Failure leads to success (and book) for Bama law grad

By Brittany Cruz-Fejeran

Neena Speer almost gave up on law school because she was floundering so badly. And who would have blamed her, given she was first-generation law school student and a minority who felt alone and guideless.

But that would have been an epic mistake, given what transpired after she made the call to stick it out.

Not only did she go on to graduate and start her own law firm, she penned a book about her experience at the University of Alabama School of Law called, “Dear Future Lawyer: An Intimate Survival Guide for the Minority Female Student.”

“I almost flunked out,” she told the Birmingham Times. “I went from honors student … to barely getting a 3.0 [grade point average]. … It just messed with my psyche. … Then I got out of law school, failed the bar, … [and] couldn’t find a job.”

She wrote her book as a way to cope with her struggles and as a guide for students entering law school. It tells students what to expect, and that its normal to feel confused sometimes.

“I wanted this book to be a reality check for people like me — people who had never been to law school, people who never had anyone in their immediate family go to law school, … [people who] don’t know what to expect,” she said.

Speer said she was told she was not doing enough despite her constant efforts to succeed.

“I was in every office of every teacher every week, asking [questions], doing my outline, skipping football games, going out maybe every once in a while, and I didn’t do enough? It put me in a place or a mindset I didn’t know how to recover from,” she told Birmingham Times.

So she started writing down her thoughts as a way to cope.

“It was just a ‘Dear Future 1L, [first year of law school], Note to Myself.’ That’s how [the process of writing the book] started,” she said.  

Chapters for her second and third years followed. Then she wrote a chapter about being a graduate. Next came a bar-exam-prep diary, which she wrote after she failed the bar on her first try.

Speer presents real-life scenarios on what law students will experience throughout their educational journey. After almost every paragraph in the first chapter she offers this advice: “Don’t worry.”

“It’s a book in which you can actually express [yourself] and hear from somebody without being interrupted,” she said. “It’s like a safe space for you to actually be uninterrupted with whatever happened in your life, your law school experiences, or your … truth without having somebody say, ‘Oh, wait, let me tell you about mine.’ This is a place where you can put down your innermost thoughts, just like I put down my innermost thoughts.”

Speer said she had little luck in finding a job after she finished law school.

“A mentor of mine sat me down as I was expressing all of these thoughts after coming up short of a job. She said, ‘Neena, I honestly see you starting your own firm. You have that spirit about you,’” Speer said in an interview with Roberta O. Roberts, Esq. of Grace for the Grind.

She opened Neena R. Speer Law Firm in April 2018 with that in mind. As she told the Times:

“By the time I got to January of this year, I was like, ‘I can do this!’ I felt so good that I could do it. … I just felt more confident.”


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