Black History Month Spotlight: Fiona Murphy

Black History Month Spotlight: Fiona Murphy

How do you celebrate or keep your heritage alive in your daily life?

I try to support Black-owned businesses both locally in San Diego and nationwide. By supporting these businesses, it helps to impact the community as a whole and opens them up to new opportunities! I am also a volunteer mentor at a local high school for their Black Student Alliance Club. I help them brainstorm ideas for fundraising and raising awareness within their school community of issues that impact Black students and people of color in general. I help to facilitate group discussions about topics and concerns that interest them or that are on their mind. During the group discussion, I share my experiences and insight and provide resources for them that might have helpful information. I try to share parts of my heritage with my friends and co-workers whenever possible. This includes sharing music and art created by Black artists. Since one of my goals this year is to read more, I have added a number of books to my list that were written by Black authors, and I have shared this list with friends who are looking for recommendations!


In what ways has your heritage positively guided your decision to pursue a career in the legal field?

I have always wanted to pursue a career in the legal field because I enjoy connecting with and advocating for people. After my clerkship, I realized the importance of having a diverse legal field. Diversity creates a better reflection of society as a whole, and it offers new perspectives and lived experiences. These new perspectives and insights help to promote equitable solutions to legal issues and challenges, especially ones that are unique to underrepresented communities that might have been overlooked or not considered. Moreover, I noticed that the shared identity between an attorney and client helped create a more trusting relationship, where clients felt comfortable communicating open and honestly because they felt validated, which allowed attorneys to better advocate for their client. Finally, I know that the lack of representation in the legal field can sometimes be a deterrent to Black teens and young adults that have an interest in law. It can seem like an unattainable dream when you don’t see people who look like you who are succeeding in that area. I hope that by joining the legal profession, actively working in the community, and expanding the network of Black attorneys, I can encourage people, especially young Black women, to pursue their dreams because they have an example of what is possible.


What Black mentors have inspired or influenced you and in what ways?

The first Black mentor that comes to mind is Dr. Carlton Floyd. He was one of my professors during my sophomore and junior years at the University of San Diego. Dr. Floyd taught us to self-reflect through the use of literature, music, and lively class discussions. It was the first time that I was asked to consider, understand, and think about how my upbringing, experiences, education, race, and heritage all played a part in making me who I am and how I perceive the world around me. Dr. Floyd not only inspired me to be a better student, but he inspired me to find my voice and identity as a woman of color. He mentored me as I became more confident in speaking my thoughts on sensitive subjects, especially ones that directly impacted the Black community, and in situations where others might attempt to discredit my opinion or experiences. When I became a teacher after graduating, I knew I wanted to take what I loved about Dr. Floyd’s class and implement it in my own class. I wanted my students to find their voices, share their backgrounds, experiences, and thoughts as they became more confident in the English language.

The second Black mentor that comes to mind, whether she knows it or not, is Tyson & Mendes Senior Counsel Mia Kelly. I first “met” Mia virtually in her role as chair of the Firm’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee when I was a law clerk. Mia is smart, kind, and confident. As Mia leads meetings, she has the natural ability to create a relaxed environment where everyone in the room feels heard and validated, which in turn encourages participation and engagement. When she notices someone trying to share or ask a question, she always makes sure to circle back and ask for their input, which is a small gesture that goes a long way to show people how much she values their input. As a law clerk, I was hesitant to speak up in a Zoom meeting but felt inspired by Mia to share some of my ideas. After that initial interaction, even though I was still nervous, I decide to get more involved. When I returned to law school and had the opportunity to lead meetings for the Black Law Student Association (BLSA) and small group class discussions, I tried to create a similar environment to the one Mia created in our Zoom meetings.  I wanted everyone to have a chance to share, even if they needed a little extra encouragement to feel comfortable. Mia exemplifies everything I hope to be as a woman, person of color, and an attorney.



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