January 17, 2013 Articles

Lessons in Leadership from the Civil Rights Movement

Paulette Brown offers leadership lessons for young lawyers inspired by civil rights issues.

By Rachel J. DuFault

Growing up in Baltimore in the 1950s and 1960s, Paulette Brown interacted daily with civil rights issues as a young African American student attending and being bused to segregated schools. But as a young girl, she did not know life to be any different at that time. “It did not occur to me that something was wrong with attending segregated schools because the teachers were so dedicated,” she recalled. Yet, Brown, now a partner in the New Jersey office of the international law firm of Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP, was inspired by her parents and grandmother to participate in and become involved with civil rights issues.

In 1963, Brown attended the March on Washington with her mother and grandmother. “My grandmother was so excited and involved with it,” she said. “It was something that brought all of us together.” Since then, Brown has been involved in numerous civil rights activities, including recently moderating the ABA Section of Litigation’s civil rights panel at the Section’s Fall Leadership Meeting. “I was always raised upon the maxim that 'to whom much is given, much is expected',” she said. “I try not to take myself too seriously. Whenever I am selected to receive an award, I am inspired to do more . . . to earn the award.”

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