Joanna Allen never thought that she could be a peacekeeper until she became involved in negotiation. She quickly realized she had an aptitude for it and admits that she gets a thrill out of convincing others to see her side's point of view and eventually acquiesce to it. "Persuading someone that what you want is what they want as well, and that it is what's best for everyone, and to do it nicely, is the best feeling," she said.
A Midwest native with a hunger for international travel and a talent for negotiation, Allen's pathway to a legal education has been paved with ambition and achievement. She has three bachelors' degrees from the University of Missouri-Columbia in Journalism-Advertising, Political Science, and Spanish. She spent a year during her undergraduate education studying abroad in Spain and speaks fluent Spanish. After graduating, she worked in international marketing for the Mexican department store Famsa, a job that brought her to Los Angeles and required frequent travel to Mexico. She then spent a year and a half as a government interpreter for the United States Department of Justice.
During her first year at Southwestern, Allen found the BLSA mentor/mentee program to be helpful as she acclimated. Inspired by her experience, she decided to give back and spent her second year serving as BLSA's Vice President of Academic Affairs, coordinating and hosting events for first-year students. Her alliance with Professor Nyree Gray helped her find direction. "Professor Gray has been pivotal to everything I've done in law school," Allen said.
It was Professor Gray who, along with Professor Cristina Knolton, established the new Negotiation Honors Program at Southwestern and brought Allen on board during its development. Along with BLSA Negotiation teammate Brent Tilley, Allen defeated more than 20 teams from law schools across the country to win the 2009 Dr. Ralph Johnson Bunche International Negotiation Competition, which was held during the 41st Annual National Black Law Students Association Convention in Irvine. So what was the key to their big win? "Listening is the most important skill you need in negotiation," Allen explained. "So many think it's about being the loudest and being heard. But you have to actively listen to the other side and develop solutions that work for everyone." Now she is serving on the board for the first official year of Southwestern's Negotiation Honors Program and will continue to compete while helping her fellow student teammates prepare for competition.
Allen's law school experience has also provided her with other opportunities, including working as the only 1L summer associate at Gilbert, Kelly, Crowley & Jennett, where she researched, wrote, assisted with the discovery process and shadowed attorneys in court. This past summer, she studied art, criminal, comparative and international law in France and human rights law in Costa Rica. All of the travel has influenced her future plans. "I want to work internationally, but I don't know yet if I want to work for a firm or corporation. I want to work in developing countries as well. I love people, and I love the law, and I want to do as much as I possibly can."