Interview by Kelundra Smith
For Kinda Abdus-Saboor, a lecturer and externship supervisor in the College of Law, becoming an attorney was in her bloodline. Her father practiced criminal defense law in Atlanta most of her life, which is why she resisted the calling at first. But, when he was tapped to coach her high school mock trial team, and talked to her into joining, she loved the process of extrapolating an argument. As she explored the field more, she realized that the law could be used to help underserved communities. She went on to earn her bachelor’s and law degrees from Emory University and started a career in family law.
Four years ago, she joined the faculty in the College of Law, something she thought she would pursue much later in her career. She says that the tenacity of Georgia State Law students made it easy to say yes. Now, she teaches juvenile law and the externship seminar, where she coaches students through making the most of their professional experiences. Here, she shares what Georgia State Law is doing differently and what she’s most passionate about now.
What is a legal matter that you believe more people should be paying attention to?
I’m plugged into juvenile issues because I teach a survey course in juvenile law. I’ve been looking at how the juvenile court system works and how it is or isn’t effective. It’s something that should always be at the forefront, because it impacts youth which determines the future. I want us to think big picture about the programmatic approaches we have to rehabilitate delinquent children. A delinquent child is a product of their environment, so just treating the behavior does not ameliorate the other issues that cause them to act out. Currently, resources are limited, so it is difficult to treat the child holistically.
Is that your area of interest and research?
I am very interested in issues of juvenile justice and dependency, but I am also interested in cultural awareness in the context of lawyering, which I address in my externship seminar. The foundation of the externship seminar is the idea of professional identity development, aiding students as they navigate who they want to be as lawyers. Cultural awareness plays into that because human interaction and developing relationships is the essence of our profession. In my class, I implore students to understand that each of us possess a unique cultural identity, and each of our cultural identities has a limited perspective. Keeping that at the forefront can help you better navigate these situations.
I am thinking a lot about how to better integrate concepts of cultural awareness into the law school classroom. I am in a group put together by the Holloran Center with professors around the country where we are looking at how to integrate measurement tools and analysis methods for cultural competence in a law school setting. We want to measure students’ cultural awareness from the time they enter law school until they graduate. We’re also talking about how to integrate this kind of training for professors so that they can become more culturally aware. I’ve also done a training with lawyers on cultural awareness and the law.
You mentioned that the Externship Program at Georgia State Law, is focused on professional identity development. Can you talk more about that?
Yes, in the externship program, we see professional identity formation as an integral facet of professional learning. Utilizing self-reflection and hands-on exercises, students begin to assess and examine who they want to be as lawyers and how they’re going to get there. Forming our professional identity is typically something that we go through haphazardly. I often tell students that I remember graduating from law school and thinking, “now what?” The goal of the externship seminar is for students not to have that same feeling.
What advice would you give to students for them to make the most of their externship experiences?
If you are interested in something, even remotely, try it. Law school is the only time that you can explore all of these different areas of the law with seemingly low stakes. Making the most of something that you may never do again is extremely beneficial. Capitalize on developing relationships, because you’ll have one-on-one time with professionals that you may never have again until you’re already in the field. Often, students focus solely on the tactical skills, but relationships are just as important.