Young attorney makes great on pledge to serve the bad – Jamaica Gleaner

4May 2021

Attorney-at-law Cecile Black, through her Northeastern Legal Help Society (NELAS), is guaranteeing that bad and vulnerable individuals in her native parish of Portland and surrounding areas can access justice, by offering them with high-quality legal representation.

The entity, established in 2020, offers subsidised legal services for criminal cases, family court matters, specifically those related to kids and custody concerns, and contracts.

“Our clients are appointed through the Kingston Legal Help Center or directly through our workplace where we perform a means-and-needs evaluation to determine the charges to be paid,” Black informed JIS News.

Targeted are individuals involved in criminal or civil matters, who remain in danger of having their civil liberties infringed upon or their claims go unheard since of their inability to pay.

The establishment of the society is the fulfilment of a pledge Black made to herself, to devote part of her life’s work to supplying legal-aid services to those who can not afford to pay regular costs for a legal representative.

The idea took flight when she dealt with cases coming out of the Kington Legal Aid Clinic at a time when she might not find employment as a practicing legal representative.

The society, Black said, is dedicated to ensuring that every individual is able to gain access to correct and cost effective representation.

She stated that it is her desire to help all her clients feel like they have “a million-dollar legal representative regardless of the financial hardships”.

“The signs utilized for the logo are the commonly known legal scales of justice with the inclusion of a sword to signify that the NELAS team members are legal warriors defending justice,” she mentioned.

The young attorney, in describing her journey in the legal profession, said she knew that she wished to be a lawyer from she was six years old.

“I was inspired by the judge on the tv show, Matlock, but my mom informed me that I would have to become a legal representative prior to becoming a judge. That is where I comprised my mind to practice law and I have actually never swayed from that desire. My eyes have actually constantly been on the prize despite problems,” she stated.

Black had her first ‘case’ in primary school, where she assisted to settle an event involving stolen money.

“An indigent student was mistakenly implicated of stealing another student’s lunch money. I advocated and asked the relevant questions to the point where the real criminal admitted,” she recalled.

Over the years, she has worked vigilantly in school in pursuit of her dream, attending the Titchfield High School and finishing in 2006, then moving on to the Brown’s Town Community College in St Ann, where she finished her Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations in 2008.

Black then used and was accepted to study law at The University of the West Indies (UWI), but might not take up the deal at the time, as her moms and dads had devoted all their financial resources to reconstructing the family home, which was destroyed by fire in 2005.

Without the funds to study law, Black decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in history, which she did from 2008 to 2011, after which she got in the Professors of Law, finishing the Bachelor of Laws degree in 2014.

“Soon after, I began my journey at the Norman Manley Law School and stayed for 2 years, where I ultimately passed the Bar to become an attorney-at-law,” Black said.

“The journey into the real world of practicing law and being an adult beyond school was a disrespectful awakening for me. I anticipated to be gainfully used shortly after being contacted us to the Bar, however my story was predestined to be riddled with some quantity of trials.”


Black said that she had a hard time to discover a job, keeping in mind that she was without an earnings for over a year.

However, she used the duration as an opportunity to being in some court sessions and discover by observing. She eventually crossed courses with attorney-at-law Jacqueline Asher, who took her on as an unpaid intern.

Their working relationship progressed and Black sat as 2nd chair on criminal cases and dealt with legal-aid matters that came to Asher’s company.

While she was getting real-world law experience, Black was still without a wage.

“It got to the point where I had no food in my cabinet and strolled to and from work. There was a period in which I needed to choose which energies to keep afloat and which to cut off,” she shared.

However, it was the lessons discovered at that time that led her to develop NELAS, as she saw at first hand the impact of individuals not having the ability to pay for legal representation.

“In getting ready for cases and comprehending my clients, it struck me that some people are greatly impacted by their scenario and, unfortunately, that may imply coming face to face with the law without assistance from good friends or family. I wanted to assist and I assured myself to devote part of my time to offering legal-aid support when I branched off on my own,” Black said.

Regardless of her personal battles, Black did her best on every matter and for every customer she represented, and soon, she had her first paying customer.

Black was designated the case, which was moved to Asher’s firm from another business, and the young legal representative handled to settle the matter within a week. The customer was so happy that he employed her on retainer.

“That was the minute my life and profession deviated for the better. I was able to pay my bills, stock my cupboards and be comfortable again. I even began to purchase stocks and sought life insurance,” she stated.

As her career took flight, Black never forgot her pledge to assist the less fortunate and soon began to create the strategy to establish NELAS.

“I drew up the entire structure of my workplace, the services to be used, the design and where it would be located. I had the plan in my head and I put everything on paper. Without any clue how to correctly finance it, I went on and took steps to formalise my idea. Before I knew it, NELAS was formed,” she said.

Black’s vision for NELAS, where she is chief executive officer and founder, is to open a workplace in all northeastern parishes of Jamaica, better making it possible for the entity’s capability to serve customers in that area. For now, she is the only legal representative, but she has a strong support personnel.

“Unfortunately, not everyone can afford to spend for correct representation, and their failure to pay need to not dictate what type of representation they have,” she contended, noting that innocent persons can end up in jail without correct legal representation.

Black is advising more legal representatives to take legal-aid cases. “Consider it as returning to your community and the country at large,” she said.Source: jamaica-gleaner. com

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