When Andell Brown was an assistant public defender in Miami, he represented juveniles accused of crimes, watching as kids as young as 6 entered the courtroom in shackles. And he soon understood that he could make a positive change in disenfranchised, underrepresented communities.
“I decided I was going to be a voice for these people … to be a resource … to make sure that they get service at the highest level, and to fight hard for them,” he said.
The 43-year-old criminal defense attorney says he was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. and his followers. He helped found Andell Brown & Associates Law Offices, located on NE 29th Avenue in Aventura, in 2008.
Nationally, only 4.7% of all attorneys are Black, according to Reuters, yet Brown has managed to prosper.
“The civil rights movement and the people that were in it impacted me greatly because of their bravery,” said Brown. “These people [put] their lives on the line and they pushed forward in the face of that. They were willing to sacrifice in ways that I don’t know a lot of people would be willing to today.”
Brown grew up in Yonkers, N.Y., in the 1980s during the height of the crack epidemic. He was raised in a working-class neighborhood where he focused on getting through high school. With the encouragement of his mother, he headed south to pursue higher education.
He attended Oakwood University, a historically Black college in Huntsville, Ala., where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in history and minored in political science. In 2005, he entered Yeshiva University in New York, where he earned his law degree.
There Brown participated in the school’s Intensive Trial Advocacy Program, or ITAP. Through mock trials, it offered him his first taste of life inside a courtroom.
“I realized that this was something I had a talent for, and I was doing really good at it,” he said. “That encouraged me to continue to pursue an area of law where I would be talking to juries, while I’d be arguing in court, as opposed to doing a lot of paperwork.”
After law school, Brown was recruited by Bennett Brummer in the public defender’s office in Miami, where he got his start. One experience that truly stood out to him during his time with Brummer was the redemption workshop, where people from the community came to seek assistance from lawyers.
The young attorney viewed helping those in need as more than simply an act of goodwill.
“I feel like I’m in a special position and I have an obligation to help those that I can,” said Brown, who soon decided to establish his own firm.
“I wanted to kind of chart my own course, as an organization, not just as an individual,” he said. “I wanted a firm that moved in a way that I decided to.”
Furthering that desire, he created the Brown Justice Foundation, which seeks to educate and provide advocacy, two years ago. Its goal: to give people a platform to hold elected officials accountable and to maximize Black influence.
Brown has earned a plethora of accolades, including the Best Advocacy Award by The Defender College, being named as one of 100 famous African Americans and Seventh-Day Adventists in “Spectrum” magazine, and being recognized as a BMe fellow for his work as an advocate for communities of color.
He has also appeared on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, ABC and more as a network news analyst. He views his appearances as opportunities to provide a voice to a community that’s often left unheard.
“I’m going to speak the truth,” said Brown. “I’m going to represent the people that may not have anyone to speak for them.”
Fabio Lopez is an NBCU fellow at Florida International University.