Attorney at Law Magazine had the opportunity to speak with recent Western Michigan University Cooley Law School graduate and recipient of the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan Foundation scholarship Lanita Carter. Often described as a “woman on a mission” even before she began her law school career, Carter had already launched her own small real estate investment company. Her focus was to help Detroit families remain in their homes after being subject to tax foreclosure. Influenced by the economic disparities she witnessed daily she decided to pursue a law degree in order to better advocate for individuals subjected to social, economic and racial injustice.
AALM: Why law school at this juncture in your life?
LC: Since I was 10 years old, I wanted to be a lawyer. It was always my goal. I was delayed in the process but not deterred. I started out wanting to protect children from abusive situations and face racial injustices. While that is still a goal, my goal is to fight all of the systemic injustices that Black people face.
AALM: What is your prime motivation for the work you do?
LC: This work has always been my passion. I’m advocate. It’s what I do. Whether it is stopping a domestic violence situation, calling out injustice in the workplace or in school or speaking up for those who are unable to speak up for themselves because of the threats that come with it. I have a fire inside of me that keeps me going. I don’t back down from because it’s scary or the aftermath that comes with it. Everyone deserves to feel like they are not alone and whatever battle that are in and it keeps my motivated. If I can help one person, that’s all the motivation I need.
“I have a fire inside of me that keeps me going. I don’t back down from because it’s scary or the aftermath that comes with it.”
AALM: You are the recipient of this year’s Women Lawyers Association of Michigan Foundation scholarship. Can you tell us what this means to you and what potential impact it will have on your career and goals?
LC: To be honest, I was shocked when I received the letter. I screamed and I thanked God. It was a great feeling. I’m proud and honored to be one of the recipients of the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan Foundation. This scholarship has impacted me significantly. I’m answering questions for your wonderful magazine and it shows that you don’t have to accomplish all of goals by a certain age or before you start a family because you are a woman. You can have whatever you want if you are willing to work hard and don’t allow anyone or anything to stop. I’m thankful for the Women’s Lawyers Association of Michigan Foundation!
AALM: While attending Western Michigan University Cooley Law School you served as president of the Black Law Students Association. Can you tell us a bit about your experience with this group and any significant accomplishments?
LC: It was a great experience serving as the president of the Black Law Students Association. We host a “Navigating the Road to Federal Judicial Clerkships” event; Martin Luther King, Jr., event called “Living the Dream” where we discuss the past, the present, and the future of the legal profession as it pertain to Black and Brown people; we provide scholarships; and study hall. We were able to bring so many different opportunities that would help the student be successful in law school. But the most significant accomplishment from being a part of BLSA was that Black and Brown students had a safe place to talk without judgment. We were able to come together and discuss everything that we faced in our personal and professional lives.
AALM: You already have a successful career in real estate investment and continue to be an advocate for individuals who have been subject to economic, racial, and social injustice in the Metro Detroit area. How will your law degree impact this work?
LC: I wouldn’t say I had a successful career in real estate investments, but I set out to be more than landlord. It got to a point where it was no longer feasible for me and what I set out to do. Now that I have a law degree, I can advocate for people that are the subject of racial, economic, and social injustice. My plan is to reach as my people as I can become financially stable, that their families are secured if the bread winner losing their job or worst, die.
AALM: What is the most important lesson you learned from your parents?
LC: Always be prepared, treat others the way you want to be treated, and if you have a goal, don’t stop until you reach it. My mother made me belief that I could do anything and be anything. There were no limits.
AALM: Who is your hero?
LC: My mom. My mom is now an ancestor, but she will always be my hero. I feel her everywhere and in anything that I do. I always wanted to make her proud. She was a great mother who when to great lengths to make sure my sisters and I had every opportunity that was available to us.
AALM: What mentors have you had and how have they impacted your life?
LC: I have many mentors. Each mentor impacted my life in different ways. Isaac Robinson (ancestor) and Mr. William Pointer are the two that pushed me to continue my journey into law. Saul Green inspired me to use my voice when I witness any injustices. Linda Burton, she inspired to keep going despite having a young child and she reminded that this is to better my life and my daughter’s life. My Cooley law mentor, Professor Martha Moore, Shari Lesnick, and Alana Glass to name a few.
I had so many mentors, good and bad that has impacted my life in so many ways. I’m thankful for them all.
AALM: What keeps you going?
LC: My daughter keeps me going. She is the next generation and my job is to make she has the opportunity to follow any pathway that she chooses. Also, being a protector and advocate keeps me going. The mama bear syndrome is real! Its’s like a fire ignites and it keeps me going.
AALM: How do you balance so much — career, family, school and now who knows?
LC: I have to keep several calendars or things will explode. Also, the lack of sleep helps, but I knew that this moment in my life was temporarily and there was an end goal. Also, it’s important to have a good support system.
AALM: What are your immediate plans for the future?
LC: My goal is to secure a position with a public service organization or firm. I want to work!
AALM: What advice would you offer young people today, particularly young women and minorities?
LC: You are beautiful, powerful, and you are enough. Don’t limit yourself. Whatever you want to do, do it! This world may not be ready for you, but that world’s burden, not yours. Take up space and create your own table!
AALM: What are you most proud of personally and/or professionally?
I regret nothing.
LC: I’m proud of everything I have accomplished. I’m proud of the career path I chose, going back to school while taking care of a newborn, seeking out every opportunity that was available to me, and being able to advocate for others. I regret nothing. Everything I have been through personally and professionally, has made me into the person I am today. Every obstacle, hurdle, and person that tried to stop me has failed.