Chioma Deere '06

The Twists and Turns of Life on the Road to Success

Driven from a young age to be a lawyer, Chioma Deere had her son while she was applying to law school. Ultimately, Pace provided the flexibility to allow Chioma to accomplish her dream while balancing her family life. Now, Chioma Deere is the founding and managing partner of her own firm, Deere Law Firm, in West Palm Beach, Florida with a focus on wills, trusts, and estate planning.

Let’s jump right in, what was your path to law school?

For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a lawyer. After college, I was accepted to three law schools in the tri-state area. It was right around that time that I had my son. While he was still a baby, I went to paralegal school to get my certificate in Paralegal Studies from Mercy College in New York. While working as a full-time paralegal, I went to what was then called Pace Law School, at night for four years. I chose Pace because of the proximity to home and my then 24-month-old son, as well as the collegial and welcoming way that the students and teachers who were going to “night school” came together. It was certainly a trial by fire going to law school for four years at night; I made some lifelong friends there. Somehow, when I got there, I knew Pace was the one for me.

What experiences from Pace stick with you?

There were many memorable moments: studying in the library in my little spot on the third floor, going for drinks with my classmates after class on Friday, crunching through the snow to the parking lots to drive home, and meeting incredible individuals who were embarking on the journey of law at various ages and stages of their careers. And, of course, Professor Bridget Crawford. My most memorable times were in classes I had with Professor Bridget Crawford. I am originally from Jamaica, and moved to the Bronx as a teenager. My thesis in undergrad focused on socioeconomic belonging of immigrant women from the Caribbean, so I gravitated to Professor Crawford’s topics as well as her style of teaching. I truly felt seen and welcomed when I was in her classes.

You are the founding and managing partner of your firm, Deere Law Firm, in West Palm Beach—how did that evolve and what brought you to West Palm Beach?

Most of my family had moved to West Palm Beach at the time I was graduating from Pace. It made sense for me to move there to be with my family. I was also dating the person who was later to become my husband.

Since being admitted to the Florida Bar in 2008, I’ve practiced in the area of complex hurricane claims litigation, insurance defense litigation, personal injury, arbitration, and employment litigation in state and federal courts. In 2017, while still in litigation, I expanded my practice areas to estate planning and probate law. Then, in 2021, in the midst of the pandemic, I opened Deere Law Firm to help clients with estate planning, asset protection, probate, and trust administration.

When I first launched my firm, during the pan- demic, it was much easier for me to start a virtual law practice. With increased social distancing, many people were operating remotely. It was easy for me to connect with clients virtually while being safe. I joined an estate planning association, the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys (AAEPA), and the Florida Bar’s Real Property Probate and Trust Law (RPPTL pronounced “reptile”) Section, which provided guidance, resources, and a support network.

What I also believe benefited me during this time was that I am a certified technology lawyer. Providing legal services in a digital age is an important niche of mine. Ensuring that we attorneys use technology to make life easier for our clients as well as for ourselves is one thing that I stress, especially now as the chair for the Technology Committee of the Palm Beach County Bar Association. I love all things tech. I’ve been teaching attorneys and judges about electronic discovery and litigation and how to use technology to be better attorneys for about 10 years now. With technology, there are so many avenues and ways that attorneys can practice law while taking care of their clients and their communities.

What is it about the areas of wills, trusts, and estates law that interest you?

A mentor of mine here in West Palm Beach, who went on to become a judge, encouraged me to explore other areas of life and the law. Estate planning and probate allowed me to help families while making a living here in West Palm Beach. I also find that there are few black women estate planning attorneys helping black families and people of color to maintain and preserve their wealth. The wealth gap has been a big issue lately, and I feel that I am in a good position to not only educate communities, but also help people to save and preserve the wealth they have built and pass it onto the next generation.

I will always be a litigator at heart. My litigation experience helps me to look at situations from many perspectives. I find that my years of litigation practice lend well to many situations in estate planning and probate law because they both require flexible and creative thinking.

The other day during the sessions to put together their trust, a client of mine remarked that al- though this process could be daunting for those who may feel fear and trepidation when thinking about death, they felt comfortable speaking to me about these things. In those moments, I feel as though I found my calling in the law.

How did Pace shape your career path?

Pace allowed me to continue to work while pursuing my childhood goal of being an attorney. Very few law schools were offering in person law school at night. I felt blessed to have had Pace in my backyard so that I could still work and take care of my family while earning my law degree. I don’t think anything would have stopped me from getting my law degree. However, Pace changed my life by making it so accessible for someone like me, with a baby in tow, to go to law school.

What are some of your passions aside from the law?

I love many different types of music and love to dance. I love orchids and I am slowly expanding my orchid collection.

Do you have any advice for current or future law students?

I’ve been blessed to have had many mentoring opportunities with high school students as well as law school students. I would tell them to cultivate relationships that they have in law school, learn the art of networking, and give of themselves to causes and areas in the law that matter to them. The possibilities are endless as to the type of legal work that someone could end up doing over the course of their careers.

What is the some of the best advice you have received?

When I was in college, one of my mentors told me that the road of life is not a straight line, that it had many twists and turns to success. You see, at that time I believed that I had to do certain things a certain way in order to achieve the goals that I had in my mind, fuzzy and distant though they were. How her words have echoed and have rung true at every major crossroads in my life. I’m grateful that the main reason I've been able to take all of the roads, sidewalks, and pathways, including creating my own pathways, has been because of the love and support of my family, as well as those individuals who have poured into my life their love and support as though they were my family.