Financial & Career Advice From a Public Defender (2 Min)

By By Nina Erixxon (Agnes Irwin) PA - Imani Majied (The Hotchkiss School) CT - Marisa Robinson (Achievement First Charter) NY

During NexGenVest's Fall 2014 Global Business Leaders Summit, we had the opportunity to speak with professionals in a range of fields.  We spoke with Anita Aboagye-Agyemam, New York City Public Defender:

Can you walk me through what your job actually entails? What do you do everyday?  

Currently I'm at "The Office of the Public Defender" but I will soon be going to Legal Aid Society. Legal Aid society is the largest provider of legal services for those who cannot afford a lawyer. I spend a lot of time writing formal briefs - I argue cases before a panel of five judges and if the decision is affirmed, it can be appealed to the supreme court. I have phone meetings with my clients and sometimes I visit my clients in prison.

What do you like most about your job?

The clients. Clients are the most interesting part of my day. A lot of my clients have done really bad things but I don't consider them bad people. My clients are a very big part of my job and I thinks all of them have something to offer.

What is one challenge of your job?

The appeals process. Doing appeals can be challenging because we don't win a lot. It's a good kind of challenge, though, because it forces you to be creative. I appreciate the challenges of not winning a lot because it only makes you work harder. The other challenge, is that sometimes my clients underestimate my capabilities because of my age and the fact that I'm a woman.

What is one thing you would have done differently financially in college and why?

I was raised in Ghana, Africa and then moved to live with my parents in the U.S. when I was 15. I attended Vanderbilt and definitely would have saved 'pocket money' more and actually tracked my spending.

What was the starting salary of your first job? Did you think about living expenses where you lived?

The starting salary of my first job after law school was $32,000 working in Public Relations. It was not a lot of money, especially for New York City where apartment rent for one person was anywhere from $800 to $1,800 a month depending on location and size. It was very difficult in terms of budgeting.

What financial habits do you wished you had developed in college?

I wish I had learned to budget better or budget at all. I learned it later on but it would have really helped me had I learned it earlier.

What are some pieces of financial or career advice for students?

1. Make a budget.2. Save a little every day by using a bank app to deposit money. 3. Try to get as much free or discounted stuff as you can.4. Invest, even a little to begin with so you can get a sense of it.

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