Who is Janelle Skeete?
In my eyes, just a regular girl :)
What does a typical day for Janelle look like?
I get up around 6:00 A.M., lounge in bed until I decide to commit to the day (lol). Once I am up it's usually a quick 20 - 30 prep for work and then rush out of the house (*covers face*) to work.
I work at Lex Caribbean, one of the top tier law firms in Barbados, in the Conveyancing & Property Development Department. In my Department we deal mainly with real estate and more specifically, property acquisitions i.e. the sale and purchase of local properties whether directly or through the acquisition of a property holding company. We also have very broad expertise in real estate financing and act on behalf of various local financial institutions and borrowers in connection with residential and commercial mortgages and various other forms of security. I enjoy what I do and I love my job! We work hard but play just as hard and even the toughest days are manageable due to the healthy work environment (which is key!) and the team effort!
What area of Law do you find most interesting and why?
Real estate mainly since it is practical and useful to every day life. I also have a special interest in Anti-Money Laundering and Counter (the) Financing (of) Terrorism (AML/CFT) laws which is why I am currently pursuing my Certification as an Anti-Money Laundering Specialist (ACAMS) which allows me to utilize my finance background as well.
Tell us about your journey to becoming a Lawyer.
Well...when I came into the University of the West Indies ("UWI") back in September 2006 I was actually pursuing a Bachelors in Politics and Law and midway through I was in the middle of a class I realized that - I can't do this!!!!. I had absolutely no interest in the material so I went to academic counselling at Student Affairs and my friend's mother sat with me for us to figure out what I would switch to. I like Maths and Accounting but only a bit. I also had an interest in Risk Management and Finance. The Bsc. in Banking and Finance was still fairly new but as we went through the curriculum I realized I was interested in 90% of the courses so that was it! It would mean another three (3) years but I knew I would come out better on the other end. While pursuing that degree I worked at an offshore bank because I wanted work experience and to force myself to learn how to balance.
Subsequent to completing that degree in May 2010 I started a job at Signia Financial Group Inc., now SigniaGlobe Financial Group Inc. ("Signia") on course to just be a working woman quite proudly. In late August that same day, to my surprise (given that I forgot that I had applied) I received an acceptance letter from UWI to pursue my Bachelor of Laws ("LLB"). I remember going to my mom and sharing the news with her...a bit unsure since I had not planned for this second degree at all...and I remember she said... we will figure out a way...and that's all I needed. For the next three (3) years I worked at Signia and as life would happen, there is exactly were I needed to be. That's another thing, I stand firm in the belief that we are always placed exactly where we are supposed to be at any given time in our lives.
When I think about this part of my journey, my heart is overwhelmed with gratitude for the management and staff at Signia who became my family through that time. Every semester I was allowed to work on extremely flexible hours and I was blessed to add such a large circle to my support system which helped alot since I saw them even more than my own family most weekdays (lol). I really could not have made it through without them on my life team. In September 2013 it was off to law school. First year was challenging especially adjusting to being away from home but I was able to balance well. I made gym 4-6 days a week... I went out often and everything was manageable. Second year however was truly life-defining and was an experience like none other. I remember going into an exam which was known for a high failure rate after stressing, studying the night before instead of sleeping, and being unable to even think. Of course I failed and that's how I learnt that rest trumps all else. However, that was not the most defining moment for me. When I got my results...to my surprised, the one exam I thought I had smashed to smithereens I had actually failed. I sat for a moment and I can honestly say I felt like a complete failure. Then I reminded myself that no matter how bad I felt or for how long... I still needed to find a solution.
Much to my dismay, when exam dates were announced... as luck would have it... one exam was the Friday after Crop-Over an the other was the following Monday. On the face of it... that seems pretty straight forward but at the time I hosted an event which fell on the Sunday after Crop-Over. The event was in its second year and I was concerned that if I cancelled that I would lose the spot. To be brief... I decided YOLO and that I would somehow get everything done. Again, this is where support system comes in and I am forever grateful for family and friends who held me together for this challenging time. I went to Trinidad for one exam, came back to Barbados.. executed the event which finished at 1:00 A.M. and reached Trinidad the next morning at 8:15 A.M for the 9:00 A.M. exam. I remember waking up that morning and my mom driving me to the airport... I could tell she was worried... but she did not say a word lol. I also remember reaching school and being so tired that for a moment I regretted my decision. However, I reminded myself (yea I talk to myself alot) that it was MY decision and that I must power through however I can. I prayed and I did my best. In the end, I passed my exams and the event was successful and would continue on that post-Crop-Over Sunday for years after. The major lesson for me was that you cannot live life thinking that you will not fail. Instead you must learn how to fail AND push on. It is not the absence of failure that makes us great... but learning how to recover and keep it moving even when you do.
I will be first to tell people I am far from perfection and that perfection itself is not one of my goals. Instead I just strive to do my best no matter what and I find that is far more sustainable. I have experienced great success by my own measure because I have not always gotten it right on the first try... therefore I do not fear failure, in fact I embrace it, and I believe that nothing at all ever beats a try.
What do you believe to be the most difficult part of starting a career as a new Lawyer?
Finding a job to be quite honest. When I got called in October 2015 it took me about six (6) months to find a job and during that time many persons suggested just going to the court to find clients but that was not for me. That being said, it's very important to know yourself and stay true to that while still keeping an open mind since you have no experience in the field. I always knew I wanted to work in a firm or go back to finance as I was adamant that having to go to court was not an option (*laughs*).
You also must remember that you may not find the "right" job at first, some people are lucky. but for most (I think) it may take some time to really find that "perfect" job. What is key is to remind yourself that the time will pass regardless, therefore it is extremely important that you use the time to learn and take it all as an experience. It will develop you as an individual and as an attorney. The bad experiences offer you growth and teach you what you do not want or will not tolerate and the good experiences qualify your personal benchmarks and help set your standards.
What is one common myth about the Legal profession that you would like to clarify?
That all attorneys are pompous A-holes (LOL). Some of us are actual humans and just like everyone else.
What advice would you give someone who is interested in pursuing a career in Law?
Just know that it is possible. It will be challenging, life-defining and overwhelming at times but it is doable! Throughout school I had two mantras - "Short term sacrifice, long term goals" and "Nothing worthy is easily attained" - the latter of which I still live by to this day! You must always start with the end in mind and never think that you will be motivated every day. It's okay to have an off day, just don't bask in it too long lol.
Your support system is also very important. For me, prayer and meditation is very important. You have to know that God got you but you must also know that you have to do your part. In addition to my beliefs, throughout my life my mom has been my rock and I really could not have achieved anything at all that I have without her. Luckily for me I also have two awesome big sisters who not only support me heavily but, like my mom, are excellent role models. I am also very blessed with a brother-in-law, uncles, aunties, cousins and amazing friends who all form a very strong support system. I am beyond grateful that I had two friends who pursued the same path as me educationally and I was blessed to meet a few new friends while pursuing my LLB who all together formed my TRIBE which got me through law school days from and we remain close to this day. Remember that you really can do anything you put your mind to even if you have to reinforce that belief every day. Just do it! Always know that your journey is just that...YOURS...focus on your goals and limit your distractions.