Paulette Brown
Image: American Bar Association

The American Bar Association has named Paulette Brown as its new president, making her the first black female to hold the title.

Graduating from Howard University and Seton Hall University School of Law, Brown has been practicing law since 1976, and in her 38 years of work she makes it clear to the Afro-American newspaper that people still aren’t accustomed to seeing black women in positions of power.

“When I first started going to court and so forth,” said Brown. “I had the usual experiences. ‘Are you the defendant? Are you the court reporter? Are you the plaintiff? No? Well, then who are you then?’ It never occurred to them that I could be the lawyer.”

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Now, with the great responsibility of leading the 400,000 member ABA, Brown says that she wants to use the opportunity to inspire young people and let them know that holding a position like ABA president can also be in their future.

“They need to see that somebody up close and personal, that they can have a conversation with, that this is something that they can do,” said Brown. “That even if it had never occurred to them, because it had never occurred to me, that as time goes on, it can be done.”

Brown will serve as president-elect for one year before fully taking over the position in August 2015.

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