twenTY someone: Jahaan Shaheed

Hometown: Atlanta, GA

College:  Howard University

Law School:  Georgetown University

Age: 25

Occupation: Third year law student. I’m currently in my last year of law school and working as a student attorney for seven juvenile clients involved with delinquency issues in DC Superior Court. Their charges range from aggravated assault to sexual assault.

1. Describe your job in three words. Unpredictable. Frustrating. Rewarding.

2. Tell me about your experience at Howard and what is the biggest difference between Howard and Georgetown? I loved my experience at Howard. I think it was critical in my development as a person and particularly as an African-American woman. There is nothing like an experience at an HBCU in terms of the lifetime relationships I have built with friends and professors. Howard gave me an opportunity to really be nurtured by faculty and engage in experiences that I might not otherwise have—from study abroad in South Africa and Egypt to winning first place for my senior thesis. I truly believe going to Howard was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

HBCUs are special places in terms of the population of individuals who attend the school and all of the sub-cultural elements that exist within that environment. Georgetown Law is similar in that there is a very unique population (crazy is a requirement for law school admission) and cultural aspects that are unique to law school. One of the biggest differences is the workload. There’s a steep learning curve during the first year of law school. Other than the workload, I would say I definitely had a tough adjustment to hearing some of my Georgetown classmates’ insights on minorities and poverty-stricken individuals.

3. You knew you wanted to be in law school because…I had nothing else to do.  I kid, but I wanted to be in law school because I wanted to challenge myself.  I sincerely believe that there is a value in understanding the law, and there is power in being able to use the law to shape the course of people’s lives.

4. What are you passionate about? I’m passionate about socio-economic and racial justice, particularly race and poverty’s effect on individuals involved in the criminal justice system. I love working with youth.  Writing.  I recently started a writers’ collective, and members of the group share and edit each other’s work.  I also love live music and a good beer. I plan to start brewing soon.

5. What was it like growing up in Atlanta? I loved growing up in Atlanta, and since I’ve been in DC, I really value the type of upbringing I had as far as schools and even the physical space to just be a kid.  I especially loved going to The Children’s School, and I loved growing up with my brother and sister.  I’m definitely proud to be southern.

6.Your brother was killed in 2005. How did it change your view of the world? Other than being the most difficult experience of my life, I think that Amaan’s death continues to teach me to appreciate the people in my life, to value time, and to choose to forgive.  He definitely was a person who lived each moment of his life as if it was his last, and I continue to use his philosophies in life to motivate myself.  In regards to my career, his death has allowed me to have a greater empathy with both victims and criminals.  My work in criminal defense has definitely been shaped by my family’s experience and working with criminal defendants has helped me to forgive the individuals that murdered Amaan.

7. Your grandmother always told you…Don’t take no wooden nickels.

8. You don’t understand this: Men.  And the rule against perpetuities.

9. Thoughts on love?  Love is beautiful, powerful stuff.  It’s definitely one of my aspirations to manifest love in everything that I do.  As far as romantic love, see the answer to my above question.

10.  In ten years you will be…a practicing lawyer, a published author, traveling often, married with three children, and owner of a golden retriever named Basquiat.

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