Carla-Michelle’s Interview with Kimberly Miller

Ms. Kimberly Miller is a 2000 graduate of the Florida State University College of Law. She has a Bachelors of Science in Criminology and is in the process of obtaining Masters in Political Management at the George Washington University. Social Justice is Ms. Miller’s passion and politics is her vehicle for change. Currently, Ms. Miller is working on the campaign to reform the financial services arena with Americans for Financial Reform. It is a coalition of 200 consumer, labor and civil rights organizations who are pushing for the establishment of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency. This agency would serve as an advocate for the American people on financial matters like credit cards, mortgages, insurance products.

How did your education prepare you for your career?

My legal skills allow me to analytically look at any situation and be able to identify the positive and negative consequences without emotion. The law gives you a new set of eyes to look through. During Hurricane Katrina, I was working in insurance compliance for a national insurance carrier. Although my heart broke for the victims, I knew that many people had not read or did not understand their insurance policy. I understand that we as consumers sign and agree to contracts that we do not read.

What extracurricular activities did you participate in during your educational career that provided you with useful tools during your professional career?

I was always interested in social justice issues. I have an undergraduate degree in criminology. I was active in the Black Law Students Association, I worked in our school’s Child Advocacy Center and I tried to have fun in law school.

What initially attracted you to your chosen career path?

I tried a number of different traditional lawyer jobs, but I didn’t really like them. Shortly after law school, I responded to an ad for a temporary legal assistance. I didn’t know it at the time, I set up and managed the legal office for the Gore/Leiberman Recount committee. It was difficult work, but it was always interesting. From that experience, I knew that I would eventually find the work that I find interesting. Now I am working on a campaign to establish the Consumer Financial Products Agency. It is a place where my love of social justice and financial services come together to help people. I was prepared for this opportunity because I didn’t let my work in insurance keep me from social justice issues in my community.

After the initial attraction, and gaining employment in your field, what keeps you attracted to the work that you do?

I love it. I would do it for free. I once clerked a judge in West Palm Beach, FL, Judge Moses Baker… He said to find the thing that you love and the money will come. In the beginning, you don’t think the money will ever come, but once it arrives it limits the career risks that you will take. If you build your career (even if it is volunteer work) on something that you love, you will make the sacrifices to see it through.

What are three characteristics and/or personality traits that you would identify as essential in order to be successful in your profession?

Being organized, being prepared and being flexible. Politics is an exciting profession, but it has its uncertainty as well. I like the fact that I am not promised that after 20 years of employment, I will be given a gold watch and a pension. I worked on a number of exciting issues and campaigns in my career, but my love stems from giving a voice to those who cannot speak for themselves.

What personality traits or skill set do you have that make you exceptional at what you do?

Being a risk-taker. I don’t think many people are interested in taking the path that I have chosen. It is full of risks and sometimes people do not understand why I shy away from a traditional work environment. Some people enjoy stability and routine, I am not that person so politics is a better fit for me.

How do you enrich the profession that you are a part of?

I attend conferences on issues that are of interest to me, even if I have to pay for them without reimbursement. I want to know what is important to me and there will be times that it is not important to your employer. Business expenses are tax-deductible, invest in yourself and you will never regret your path.

What aspect of your employment is the most fulfilling?

The most fulfilling aspect is knowing that I can use my legal skills to help people. I work in a non- traditional legal area, but my love of politics has allowed me to help more people than I could have in a courtroom.

What ethical considerations are you confronted with regularly in your career?

In the political arena, your reputation is built on who and what type of issues you work on. Everyday there are scandals involving elected officials and organization and those actions will be imputed to you if you are an employee. If you find yourself in a situation that you feel is unethical, make your voice heard and if your opinion is not valued, make your way to the door. Your reputation is invaluable and it is hard to re-build it once it is shattered.

What is your personal mission within your chosen career path?

To whom is given, much is required. This simple saying keeps me grounded and I know that I am here to do the work of the who sent me. I believe that God has order my path and I followed his lead.

What are some obstacles that you have faced during your career development?

Mentorship is a big issue for African American Women Lawyers. I am different from other Women lawyers because I am not on a traditional legal path. To find mentoring relationship, I joined any organization where I thought I could gain something from. I joined legal groups, political groups, social justice groups, insurance groups, women groups because all of these organizations speak to a portion of who I am. I didn’t assume that any one person would be my “mentor.” Instead I accepted friendship wherever it was offered and nurtured those relationships.

What has been your greatest success in your career?

Helping to elect the first black president in America and working for him in my hometown has been one of my greatest joy. Registering people to vote and discussing disenfranchisement issues at someone’s front door is an experience that I will never forget. Sometimes people feel as if their elected officials don’t care about them and to stand as a representative for the highest office in land to hear the voter’s issues is the most important work.

What was your greatest disappointment during the development of your career?

I don’t believe in disappointment. I believe everything works together for the good of those that love the Lord. Every disappointment lead to another exciting opportunity so far.


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