Brett wants to help people. Here's why.
Brett Stokes Hammond is the grandson of the late and notable Congressman Louis Stokes. A Maryland native who took his talents to Cleveland, Ohio, is also a avid basketball fan and has a three month year old daughter.
As he navigates through the shoes of his grandfather as a Juvenile Court Magistrate, he loves working with and helping people.
Here’s more of what he has to say.
You went to college and law school. Tell me about that.
I am privileged to have attended Williams College and Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. By attending one of the nation's best colleges, I was fortunate to gain exposure to students who were among the nation's best and brightest.
I found myself surrounded by classmates who were incredibly driven and who have gone on to do some amazing work. I believe that one of the best ways to become successful is to surround yourself with successful people. By attending Williams, I elevated my peer group and found myself inspired by those very same peers.
At Washington University School of Law, I benefited from receiving mentoring with respect to my chosen profession. Specifically, my law school is known for having a strong trial advocacy program. By taking advantage of my law school's trial advocacy program and joining the school's trial team, I was well prepared for much of the work I was assigned as an assistant prosecuting attorney.
Louis Stokes, a fifteen-term congressman, representing Ohio’s 11th congressional district, was your grandfather. A man who touched many lives, including mine- what was it like growing up and seeing him committed to the work of a public servant?
My grandfather was an incredible public servant. However, what I think people should know about my grandfather is that he was an incredible public servant because he had such great character. He was easily one of the hardest working people I have ever met, he always kept his word, he cared for his family and his community, and he always acted out of love.
I was privileged to be surrounded by a person of his character when I was growing up. While not every person should aspire to be a Congressman, I believe that we all have the ability to develop character like him, and in turn, we all have the ability to become great in our own capacity.
What do you think are the best skills to have?
The ability to adapt and the ability to learn new things are probably the most important skills to have. I believe that the world is rapidly changing and many students who are presently in high school will someday have jobs that do not even exist yet.
For this reason, I think it's important to become the type of person who loves learning and is capable of learning what is needed to solve any problem. I believe the leaders of tomorrow will be people who are capable of quickly learning and then adapting their skill set to confront new problems.
Have you had any failures? What did you learn from them?
I have failed at many things so far, and I have no doubt that I will continue to fail. What's most important is that you learn from your failures so that you continue to become more skilled and become capable of overcoming problems and challenges that you could not solve in the past.
With that attitude in mind, there were many events that I would consider "failures" in the past, which now seem more likely temporary setbacks. As an example, I literally failed a geometry class back in middle school. I just wasn't ready to learn the material, and I needed more time to grow to be able to handle the class. In high school, I again had to take geometry and did much better the second time around. In college, I excelled in math and graduated as a math major.
By remaining persistent and learning from my mistakes, I was able to overcome something that was a big failure. Another example would be the first time I took the Law School Admissions Test ("LSAT"). The first time I took the test, I did not do well. However, by continuing to study the test material after my first attempt, I was able to significantly improve my score and get marks that allowed me to attend the law school where I eventually graduated.
When did you explore networking and building relationships?
Networking and building relationships are incredibly important. This is a skill that is worth developing even as early as high school. Many of the best opportunities I have enjoyed in my career have come through my network.
I am confident that my career and opportunities would be very different if I had not spent time developing a network. In addition, I would make two recommendations with respect to networking:
(1) Make sure to expand your network to include people who are ten to fifteen years ahead of you in your field of interest; and (2) Make sure to include in your network people who are ten to fifteen years behind you.
When you include people who are ahead of you, these individuals will help encourage you and also help you to see the road ahead in a way that you simply are not yet capable of doing. You also want to include people behind you so that you can be of service to those who you can assist - this will not only help those people behind you but it will keep you encouraged by reminding you how far you have come.
What do you most enjoy about the legal profession?
The best part of the legal profession is working with people. When lawyers get hired, it is often because someone has had the worst day of their life. Maybe a crime has been committed and someone is now a victim.
Perhaps someone did not honor an important contract and that dispute could not be worked out without lawyers getting involved. There could be a million reasons someone needs the assistance of lawyers. Regardless, it is your responsibility as a lawyer to work with the people involved to make sure the conflict is fairly and equitably resolved. The best part of being a lawyer is working with the people and providing the best assistance you can on what is likely someone's worst day.
You previously served as an Assistant County Prosecutor. Why should anyone be interested in pursuing this career?
Prosecutors have an important role. The role is to seek justice when crimes are committed. That's important work. I'm sure anyone can imagine a situation where their home or apartment is burglarized while they are sleeping and items have been stolen.
Almost anyone in that situation would be upset and rightly so. In that situation, a family was put in a position where each person could have been physically harmed. It's the prosecutor's job to make sure that each victim has their day in court and receives justice. Having said that, it's also important that the people who prosecute crimes do so in a fair and just manner.
If someone is charged with a crime, it's also the responsibility of the prosecutor to make sure that the defendant's constitutional rights are protected. A good prosecutor will seek justice but do so in a way that protects citizens' constitutional rights.
It's a role where we need smart people with good character. It's a role where you get to advocate on behalf of victims but still make sure that the constitutional rights of the community at large are protected. I believe that anyone should be interested in making sure that this important work is done well.
And what can young people do now to launch a successful career like yours?
The best thing young people can do to launch a successful career is to take advantage of every opportunity in front of them. I have been privileged to work as an assistant county prosecuting attorney, and now I am fortunate to work as a juvenile court magistrate.
It's often difficult to know how doing good work in school will have any impact on your future. However, I can say with absolute certainty that it was the skills that I started developing as a student that allows me to have the career that I now enjoy.
In order to do my job, I need to be a good writer, public speaker, and I need the critical thinking skills necessary to solve problems. These are all skills that I started developing as early as elementary school. I continued refining these skills by attending college, and further honed these same skills in law school.
My recommendation to young people is take advantage of every opportunity you get, including school. By doing that, you'll put yourself in a great position to have wonderful options throughout your entire life.
To learn more and or connect with Brett, reach out to him here.