William & Mary’s Black Law Students Association held their first speaker series event on Wednesday, Oct. 3. Criminal Defense Attorney Adeola Ogunkeyede and W&M Law School’s new Dean of Student Services Laura Shepherd talked about their experiences working in the public sector.
Ogunkeyede and Shepherd spoke about their struggles with racism and sexism in the industry while working as lawyers and in academia. They also gave tips to the students for navigating law school and being involved in community service activities.
Shepherd recently joined the William & Mary Law faculty this semester. Prior to her appointment, she was the Associate Dean for Student Services and an adjunct faculty professor at North Carolina Central University. She also served as the Director of Academic Affairs at New York Law School and the Assistant Secretary to the New Jersey Board of Examiners.
Shepherd received her B.A. at Marymount College and her J.D. at Syracuse University. She originally entered law school to go into real estate law, but accepted a job as an Assistant District Attorney at the District Attorney of New York County after graduating.
“There were a lot of times when there was conflict, when I wondered ‘Am I really supposed to be here? Maybe I’m not supposed to be a prosecutor,’” she said. “But I felt like there was some reason why I was placed there… which was I was able to bring a perspective to some conversations that probably [wouldn’t have] been there.”
Ogunkeyede serves as the Legal Director for the Legal Aid Justice Center’s Civil Rights and Racial Justice Program. She also interned for the Honorable Carl Stewart of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and she was Director of Staff Development for The Bronx Defenders.
She received her B.A. from Duke University and her J.D. from Tulane University, where she was heavily involved in community outreach in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. For her efforts as a law student, she received the Crest Award for Service and Leadership and the General Maurice Hirsch Award.
Ogunkeyede was inspired by her father, a Nigerian immigrant and activist, to enter law school to challenge the status quo of her own country.
“There’s something about law school, legal education, entering into this sort of profession that is quite esteemed, quite privileged,” she explained. “It’s a rarefied space to be a lawyer.”
Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School in 1779 to train leaders for the new nation. Now in its third century, America's oldest law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.