In celebration of Black History Month, we will be sharing a series of blog posts highlighting our clients and staff from the African diaspora. We are honored to share the stories of these amazing individuals, whom we celebrate not just this month, but throughout the year.
Meet Angela Cook, Judicial Assistant at the Georgia Court of Appeals. Angela was born and raised in Staten Island, New York, but has lived in Atlanta, Georgia since 1992. Angela worked with Garvish Immigration Law Group as our Executive Administrative Assistant back in 2012. She was our first admin and was our sole support staff back then. We are very grateful to Angela for everything she has done for our firm. To us, she will always be a part of Garvish Immigration.
Prior to her legal career, Angela worked in the medical billing field. However, she quickly realized that she wanted to pursue a different profession. After much soul searching, many career assessments, and occupational outlook research, Angela decided she wanted to take a risk and pursue a career in the legal administrative field. She believed that there were so many options to explore in the field law and she wanted to gain experience in as many different fields to see what she liked best. Her long-term goal was to become an established legal administrative professional with experience in different areas of law. Angela always had an interest in law but did not necessarily want to become a lawyer. As a legal administrative assistant, she felt she could play a vital role in contributing to the practice of law, especially in civil matters.
My main obstacle was getting my foot in the door. In 2007, I didn’t have any formal education, or legal background. I was working at my first office job at the time and had recently learned to type! But finally, a door of opportunity opened for me, and I learned everything I could about the court system, and other legal tidbits to push my career ahead to where I am now. Every step was a building block – it taught me determination, perseverance, and focus, and also to learn from those around you, because that knowledge and wisdom will come in handy later!
After working with Garvish Immigration Law Group, Angela moved on to work with the State of Georgia Office of the Attorney General for almost six years. She is now a Judicial Assistant at the Georgia Court of Appeals. It was during her time at the State Attorney General’s office that Angela decided to go back to school to pursue her bachelor’s degree.
I started as a freshman at Georgia State University in 2019. I graduated high school in 1993. I always wanted to obtain my degree, but being a single mom, other priorities took precedence. Now with my daughter having graduated in 2017, I felt more comfortable to embark on my educational journey. I also had to decide which major I wanted, because I didn’t want to just fumble through school – it was important to me to come out the gate with a sure plan of execution and an end goal.
Angela has worked in various areas of law – commercial litigation, immigration, employment, appellate practice, etc.
I like learning! The law, how it is interpreted and applied, is interesting to me and always has been. It is personally rewarding to know that I contributed to winning a case for the client. In the case of immigration, it was all worthwhile when a client finally got their Permanent Resident status (“green card”), or even better, their citizenship. Right now, at my current position, I support the judge and staff attorneys in rendering their opinions on cases appealed from the lower courts. I’ve been on the filing side for litigation, and now I’m on the judicial side. It is fascinating to see how the system works from both sides!
I haven’t had the opportunity to mentor others in the traditional sense just yet, but I have been honored to train my successors at almost every position I departed from. I am still connected to many of those ladies today … and I have been fortunate, especially in my current position to have been trained and assisted by some of the best legal professionals around.
For Angela, Black History is an ongoing journey of progress, success, evolution, growth, expansion and impact in our local vicinity and the world. As an African-American woman, she hopes that she has inspired others along the way who may want to make a drastic career change, to take that leap of faith and go where the opportunities carry them.
I see my journey as a microcosm of Black History at large: overcoming what is now behind me, to obtain what is before me – prosperity, security, and a thriving career that has bloomed even greater than I imagined. Black History Month is a pause in our daily lives to recognize and applaud the contributions of our ancestors who paved the way for people like me to have the opportunities I have.
I was privileged to attend a service honoring Barbara Pace Hunt, Myra Payne Elliott, and Iris Mae Welch – three phenomenal women who fought and won their case in federal court in the 1960s to desegregate Georgia State University. If it wasn’t for their fortitude and tenacity, I wouldn’t be in school right now! Black History helps us see how far we’ve come, and how far we still need to go.
In addition to staying true to her goals and dreams, Angela is motivated by her family, especially her daughter and her mother.
Before my mother passed in 2003, she made me promise her that I would go to school and get my degree. When my daughter graduated (also) from Georgia State University in 2017, she said to me, “Mom, it’s time for you to go now, no more excuses….” So, besides my personal goals, dreams, and aspirations, I keep going for them, to honor them.
I want to encourage anyone reading this post to stop being afraid, wondering “what if”, or any of that other negative self-talk. The time is going to pass anyway, so you might as well accomplish some goals along the way. But I guarantee you, once you start moving forward, you won’t want to go back to what was familiar, but instead you’ll embrace the new future with both hands!
This monthly blog series on Black History Month is produced by our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee led by our Senior Attorney, Nadia Deans Kalata.
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