The Color of Character: Linda Mosley Whitfield
Linda Mosley-Whitfield is the personification of having it all. She has been a mother, a wife, a lawyer, a teacher and currently Assistant Director of Career Devlopment at Loyola Law School. The Los Angeles native has a reputation as a consummate professional and, as a lawyer, an iron fist in a velvet glove. Linda is also an advocate for families with children living with Autism. Definitely an inadvertent role model, if you will. I got the opportunity to converse with Linda on life and parenting and priorities. I enjoyed her insight and I hope you will as well. Meet my friend, Linda Mosley-Whitfield.
PBI: I know you are first and foremost a wife and mother. Tell me a little about your family.
LINDA: Well, I married the man I met when we were 13 at John Burroughs Junior High School, Lance Whitfield. We have two great sons, Ryan and Nico. Nico is attending animation school at Advanced Media Vocational Academy and Ryan just started college at Princeton. Needless to say we are proud parents and excited for them both.
PBI: What was family life like for you growing up? LINDA: It was good. I grew up with my two siblings Thom and Brenda. I have a brother and sister on my dad’s side that I didn’t grow up with. We developed a relationship later in life. My mom was a stay-at-home mom and a seamstress and my dad was a musician and a Baptist minister. We lived in a middle-class area and basically lived a middle-class lifestyle. There were some rough times growing up but for the most part were a middle class family.
PBI: What lead to your interest in pursuing a law career? LINDA: Well, I had graduated from USC with a Business degree and I had an interest in the music business. I got a job at A&M Records as an assistant; a secretary. I saw that there were so many women there, at
this time, so highly educated and, for some reason, we were all stuck in the secretary pool. And there were so many men there that had executive jobs, A&R, Marketing and all, paying big money without the education. During that time, I met some cool lawyers working at A&M and, through my work, I started learning some things about entertainment law. I developed an interest and that’s why I decided to go to law school. I had planned to go back to school so now it was either to law school or to pursue my MBA. Choosing law school meant I could practice law and do business but with an MBA I could only do business. So, I chose law school.
PBI: What area of law did you go into when you graduated?
LINDA: Well I graduated during an economic downturn and I had originally planned to go back to A&M Records after law school. I had worked for the president of A&M and he was fine with that. But Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss sold A&M Records to Polygram and they all left. I did really well in law school and during on-campus interviews so when I graduated I already had a job lined up. I was hired at a firm that mostly did litigation called Perkins-Coie. They are a Seattle-based, large firm with offices across the country. It wasn’t really what I wanted to do but it was a great offer.
PBI: Speaking on family life, I wanted to ask you about how it was managing that workload at the time you were an attorney. I mean, I don’t know of ANY attorneys that clock out at 5 o’clock and just go relax somewhere. So that had to be a huge challenge.
LINDA: It’s hard. It’s a lifestyle choice. I worked at the national firm for only a year. Part of that was because during that time, my son Nico had been diagnosed with high-functioning Autism and it was really difficult juggling the workload of a large law firm and trying to get everything that he needed. This was a time when people didn’t really know that much about Aspergers and Autism so I was really having a hard time getting services and getting information.
So I left the big firm. I went to work for the government at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. This gave me the more flexible lifestyle I needed as I was having to fight so hard for Nico. It helped being a lawyer though, I have to say. I was able to get a lot of services for him and get the school district to do things for me because I would sign my letters Linda Whitfield, Esq.
PBI: Ahhhhh OK. Now I know how to sign all my letters when I want something done.
LINDA: It was effective but it was kind of sad when I thought about all the other parents that didn’t have the same kind of access or information, or the same education background. Their kids needed help too. I saw how easy it was to get pushed aside.
PBI: And this was during the time that your second son was born, correct?
LINDA: Yes Ryan was born during that period. So now having two kids and I was juggling one with a disability and all that came with that. So I worked until Ryan was about 5 years old, including a stint at William Morris Agency, and then I just took off and was a stay at home mom. I did a practice some entertainment law on the side so I did get to practice some entertainment law but by that time I had a lot going on at home and I had to focus on getting Nico situated.
PBI: Next stop, Atlanta, GA
LINDA: Yes, we eventually left Los Angeles and relocated to Atlanta. I was a stay-at-home mom there until Nico graduated from high school. Then, I decided to go back to work and a job sort of fell into my lap as (and, God works in mysterious ways) a middle school Special Education teacher. Having dealt with special education from a lawyer’s and parent’s vantage point, becoming a teacher gave me a different perspective on the situation. And I could empathize with the parents being in their shoes myself. And again, the flexibility I required, having a child in school and another who’d just graduated with disabilities, I had that. As a teacher, I was off during the summer with the boys, which was great. Ryan went to the school where I taught and Nico actually got a job there. He ended up working there for 5 or 6 years, which was really cool for him.
PBI: So fast forward and you’re back in Los Angeles now. How did your position at Loyola come about?
LINDA: I worked for Loyola briefly in Student Affairs and the school hired me when we came back to California. As Assistant Director for the Career Development Center, I work with students on their careers and professional development; career development. I work with graduates and students helping them prepare for getting a job.
PBI: So what would you say are some of the realizations that law students are facing in law school?
LINDA: Well, it’s EXPENSIVE!! Law school is a major investment that you can’t fall short on. And a lot of the graduating class is not going to come out of school with a large firm job. There are a lot of scholarships available so I’d say shop heavily for scholarships. I wouldn’t recommend taking out a lot of loans when prepping for law school. Also, a lot of students find themselves no longer the top performers in their classes. A lot of them come from undergrad schools where they were at the top of their class. At law school, everybody is smart and at the top of their game; AND there’s a forced curve. So by design, half of the class is in the top 50% and half the class is at the bottom. That’s hard for a lot of people to swallow when they were a superstar in undergrad.
PBI: So how does the job fit with your Type A personality? Would you say you’re a Type A?
LINDA: Not exactly. I think maybe my Type A is dialed down a lot. I think having a child with a disability has kind of widened my perspective. It’s just different. It’s like, I can take small successes and they’re just great; just fantastic, you know.. Nico figuring out how to ride the buses in Los Angeles on his own, that’s a victory, you know what I mean? So that’s what I mean by ‘dialed down’. I define victory differently than I have before. I mean I’m still very goal oriented. When I set my mind to something, I get things done.
PBI: So as accomplished as you are, what’s next for you?
LINDA: Now that we’re settled in Los Angeles and Ryan is situated in school, I could see myself doing some Special
Education advocacy work. Having experience from the parent side, the teacher’s side, the attorney’s vantage point, I could really help some parents. I can see myself volunteering and helping parents on a pro bono basis. I mean my plate is pretty full with work and with helping Lance with his new business but I’d like to get involved as an advocate.
And that, PBI readers, is why I settled on the title “The Color of Character”. Linda is a woman of great integrity. Bright, grounded and a great example for us all.