December 14, 2021
Donikah Brutus

Donikah Brutus ‘20 majored in English, minored in African American Anthropology, and earned a certificate in Professional Writing and Technical Communication (PWTC). She is now working at an immigration law firm as a paralegal and plans to attend law school in the future. 

What was your primary major at UMass? Did you have any additional majors, minors, or specializations? 

My primary major was English. I declared during the second half of my freshman year at UMass, and it was definitely a great decision. I had a minor in African American Anthropology, and I specialized in Professional Writing and Technical Communication through the English Department. 

When did you decide you wanted to pursue a career in law? 

It was honestly a pretty random decision; I make a lot of my life decisions on a whim. I really like the idea of changing someone’s life through academia, so at first I thought I wanted to be a teacher. I eventually changed my mind about that. I thought about what I wanted to do with an English degree, law came up, and I went with it. 

What area of law are you interested in? Why? 

I’m not one hundred percent certain about this yet. I’m currently in Immigration Law, but I’m also thinking about social justice or civil rights. Those are all part of who I am, and as of right now I’m leaning towards immigration law, but it might change. 

What do you plan to do with your law degree? 

I do want to become a lawyer. I don’t plan to practice law forever, because I can see how it can be draining to practice law every day. I plan to help people with immigration issues, because I know how it can be a tough place to be. I want to use my degree in a way that eases the immigration process for people. 

How did having a background in English help you and how do you use your English skills day to day? 

Well, you’re always reading something. English really taught me how to figure out what’s important in any given reading. When you need just one piece of information from a long, dense document, having strong reading skills is crucial. We also write a lot of letters, so having strong writing skills is a big plus as well. 

Did you have a favorite English class at UMass? 
I really enjoyed Caroline Yang's class, English 494RI: Race and Contemporary Arts. I really connected with a lot of the topics we studied. I also really enjoyed my English 382 PWTC capstone class. 

How are you preparing for the LSAT? Did you find that having strong English skills helped you there? 

For some parts of the LSAT, like the reading comprehension, having strong English skills is really helpful. Other parts rely on certain test-taking and logic skills. To practice, I’ve been dedicating a day to working on each section of the test, then I do them all together. It’s all about what works for you. 

Can you give me a brief overview of your day-to-day at work? 

I work from home, so I don’t have an office to go to. My day goes from about 9 to 5 every day. I check emails and go to meetings. If I’m putting together green card packages, I dedicate the whole day to doing that because it can be really time consuming. It’s a lot of prioritizing what needs to be done, and I figure that out by communicating with managers all day. 

I work with the schools team, where we reach out to schools to help their employees get their visas. I get information from them and then start creating packages for clients. 

Why did you choose Curran, Berger & Kludt law firm? 

I felt like this was the best choice for me, because they understood that I needed a remote position. They’ve been very accommodating and I appreciate the values they stand for as an immigration firm. I went through the immigration process by myself, so I wanted to work somewhere that could help me help others so they don’t have to go through it by themselves. I’m really happy that they’re accepting and respectful of who I am. 

What have you learned about yourself and about the professional world since you’ve left UMass? 

I’ve learned that I’m more patient than I realized. I’m a more reserved person, but talking to people every day and going to long meetings every day has taught me a lot about my communication skills.  

If you could talk to your senior year self, what would you say? 

Well, there were two different senior-year-selves for me. I have normal life senior year self and my COVID self. 

Prior to COVID, I would like to tell myself that, "it’s gonna be okay, yes you’ll find a job. You’ll find your people, and where you belong." As for my COVID self, I would say, “It’s not just two weeks...” 

Interview by Sarah Mulcahy, Digital Communications Intern