DETROIT – Meet a woman who is holding her head high each and every day when she's faced with prejudice.
She’s a young black woman, and when many people find out what she does for a living, they’re pleasantly surprised.
Inside her Corktown office, a team of attorneys are fighting for you. Jehan Crump-Gibson and Ayanna Alcendor are the co-founders of Great Lakes Legal Group.
"Great Lakes Legal Group is a boutique legal firm offering services for clients throughout the state of Michigan, said Jehan. “We have offices in Detroit and Lathrup Village now. We provide services in the area of business and commercial, real estate, probate and estate planning, criminal, family, civil litigation."
And at just 35 years old, Crump-Gibson and Great Lakes Legal Group have won more than $20 million for their clients. But despite her law degree and many accolades, being a young black female attorney is not without its challenges, especially when she walks into court to represent a client.
“I get mistaken for the court reporter. I get mistaken for clients,” explained Crump-Gibson. “I have been asked ‘Is your attorney on the way?’ I’ve been on the record by a judge when my name is on the pleadings ‘Are you the lawyer?’ So there’s this belief that I can’t practice because of how I look. So we’re constantly dealing with people saying ‘Hey I actually did go to law school and earned my law degree and am a practicing attorney.’”
Now in her 11th year practicing law, these kind of challenges have made Crump-Gibson stronger. She’s paving the way for other black attorneys that will come after her.
"Now it just empowers me you know? At that point I'm gonna show you that not only do I deserve to be here but I can do a better job than you're doing," she said. "I just know that there's a need for folks to see more attorneys like us because these things are still happening."
Her position is one she takes seriously, not just in the courtroom. She spends time giving back.
“I mentor constantly and I’ve come in a room so many times and gotten the reaction ‘You’re a lawyer?’ and I say ‘Yes!’ 'I’ve never met a lawyer. I’ve only seen them on TV. It’s a lot,” Crump-Gibson laughed. “I feel blessed and beholden. I think it’s a huge responsibility. I think that there are so many others behind us, especially youth that need to see someone that looks like them excelling and doing well in life.”
For Crump-Gibson, Black History Month is what keeps her going. It’s what keeps her fighting not just for her clients but for any adversity and prejudice she might face in her field.
“It’s a time for reflection and it’s also a time for empowerment because if they did it with what they were facing, imagine what I can do,” said Crump-Gibson.
And one of the girls who Crump-Gibson mentors, not only had she never met a black female attorney before, Crump-Gibson invited her to the Barristers Ball, a fundraiser for the Wolverine Bar Association where she met other black lawyers and judges and could not stop crying. That girl goes to Mumford High School and has since committed to going to law school. Again, Crump-Gibson is just one half of the founders of Great Lakes Legal Group and they’re growing. They just added a new partner to the firm, Henri Harmon.
For more information on GLLG please visit their website: www.gr8lakeslegal.com.