ACBA Member Spotlight - Nedra Shawler

Nedra Shawler, a native of California, returned to the Bay Area after receiving her Juris Doctorate from Georgia State University College of Law. She currently works as a Deputy County Counsel in the Alameda County Office of County Counsel. She currently represents the Alameda County Social Services Agency in child abuse and neglect cases. Prior to working with the Office of County Counsel, she was a dependency attorney with the Alameda County Public Defender’s Office. She has litigated civil matters in both the public and private sector.

Since moving back to the Bay Area, Ms. Shawler has been actively involved in the legal community in both Alameda County and San Francisco County. She is currently on the Board of Directors for the Alameda County Bar Association, a member of the Women Lawyers of Alameda County, a member, past president and current Historian of the Charles Houston Bar Association, and a member of the California Association of Black Lawyers.

She is actively involved with Alameda County Bar Association and has served as Co-Chair of the East Bay Diversity Bar Coalition.

Ms. Shawler resides in Oakland with her son, Richard Sterling.

When did you know you wanted to be a lawyer?
I knew I wanted to be an attorney when I was eleven years old. Although I had no lawyers in my family and had not really been exposed to attorneys, I was mesmerized when I saw a criminal defense attorney while on an elementary school field trip. From that moment onward no one could tell me I would not be a lawyer.

If you hadn’t become a lawyer, what would you be doing instead?
If I were not a lawyer I would be a child advocate of some sort. Ensuring the rights of children and ensuring that they have a voice is my passion and my motivation.

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were first admitted to practice?
In order to be the best attorney for your client, you must remember that your client (even those under 18) is not your friend. They need you and hired you to be an attorney, to provide sound legal advice at all times. That was hard to remember when I was first representing youth.

What is the biggest challenge facing you as a lawyer today?
My biggest challenge is life/work balance. I am very committed to community service, giving back. I am also very committed to my son – he is my very essence. Balancing him, work, and my belief in giving back can sometimes be very demanding.

What’s your favorite part of being a lawyer?
Providing sound legal and practical advice. I love it when my clients can get what they want.

What is your dream vacation?
Backpacking in Kauai.

What are you reading right now?
I am reading To Kill A Mocking Bird with my son; it’s his current English reading assignment. It leads to interesting discussions about right and wrong, racial issues and tensions and social injustice.
I’m also reading the very last part of Blood Colony by Tanananarive Due, which is the sequel to My Soul to Keep and The Living Blood. The story line of this series of books is about an ancient group of immortals, who are a hidden African group that has survived for more than a thousand years.

What’s one thing people might be surprised to learn about you?
Depends on who you ask, there are a four things most people would be surprised to know. The first surprising fact is I’m a “dancer” (at least in my world). Secondly, some might be surprised to know that I’m actually funny, and somewhat silly – well again, at least in my mind. Thirdly, some might be surprised to know that I want to complete the Iron Man Triathlon in respectable time, when I join the Fabulous Fifty Club. And finally, some might be surprised to know that my heart cries when I see so many children being abandoned and left without anyone to love and care for them. That’s harder for me to accept than seeing children physically abused. I cannot wrap my brain around how someone can just leave and walk away from a beautiful child.

What person, living or dead, real or fictional, would you like to have dinner with?
Dr. Maya Angelou. She had a difficult life, being a single mother. But, she made decisions that were right for her and her son at the time. She has no known regrets – at least I don’t know of any. But I would like to know how she navigated her passion for the arts with her love for her son.

Why do you choose to be a member of the ACBA? What is the greatest benefit you have enjoyed as a member?
Have you ever had to practice all by yourself? I imagine it being difficult, very difficult.  Being a member of ACBA means I NEVER have to be an attorney all by myself.  I have so many colleagues and mentors, friends and a wonderful support system. And, that is because of the opportunities provided to me from the ACBA. I have grown as an attorney and leader from my membership with the ACBA. And, for that I encourage others to join and become involved.


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