Wed | Jun 7, 2023

‘Village lawyers’ finally called to the Bar

Published:Monday | January 31, 2022 | 12:07 AMOlivia Brown/Gleaner Writer
Zhara-Marie Henry (left) and Allyson Mitchell.
Zhara-Marie Henry (left) and Allyson Mitchell.
Zhara-Marie Henry (left) and Allyson Mitchell.
Zhara-Marie Henry (left) and Allyson Mitchell.

Two best friends have their hearts on becoming big influencers in the field of law.

Allyson Mitchell and Zhara-Marie Henry told The Gleaner that they are ecstatic that after years of being dubbed ‘village lawyers’ in school, their dreams finally morphed into reality when they were called to the Bar in December.

The freshly minted attorneys have both exhaled in relief after what they described as a turbulent journey through law school.

Henry, who admitted to having a hectic schedule due to her involvement in several extracurricular activities, lauded Mitchell for assisting her in meeting assignment deadlines and keeping her updated on happenings in school.

“Allyson knew everything. Sometimes I didn’t even know when school was starting ... having her was like having an anchor,” Henry said.

Even with the extra help, the 24-year-old said the journey to the Bar was no easy feat.

At the centre of that struggle were tuition fees of US$10,000 per year. Henry said they weren’t sure they could have crossed the finish line.

“So the fact that girl come from country, nuh have nuh parents weh name nutten big, etc ... . I’m just glad it’s over because it wasn’t an easy thing,” she added.

Emotionally, too, life has not been smooth sailing for Henry, whose father, a taxi operator, was murdered in 2009 by gunmen posing as passengers.

Describing her dad’s death as heartbreaking, she channelled her grief into grit.

“My mother made all of these sacrifices and I had to deliver, so that was a motivation; but even though it helped as a motivation, there were low moments,” she told The Gleaner.

“His death opened up such a big community of support that I wouldn’t have had if he were alive. My godparents basically said that I was now their child, and they opened up a system of support that I needed, and I’m grateful.”

Henry’s best friend, Mitchell, who will be maid of honour at her wedding, shared similar sentiments about their friendship.

“Our friendship has been like checks and balances – so where one falls short, the other one picks up, even if we have to work overtime to get both of us in order. But there’s not going to be a moment where Zhara is at 100 and I’m at 10,” Mitchell told The Gleaner.

Henry and Mitchell served together as head girl and deputy head girl, respectively, at Glenmuir High in Clarendon. The duo theorised that leadership roles throughout their school journeys helped in honing the craft needed for their careers.

“If it wasn’t me defending the class, it was Zhara ... and I seriously think teachers got tired of us. We were proper, proper village lawyers. I even got suspended for that,” Mitchell said, admitting that that disciplinary action propelled her to pursue a career in law.

Mitchell, who was the class speaker at the December 17 Bar-calling event, recalled her two years at Norman Manley Law School as the lowest points in her life.

But “sometimes rock bottom is a trampoline. It springs you up from the depths, back into the light,” she said.

Mitchell, an in-house counsel and general manager for a small group of companies, wants to hone her expertise in corporate and commercial law as well as snaring a consultancy in corporate governance. The 24-year-old also practises independently in the areas of commercial, real estate, probate, and family law.

Henry, a content creator and the author of the Christian-based book For My Father’s Eyes Only, is a legal intern and marketing manager for a California-based law firm.

Henry, who practises in the areas of real estate, probate, intellectual property, and family law, intends to sit the California Bar examination this year.