Alum Profile: Building a Legal Career Inspired by Urban Geography and Pursuit of Social Justice

Submitted by Nell Gross on
Eddie Bayya

As a "self-described introvert," alum Eddie Bayya has navigated from the Department of Geography to a burgeoning career in the legal field. While pursuing a Paralegal Certificate at Highline College, Eddie currently works as an intern for the Law Office of Jenny Cochrane in Kirkland, WA, and a filing clerk with Cascade Guardianship Services in Everett, WA. Eddie notes that these roles allow them to "engage in geographical concepts and notions of gender as they work on different immigration and family law matters." In fact, Eddie notes, "[m]y concentration was in Cities, Citizenship, & Migration with a secondary focus in Gender, Women, & Sexuality Studies (GWSS)... [and] my background in urban geography and coursework addressing issues such as resource accessibility, social justice and systemic forms of oppression directly relate to the kinds of issues I see in my work." In this profile, Eddie shares deep insights into their professional pathway.

Steps in a Long-Term Career Plan

Jenny Cochrane is a general practitioner and she has knowledge on many different areas of the law; being exposed to so many different types of law has developed me into a well-rounded individual with a unique perspective and skillset. Being a file clerk with Cascade Guardianship Services has also given me great insight into the lives of those who are unable to properly care for themselves and a big part of why I am drawn to the law is my curiosity for these kinds of questions such as: 'What happens when someone that is incapacitated gets served with a lawsuit?' When I first started my paralegal program, immigration was one of the first areas of law that I developed an interest in. But as a result of my time with Jenny’s office and C.G.S., I’ve developed further interests in areas such as special needs discrimination and elder law.

A "Day in the Life"

A day-in-the-life [at the Law Office of Jenny Cochrane] consists of arriving at the office (or simply logging into
my laptop if I’m working remotely), checking my email, catching up on the messages in our Teams chat and from there I identify whether or not I have been tasked with something specific or by my own discretion have determined a priority item. Then I get to work! This is the part where experiences may vary: I might be making several different phone calls to different clients or parties, I might be working on our billing project for the day, I might be working on compiling the different Washington Counties Court Rules regarding filing a motion, or I might even be going to court with Jenny! It all depends!

A day at CGS is more typical, I can expect to organize paperwork and file it away accordingly. But even this office has its surprises, some of our clients die and their paperwork needs to be archived, we’ll get new clients that need their own files, and I might have the director yell at me (very politely and respectfully given the dire circumstances!) for the legal file of a client that I will call “Robbie Roadrunner” who absconded to Oklahoma to tend to his grandfather’s gravesite.

These jobs fit together in the sense that they both make good use of my attention to detail and they both make use of my knowledge of the legal field. They’re also their own separate things in the sense that my work with Jenny more directly applies my knowledge of legal concepts whereas my legal knowledge at CGS is a plus but ultimately isn’t necessary to perform the primary function which is to file paperwork by category (Medical, Legal, Bills, Correspondence) and by date. The responsibilities of these two positions overlap in the sense that it is extremely important for me to know where I can find a client’s information.

Pros and Cons of the Jobs

What I like the most about my position with the law firm is that just about every day is unique. What I like least are some of the more tedious aspects such as inputting billing data. What I like most about my position with C.G.S. is the opportunity to learn about the various aspects of our clients’ lives: their family history, medical history, legal history etc. What I like least is the tendency for the nature of the work to be repetitive as I sort through large volumes of paperwork.

The way I deal with the aspects I like the least is that I remind myself to focus on the fact that this work is indeed important and that I quite literally hold the interesting life stories of so many different people in my hands.

Concepts and Skills Connected to Geography

First and foremost, writing, writing, writing!!! Admittedly when I was writing papers for courses like GEOG 370 or GEOG 476, I would have thoughts like “When will I ever need to cite my sources in the real world?” As it would turn out in my case, all the time! For example, in order to find out whether or not a doctor has violated the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) for using cow bone instead of human bone in a grafting procedure, I have to cite cases that support/don’t support the facts of my case...

Research and concepts, such as scale and globalization, are big ones. When I was at Northwest Immigrant Rights Project completing my 24 community service volunteer hours, one of my tasks was to research the inhumane and misogynous conditions of Honduras for a client that was seeking asylum; this client had gone through unspeakable things and had escaped a beyond-abusive relationship with their former partner.

Many of the sources I used were academic in nature, the kind that I was used to searching for and using in my geography coursework. My supervising attorney had informed me that they had used some of my research in the form of trial exhibits that expressed support for our client’s petition for asylum, which was ultimately granted by the Immigration Court!

Experience of "Failure"

I could talk for hours about this subject but I’ll keep my answer briefer here. I once believed that my entire time at UW was filled with nothing but failure after failure after failure whether it was grades, social life, financial, being academically dismissed from the University TWICE, the list goes on. To this day I think that statement still holds up. What changed over the past 12 years or so (that’s an entire 4,383 days/105,192 hours) is my attitude and shifting from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.

A wise scholar once said: “The greatest teacher, failure is.”

It took a lot of focus, introspection and processing of my own life experiences but the moment where I became willing to learn from my failures, the moment where I stopped focusing on results so much in favor of focusing on processes, that was when everything changed for me. The process of changing one’s perspective is extremely difficult, arduous, strenuous, taxing, demanding, etc., and impossible to capture in the approximately 5-10 seconds that it takes for you to glance at this paragraph, but with every fiber of my existence I believe it is worth all the effort!

Importance of Networking

“Networking is just having conversations.”

The moment I began to process and consider that statement was when I began to conceptualize how I wanted to construct my own approach to networking. What kinds of people do I enjoy talking to? What do I want to know about them? What do I want them to know about me? Am I afraid that I won’t connect with the person that I’m talking to? Why? Am I afraid to speak? Why? Why do I take rejection so seriously? It’s such a horrible feeling all the time and I don’t want to continue to take rejection so roughly is there anything I can do to address that?

Asking myself these kinds of questions really prepared me for the reality that sure, you won’t always make that connection but there is fun to be had and things to be learned in the process of trying.

Key Advice

Please, please, please, do whatever it takes to avoid having your decision-making be guided by fear! Fear of failure, fear of rejection by peers/superiors, fear of not liking something, fear of wasting time, fear of not being good enough, etc. If you don’t know what ice cream you should buy, try 5-10 different flavors. If you don’t know if law is for you but it interests you, try talking to 5-10 different people that work in the law and go from there!

Also, not everyone is a lawyer, there are many different jobs that are in or relate to the legal field including legal assistant/paralegal, billing assistant, court administrator, court clerk, judicial assistant, probation officer, and the list goes on. Do what works for you and not necessarily what works for someone else. And if you don’t know what works for you, don’t be afraid to try out different things! Like 10 different flavors of ice cream! I like immigration law and entertainment law but I have nearly zero interest in debt collection law. Some of my favorite flavors of ice cream are Fudge Brownie, Rocky Road, and I prefer French Vanilla over Vanilla Bean.