Joi Fairell

Joi Fairell

As a child, in my generation the “go to” answer when asked what you wanted to be when you grew up was always a doctor or a lawyer.  I had settled in my kid-like mind that I would be a doctor.  I never knew a doctor nor had I ever looked into what it took to be a doctor until I actually got to college.  It was then that I realized I wanted nothing to do with being a doctor, after all I hated math and the thought of blood was nauseating.  By the time I finished my freshman year at Georgia Southern University, I had changed my major from pre-medicine to undeclared.  I really did not know what to do. I had my mind set on doing something in broadcasting or journalism but the thought of that career did not move my soul.

As I started my sophomore year I was getting concerned that I did not have a plan for my life.  It was then that I sought out God’s guidance.  I decided that I would be silent until God ordered my steps for what was next.  The entire first semester went by and nothing sparked my soul.  One Saturday morning, I got a random phone call from a distant family friend.  We chatted very briefly but in that conversation he said something about me being called to be a Lawyer.  I remember turning my nose up to the thought of wanting to be what everyone wanted to be.  As a child that was expected but I was an adult now. I liked to be different, I was a born leader not a follower.

I prayed about this whole Lawyer revelation a few more weeks and God just kept confirming that this was it, this is what he was calling me to do.  I knew it was right and from God because I felt a big tingle in my heart.  I only had one really big problem.  I needed to find out how someone becomes a Lawyer! I had never even met a Lawyer. I literally started with a google search “how to become a lawyer.”

I took notes on what it took and it was going to take a lot! Especially from someone who needed to be applying to law school in less than 18 months.  I quickly learned that there were zero resources on my college campus for black students who wanted to be lawyers.  Instead of being defeated by a lack of resources, I set out to create a resource so that anyone like me would have a fighting chance to try to succeed.

I worked tirelessly to help start up the first undergraduate chapter of the Black Law Students Association, which was traditionally an organization for students already enrolled in law school.  I recruited members to join and it was my souls desire to guide them to their dreams.  I arranged law school tours, information sessions, test preparation seminars, you name it and I did it.  What I developed became a multi award winning organization that dozens and dozens of undergraduate institutions have followed.

While working diligently to help others reach their dream, I of course was on a fast track to my dreams.  I knew the statics of black women being accepted into top ranked law schools, the odds were low.  That did not stop me, I applied to my dream school. The University of Georgia School of Law, a tier 1 ranked institution.  I got in.  The day I got my acceptance letter, February 13, 2007 I was convinced that God had his favor on my life.  I had beat the odds.

The next struggle arose in law school.  It is one thing to get to law school but you have to survive, graduate and pass the bar exam too.  I did all that thanks to God’s grace by the age of 25.  I was such a young and eager lawyer, ready to make a difference in the world.  I was so excited. I had a job offer that I accepted with decent pay.  What could go wrong? Well, Everything.

I have always been a person with extremely high standards and expectations.  What most people consider above average, I consider below average.  Needless to say, I had major expectations on my first job.  When I arrived at my first day of work, my office was not even ready. I did not have a desk or a computer.  How was I supposed to work…didn’t they know I was starting today?  These thoughts crossed my mind over and over.  For several months, I used my personal computer and a tiny card table as a desk while waiting to get my office set up.  No big deal, I guess but if this is how staff was treated, how were the clients treated? I started meeting with prospective clients sitting in with my managing attorney.  I would take detailed notes.  The prospective client would hire the firm.  However, when they walked away the only work was done on their case was the effort exerted to take their check to the bank for deposit.

I would reference my notes, look over all the things that were promised and keep wondering when we would get started.  Over and over I would witness lies being told, I would see undue delay, I would see cases not being filed for weeks and sometimes months.  I would see the client calls constantly being ignored or avoided once the paralegal ran out of excuses to tell them about the status of their case. After all there wasn’t an update to give.  I certainly thought that malpractice was being committed but the more I looked into other firms I noticed that slow moving cases, ignoring clients and charging a bunch of money for poor treatment and service wasn’t malpractice, it was a common practice.  I did not know how much more I could take.

My life changing moment came after I had met with a client that came to see us for grandparent custody after her daughter had died.  The grandmother had raised the child for several years and the child’s father was not in his life and had never filed custody papers.  The grandmother had come to see us to file for official custody rights to make sure she never had to worry about the biological father coming to take the child away.  She had promised her daughter that she would always take care of the child.  She was given reassurance that she had done the right thing.  The father didn’t have any rights, he hadn’t been in the child’s life at all and we could beat him to the punch and easily to show the courts that he was non-existent in the life of the child.

That client walked out that day with a false confidence.  After she left her file got tossed in the “to do” pile and her check went to the bank.  For a period of four months she was lead to believe that progress was happening on her case, when really it was not even filed yet.  On November 4, 2011 the client stopped by the office in tears with custody papers she had been served with from the biological father.  He was pursuing sole custody and had been granted an emergency hearing to have the child handed over to him.  My heart broke that day.

On November 7, 2011 I submitted my notice of resignation.  I was no longer going to be part of something that I deemed subpar, unethical and inefficient.  This common practice of poor lawyering would not become instilled in me.  By this time I could feel God’s tug all over me.  He was calling me to more.  He was ordering me to birth The Fairell Firm, so I did.

My firm would be so different from all the other firms.  I would become the lawyer I wanted to be, the lawyer God called me to be.  I developed a firm that was founded on core values.  Service, knowledge, quality and results were the key development points.  No longer would my clients experience poor customer service.  Service was a number one priority, me and my team were dedicated to creating positive experiences for our clients by showing them empathy and respect.  We were dedicated to being the most knowledgeable in a court room.  We committed to staying on top of new and developing case law.  We ensured that all representation was quality representation and not just doing things the average way.  Lastly, we became focused on getting results and getting them quickly.  These principals have made all the difference in the world.  I am finally the lawyer I was called to be.

I no longer have to avoid client phone calls. I now have lasting relationships with clients.  Clients are never uninformed by what is happening in their case, I have software in place that creates a client portal for every client to be able to log in and see what is going on with their case.  There are no more of the tired, antiquated methods that most every other law firm lives by.  The Fairell Firm is changing the practice of law to a standard of excellence.