Lerae Funderburg is the founder and managing partner of Funderburg Law, a boutique law firm focusing on business and entertainment transactions and intellectual property protection. She works almost exclusively with Black business owners, especially mothers, in helping them to create their businesses, protect their brands, and build their legacy.
What attracted you to the legal profession?
As a kid, I was always told I was smart and had the ability to argue both sides of a point without being emotionally attached to either side, so as I got older, I internalized that to mean I should be a lawyer. Growing up in Boston, I always knew the odds were stacked against us as people of color. So, I was determined to change that, the best way I knew how.
When did you first develop an interest in law and justice?
I had an uncle who was wrongfully convicted for the murder of a White store owner. He spent my entire life in prison and my mom used to take us to the prison to visit him almost every Saturday morning. My uncle was no stranger to the law, but he did not commit the offense for which he was charged. He was a victim of the “justice” system. I studied his case file for years. I majored in criminal justice in undergrad. I worked for the Fulton County Conflict Defender’s Office after graduating. I attended law school. I wanted to ensure other Black people didn’t become victims of the justice system. My first order of business was to free my uncle from prison. Sadly, he died my last year in law school and I never had the chance.
How well did your college or university prepare you for the legal profession?
I attended Clark Atlanta University for undergrad and Howard University School of Law for law school. I had a full five-year scholarship to Northeastern University and respectfully declined to attend a historically Black college. Attending an HBCU prepared me for the legal profession because our education at the HBCUs was tailored to the Black experience (the good, bad and the ugly), which was necessary for me to fully understand just how disadvantaged we are.
What advice would you offer a law student just beginning his or her career?
Find your own way. Don’t get caught up in what you think lawyers should look like, act like, be like. You’ve made it to the profession because you belong in it, regardless of what others may say. Be confident in who you are, be true to yourself, and you will inevitably do the most good.