Moy Ogilvie, McCarter & English’s Diversity and Inclusion Chair and Partner in the Products Liability, Mass Torts and Consumer Class Actions Group, sits down with Stesha Emmanuel, incoming Litigation Attorney in McCarter & English’s Boston Office.
Moy Ogilvie: First, welcome to McCarter. Can you share some of the reasons that led you to choose McCarter & English?
Stesha Emmanuel: The Boston Office of McCarter is well-known for being very active in the legal community and many of its attorneys also serve in leadership roles for charitable and non-profit organizations. I think it’s one of the best ways to be involved in my life’s passions and raise my profile to potentially obtain business. I also liked the opportunity to be a part of a large firm that focuses on the Northeast region.
Moy Ogilvie: Stesha as a new attorney to the firm, can you provide some examples of your litigation experience?
Stesha Emmanuel: I primarily practiced Employment and Labor Law and general Commercial Litigation prior to joining McCarter. I second-chaired and cross-examined witnesses, conducted and defended depositions, argued dispositive motions and initiated many settlements that dealt with issues of employment discrimination. One of my favorite cases involved winning a motion to dismiss on the theory of anti-SLAPP. The plaintiff was attempting to bully my client, his ex-girlfriend, for cooperating with his employer and discussing her abuse prevention order against the plaintiff and other acts of domestic violence. The plaintiff, in “good faith”, turned around and sued my client in a multi-million dollar lawsuit. It was an interesting conundrum because she was petitioning a governmental agency on her behalf; however, the governmental agency just happened to be his employer. None of the prior cases had dealt with this particular issue so this forced me to be creative with some of my arguments.
Moy Ogilvie: Name someone who inspired you, and why?
Stesha Emmanuel: Beyond my parents, I must give credit to my former high school principal Charles Sposato. He was one of the first non-family members to invest in me and was overall an amazing individual. He studied to become a priest but then decided that education was his true calling. He was genuine and knew all of the students by name. He cared. He encouraged me to dream big and not to set limitations upon myself. When I goofed around in class, he would hear about it and give me a lecture. He mostly reminded me that as a leader, your actions are just as important as your words and that someone is always watching, even when you are unaware. I still carry his words of wisdom close to my heart.
Moy Ogilvie: What influenced you to become a lawyer?
Stesha Emmanuel: In the Haitian community, you mainly have two options. You either become a doctor or a lawyer. My dad decided that I would be a doctor but I liked the idea of arguing, pursuing justice and having an immediate impact too much. I guess you can say it started with my dad but overtime, I decided for myself that being a lawyer was important for me. I grew up in a majority-minority neighborhood in Boston. I did not know any black lawyers personally and wanted to change that. Our laws shape our society and it was important to me that the gatekeepers of those interpreting and enforcing the laws included people who understood diversity and all walks of life.
Moy Ogilvie: How do you spend your time giving back to the community?
Stesha Emmanuel: Lots of volunteering and mentoring. I just finished teaching a five-month Law & Government course geared towards high school students for the YMCA and volunteer with Big Brother, Big Sister. I also serve as a Board of Director and Chair of Community for the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association. I really enjoy organizing and executing programs within Boston.
Moy Ogilvie: Name a hard lesson you learned from and how it’s made you a better lawyer?
Stesha Emmanuel: Being organized is half the battle to becoming a great lawyer. I once missed a deadline to respond to discovery because I had recorded it in my calendar incorrectly, and this was not the case to do so. The partner had high expectations but more importantly, there was a motion-happy attorney on the other side. He did not hesitate to point out in open court that we missed the window to respond timely during a status conference. Thankfully, the judge was sympathetic and saw that I immediately remedied the problem once alerted to the issue. However, that was luck. Now, I triple-check dates when entering them into my calendar and try to complete and submit a project at least two days before the actual deadline.
Moy Ogilvie: When you take off your lawyer hat, what do you enjoy doing?
Stesha Emmanuel: I am a HUGE football fan!!! Go New England Patriots!!!! This is a big point of contention in my household as my partner is from Miami and he is a misguided Miami Dolphins fan. I also enjoy going to church, reading and dancing.
Moy Ogilvie: Name one unique fact about you?
Stesha Emmanuel: I taught dance (hip hop, contemporary/liturgical, salsa) and step from high school through law school. I also started two dance groups. I have not completely retired my dancing shoes and hope to become a Zumba instructor when I find time in my schedule.