INTERVIEW: AMANDA R. WHITE, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL MARYLAND OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, MSDE DIVISION
Amanda White is originally from Louisville, Kentucky. She attended Georgetown College where she majored in Economics and Philosophy with a minor in English. While in college, Amanda developed an interest in social justice matters, which prompted her to join the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC), a faith-based service program, after graduation.
During her first year with JVC, Amanda moved to Syracuse, NY to work as the Program and Tutoring Coordinator at the Bishop Foery Foundation, co-running an afterschool program for elementary-aged students and a food pantry. In her second year, she relocated to Baltimore, MD to work with the Public Justice Center on litigation related to the health and sanitation conditions at the Baltimore City Detention Center and research on criminal sentencing for juveniles.
After completing her two years of service, Amanda moved to Boston to attend graduate school. She completed a joint Juris Doctor-Master of Public Health program between Northeastern University School of Law and Tufts University School of Medicine.
After graduation, Amanda relocated back to Baltimore where she practices as a barred attorney. She began her career working with Disability Rights Maryland (DRM), a civil rights legal organization. During her five years with DRM, Amanda was a member of the education team where she engaged in individual representation and systemic policy change focused on special education and school discipline matters.
Most recently, Amanda has taken a position as an Assistant Attorney General representing the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE). She is primarily assigned to MSDE’s Division of Early Intervention and Special Education Services, where she provides legal advice as needed by the client.
Describe a day in the life of an Assistant Attorney General, Maryland Office of the Attorney General, MSDE Division.
Serving as an Assistant Attorney General to a State agency, such as MSDE, is very similar to being in-house counsel for an organization. You handle a variety of legal issues and field random questions that come up in the course of your client’s business. Primarily my work takes place at my desk, where I am responding to emails and phone calls, researching law and policy, reviewing memorandums of understanding for legal sufficiency, and writing memos to my client. However, my job also entails meeting with my client, litigating, and giving presentations.
What initially attracted you to this field?
I did not graduate from college knowing that I wanted to be an attorney. However, I knew there were certain issues that I cared about, and I wanted to find a way to work on those issues as a part of my career. Before deciding to attend grad school, I thought about pursuing social work or teaching. I am glad I took time after undergrad to pursue a volunteer program because it gave me an opportunity to see if the law might align with my interests and skills. The law allows me to work on issues I care about and to use my strengths as a communicator – both orally and in writing. Ultimately, this career path has been a good fit with my personal desire to work in service of others. I started out doing that in the legal advocacy community on behalf of parents and students. Now, in my current role, I am in public service to the State, which impacts parents and students in a different but still important way.
What are some of the rewards and downsides of this area of law and the legal profession?
In my role as an attorney, there have been a number of benefits and drawbacks. The law allows people to do really important and interesting work. The law literally helps structure how we live our lives in community, so it is an amazing opportunity to be a part of developing and implementing the law. However, this is not without significant time and financial commitments. Law school can be an incredibly expensive undertaking, and depending on the path you take afterwards, the salary may not match the financial burden. This is especially true for non-profit legal services positions. There is also a lot of responsibility attenuated with the practice of law. Mistakes can result in huge losses for the client, and there is significant stress related to making sure that you are being as thoughtful and diligent as possible in serving you client – often in time sensitive circumstances.
Fortunately, there are any number of pathways one can take with a legal career, so there is flexibility in finding a legal environment that suits your personal needs. My job is a source of great pride, and I am motivated knowing that my work benefits my community.
Do you have any advice for an undergraduate interested in pursuing this body of law and the legal profession?
My advice to undergraduates is to take your time in deciding whether the law (or any career) is right for you. Given the upfront time and financial commitment related to law school, make sure before you go that this a degree you need and want. Also, don’t be afraid to network! Networking feels awkward for most people, but it gets easier with practice. Plus, the benefits cannot be understated. I have regularly used informational interviews to help me decide whether to go to grad school, what area of the law I wanted to pursue, and even what kind of jobs I wanted. I believe my networking and relationship-building skills are part of what landed me my last three positions. By and large, people in the field want to help you if they can. Good luck!
Amanda welcomes students to contact her with questions at Amanda.Rhea.White@gmail.com.Tags: 2020, February, Newsletter