Law is a curious thing. It’s intimidating in the way that it controls society, but with around 20,000 laws surrounding just the use and ownership of guns, it is also is very difficult to understand for the average American. However, lawyers are the few people who understand the depths of it and help others understand it.
One of our very own staff members was one such person. A civil lawyer turned teacher, Ms. Amy Hairston is determined to inspire others with her experiences and knowledge.
“This was the perfect way to get to teach all the time and to work with high school students, which I enjoy, and still have that link to the law and share that which I’m passionate about,” Hairston said.
The profession of a lawyer is often times associated with people going to jail with horrendous crimes being committed and other dramatic scenarios. In reality, this is not always the case. Although there are some lawyers who may deal with that, Civil Law is not directly associated with it. Rather, it deals with companies actions and private relations.
“The type of civil law that I practiced was mostly labor and employment law,” she explained. “I represented employers and helped them comply with labor and employment laws.”
Hairston worked at several firms over the course of her lawyer career and one such firm had the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, as its client. OSHA would be the one to issue citations to the companies who were not complying with the law. If the employers did not accept it, it would go into litigation, which is when the lawyer would step in.
“There was a refinery in Oklahoma that had explosions and some repeat fatalities. It was a dangerous, dangerous place to work. They kept getting OSHA citations and then we finally had some settlement conferences where we had them come in, bring in some experts to make their place safer,” she said in detail. “We agreed that they would have an expert come in, do a complete evaluation address all the problems and make it a [safer place to work]. We didn’t see them again. It was great whenever we were able to work it out and not go to trial but to work it out in a way that improved conditions for employees.”
With a background of mediation training, Hairston hopes that the listening and organizational skills she obtained from there, along with her time spent as a lawyer, will aid her in the classroom. She wants to make a point of truly listening to what each and every student has to say and also not over complicating the explanation of content.
“As an attorney, a lot of what we did was teaching our clients and helping them understand cases and also opposing side; helping [to] make complicated issues simple,” she said. “I think that those kinds of skills will help in the classroom. Sort of simplify more complicated concepts.”
Her main aspiration for this year is to make sure her students have a great learning experience and not only gain some useful content, but to also have fun.
“I would say my first goal is that the students have a good year that they learn something and that they enjoy coming to class [along with] some knowledge of the law, developing some friendships in the class, that they have a positive experience at the end of the year and some enthusiasm for a career,” Hairston said.