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Cousins pay tribute to great-grandmother at Calls to the Bar

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Aqueelah Simmons, left, and Tanisha Butler, right (Photograph by Sekou Hendrickson)

Two cousins honoured their late great-grandmother when they were Called to the Bar on the same day.

Aqueelah Simmons, 25, and Tanisha Butler, 44, said that Radia “Nadine“ Butler, who died during their studies, would be proud of their years of hard work.

Ms Butler said: “I know she’s smiling down on us with a sense of pride and joy because we are the first lawyers in our family.”

Ms Simmons added: “It’s been an emotional roller coaster to say the least, but I made it.

“Despite all the obstacles – rejection, financial struggles, all of that – I did it and I’m proud of myself.”

The two were speaking last Friday after they were welcomed to the legal profession during back-to-back ceremonies at the Supreme Court in Hamilton.

Aqueelah Simmons (Photograph by Sekou Hendrickson)

Ms Simmons, from Devonshire, said that she and her cousin agreed to schedule their Calls to the Bar on the same day to that they could honour their great-grandmother.

But she added that she almost did not get to attend the ceremony on the chosen day because of “technical difficulties”.

Ms Simmons explained: “The courts called me at 11.20am and said that it wasn’t happening. They said something about a network issue.”

She added: “I almost stopped breathing, I was so angry.

“Cindy Clarke, the Director of Public Prosecutions, made some phone calls and said ‘no, this is happening today’, so we were good.”

Ms Simmons started her pupillage in the Attorney-General’s Chambers in November last year, where she prepared legislative drafts and carried out civil advisory work.

The sitting heard that she later moved to the Department of Public Prosecutions and took part in several Magistrates’ Court cases, including the prosecution of a drink- driving trial – which was cancelled after the defendant admitted the offence the day the case was called.

Ms Simmons also worked at the Legal Aid office, where she was mentored by the “who’s who of the courts” – Elizabeth Christopher, the former president of the Bermuda Bar, and Susan Mulligan, who has worked as a prosecutor and a defence lawyer.

Nicole Smith, who mentored Ms Simmons when she was at the DPP, said that she chose to train her after she was told of her strong work ethic – and was not disappointed.

Ms Smith added: “From day one in my department, Ms Simmons was enthusiastic, she listened, took instructions, asked little questions, completed tasks on time and regularly grasped responsibilities.

“This resulted in an impeccable quality of written work.”

Tanisha Butler (Photograph by Sekou Hendrickson)

Ms Butler, from Sandys, trained as a teacher but decided on a change of career when she became pregnant with her son, Taiej.

She explained: “Before he was conceived I was lost and uncertain about my life.

“When I found out I was carrying him, I knew I had to be a living example for him to know that greatness awaits him as well.”

Ms Butler, who was joined by now 19-year-old Taiej, as well as daughters, Kaelys, 13, and Tjaia, 10, said that her happiness was “unparalleled” now that she had been Called to the Bar.

She added: “I feel honoured. To be honest with you, I’m speechless.”

Ms Butler received a degree in paralegal studies in Orlando, Florida in 2004.

She gained experience in property, family and foreclosure work in the US before she returned to Bermuda in 2014 and joined legal firm MDM.

Ms Butler worked with representatives of several banks in the civil litigation department.

She earned her graduate diploma in law in 2017 and her legal practice certificate last year.

Dantae Williams, who oversaw Ms Butler’s pupillage, said that Ms Butler was “confident” and “dependable”.

He added: “I look forward to seeing how she expands her practice at the Bar.”

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Published November 20, 2021 at 7:58 am (Updated November 20, 2021 at 7:58 am)

Cousins pay tribute to great-grandmother at Calls to the Bar

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