Adriene Holder, Attorney-in-Charge of the Civil Practice, was featured today in the New York Amsterdam News Black New Yorker column.
News > Black New Yorker
Providing justice for all
By CYRIL JOSH BARKER
Amsterdam News Staff
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Adrienne Holder serves as attorney in charge for the Legal Aid Society, heading up the civil practice division. The citywide, non-profit law firm provides legal services to low-income New Yorkers in the five boroughs.
A native of Sunnyvale, California, she proclaims herself as a “Valley girl,” having attened high school in the San Fernando Valley outside of Los Angeles. The only child in her family, she decided to embark on her journey to becoming an attorney by attending the historically Black all-female Spelman College in Atlanta where she majored in political science and minored in religion.
“I decided to go to Spelman because the idea of being in a HBCU [historically Black college and university] environment was uplifting,” she said. “Being a part of a special quality school gave me so much self-confidence.”
Upon earning her undergraduate degree, she decided to go to law school and was accepted into Columbia University. What was supposed to be a temporary stay in New York City to attend law school turned into a major life-changing move that she doesn’t regret.
She said, “I came to New York because Columbia had a great program, but New York really captured my heart.”
While at Columbia, Holder was interested in issues revolving around race and poverty and wanted to became a legal fighter for those who didn’t have the resources to fight the system.
In 1991, after her graduation from Columbia, Holder obtained a position at the Legal Aid Society. Over time, she was able to move up through the ranks and become one of the top three attorneys at the firm. She has been at the Legal Aid Society for almost 20 years.
“I really like to work,” she said. “It’s meaningful work, and I feel like I’m changing things by helping out low-income people. We as a society, and in New York, do better when the low-income community is doing better.”
At Legal Aid Holder, handles a wide rage of cases dealing with civil issues. She works with cases in 17 specialized units that range from housing to employment, immigration and family law.
“I’m making New York City a better place to live for middle-class and upper-class folks. We represent real people, and I have the greatest job in the world,” she said.
The Legal Aid Society also offers legal services in the areas of criminal and juvenile rights and has a pro bono program. The firm has fought cases in city, state and federal courts and has 25 offices in the five boroughs, handling 300,000 cases annually. Several cases the firm has handled have led to landmark court decisions.
Holder said, “Two-thirds of your life, you are asleep or working, and the other one-third is time for yourself. My father taught me that you need to do something with your life that you feel passionate about. I’m so drawn to this work, and it feeds my soul.”