Editors’ Note: As part of our ongoing Faces of MoFo series, Crystal Kaldjob, a Washington, D.C. associate in our Financial Services Group, shares her experiences that led to her career in law and what keeps her motivated to pay it forward.
Small town, 1960s school segregation, several mentors and sponsors, and a French-speaking Cameroonian husband have all shaped not only my personal path, but particularly, my professional legal path.
I grew up in Ashland, Virginia, a small town just north of Richmond, Virginia affectionately known as the “Center of the Universe.” Although I was never sure if I would leave the “Center of the Universe,” I did know that I wanted to be a lawyer. My mother, born in the late 1940s, also grew up in Ashland. I was always amazed by the fact that she never attended desegregated schools as a child. In high school, this fascination spurred my interest in U.S. history, particularly the civil rights movement and constitutional law.
Although I majored in politics at the University of Virginia, I continued to take a lot of history and constitutional law courses, including Julian Bond’s History of the Civil Rights Movement.
I also met my husband in college. His experience in the United States as a native French speaker from Cameroon was a stark contrast to my “small town girl” experience. He has added a unique perspective to my views (which, up until then, had been focused on the black American experience,) a perspective that still greatly shapes my understanding of diversity as a practicing lawyer today.
Now as a financial services attorney, I represent banks and non-banks in transactions involving financial products and services. There is a good intersection between being a banking law subject matter expert and negotiating complex transactions.
Although it’s far from what initially drew me to pursue a legal career, I take pride in the pro bono work that I do. I have helped refugees fleeing countries, such as Burundi, Eritrea, Haiti, Jamaica, Liberia, and Somalia, due to political persecution or persecution based on their gender, sexual orientation, or religion, obtain asylum here in the U.S. These cases have helped me to realize how important access to qualified legal representation is in the U.S.
I did not start my career at MoFo, but I chose MoFo not only because we represent some of the most innovative and sophisticated clients, but also because of its commitment to diversity and inclusion.
MoFo’s commitment is shown not only through firmwide initiatives, but also on an individual basis. Whether through participation in events or activities, or valuing and celebrating an individual’s success, there is a constant outpouring of support from our women and diverse partners.
Through my pro bono work, position as chair of the Washington, D.C. office’s associate women affinity group, and my membership in the Diversity Strategy Committee’s Associate Advisory and Engagement Committee here at MoFo, I strive to make myself available to other women and diverse individuals who are either just beginning their legal career or simply looking to have a discussion about being a lawyer.
Michelle Obama once said, “When you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.” I try to embody that principle here at MoFo.