.

A Broader View of Law and New Skill Sets

“I was so emotional at the end of the boot camp because I was so thankful for IFLP,” she said. “IFLP really sees law students as individuals, as whole persons and as professionals. They provide opportunities to students that otherwise wouldn’t have them. IFLP is so intentional about seeing what students are capable of doing and molding them to do better.”

Working at Cisco was also a stellar experience and one that inspired her career trajectory.

“I couldn’t believe what an innovative, agile environment it was,” she said. “It was a very diverse environment that taught me cultural awareness and gave me the opportunity to try new things. The attorneys at Cisco also helped me find the area of law I want to practice in and put a name to my passion, which is diversity and inclusion.”

Arnedia hopes to work in employment law after graduating with a JD and a master’s in public administration in May 2020. But she knows her opportunities are limitless.

“Before IFLP, I had a very limited view of what I could do with a law degree. I thought working for a law firm was the only option,” she said. “I didn’t understand how I could leverage my degree and work in say, legal operations. I didn’t even know that was a thing. Now I’m even interviewing for some tech-based companies, which I’m more confident applying for because of my IFLP training in data analytics and Lean Six Sigma. I’m definitely leveraging the skills I gained in the boot camp.”

“Both IFLP and Cisco were phenomenal experiences,” she added. “IFLP doesn’t just help students get hired, they help students excel professionally.”