“Apply yourself. Give of yourself. And work really hard. That’s the difference between those who succeed and those who fail--it really is hard work. And when you’re a success make sure you tell that next young person, so that they can do it too.”
So says Alicia Wilson ‘07, who has been working hard since the age of 15 to realize her dream of becoming a lawyer. By the time she graduated magna cum laude from the University of Maryland Baltimore County, Wilson knew she wanted to join a law firm and use her legal skills to improve the lives of people in Baltimore, her home town.
The admission and scholarship offers from Howard, Georgetown, UC Berkeley and University of Baltimore law schools were attractive, but a visit to Maryland Carey Law proved decisive: “I came to Maryland and fell in love with the people … Being part of the Leadership Scholars program at Maryland was wildly attractive to me as well. To be in a cohort with other people who wanted to make a difference, who were leaders, had been leaders in their community, and who had the support in law school to really achieve their dreams--it was a no-brainer after weighing all the options.”
Wilson had outstanding experiences at Maryland Carey Law. She was a student in the Juvenile Law Clinic, a member of the National Trial Team, and was named to Order of the Barristers. At graduation, she also won awards for her outstanding leadership and her service to children and youth.
Early in her career, Wilson learned a powerful lesson about the value of leadership, speaking out and diversity, when she and a senior lawyer were part of a negotiating team representing a labor union. As she told Crain’s Baltimore, a business publication, she felt overwhelmed. “I was the youngest, I was the only African-American on the team, and I was the only woman on the team. My partner and I would meet outside of the negotiation room and I would bring up certain points, and he would say, ‘Why didn't you say that in the room?’”
That question helped Wilson grasp the importance of bringing different perspectives to a common problem. “That’s the value of diversity, and the value of having different viewpoints around the table — people see things with different perspectives,” she says.
After practicing labor law at Gordon Feinblatt for almost a decade, Wilson recently moved to Sagamore Development Corp, led by Kevin Plank, founder and CEO of UnderArmour, the Baltimore-based manufacturer of athletic apparel. Sagamore plans to revitalize the city’s Port Covington neighborhood with an ambitious mix of new office, entertainment, retail and residential development along more than two miles of waterfront property.
For Wilson, the move is a terrific opportunity to practice her legal skills in a new arena and expand the impact of her work. “I use the same skills in both jobs,” she says. “I still negotiate on a daily basis. I still do a lot of strategy. I bring to bear the legal limits of what can be done just as I did for clients when I was in a law firm. Now, I’m the client and I advise my company on legal matters. The way your mind has been trained to work as a lawyer is valuable in whatever sphere you find yourself.”
But the Port Covington project offers Wilson a special opportunity. “Throughout my life I’ve always wanted to make sure there was a change. At different points I’ve been able to make little changes. But now I get to be a part of something that I think is transformational change. If you have a choice between a little bit of change and transformational change, which one would you pick?”