Monday Profile: West Resendes

 By Jo Mathis

Legal News
 
West Resendes is the legal assistant at Iglesia Martell Law Firm, PLLC, where he works for Angie Martell, performing a variety of legal tasks within family, criminal, estate planning, LGBT and civil rights law, including case preparation, legal research, client intake and correspondence, drafting legal documents, court filing, and process serving. 
He also devotes a large part of his time at work towards legal advocacy for deaf Michiganders, and has undertaken several different projects within that arena. For instance, he has organized a legal workshop for the deaf community, partnered with the Ann Arbor Police Department to implement sensitivity and awareness training, and is presently serving on a task force formed by the National Association of Social Workers committed to improving mental health access for the deaf in Michigan.
A native of Rhode Island, Resendes received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, where he was on the varsity baseball team, wrote a summa honors thesis in developmental psychology that received the Psychology Faculty Prize, and served as the director for the Harvard Committee on Deaf Awareness.
Among other awards, he won the Henry Shaw Postgraduate Traveling Fellowship, which funded a year of purposeful travel in Europe following graduation. 
Resendes, who serves as a commissioner for the Ann Arbor Commission for Disability Issues, plans to attend law school in the near future.
 
 
Residence:  Ann Arbor.
 
What is your most treasured material possession? Considering that I am from New England, a baseball signed by the 1980 Boston Red Sox my grandfather received when he traveled with the team for a few seasons. It reminds me that no matter how dire the situation, things will improve eventually (though it might take 86 years).
 
What advice do you have for someone considering law school? Take time off, travel, get some experience in law, then if you still want to pursue law, aim for the best schools and see what happens.
 
Favorite local hangouts: I’m always down for a bite at Frita Batidos and a pint at Ashley’s or Grizzly Peak.
 
Favorite websites: The Daily Beast & HBO Go.
 
Favorite app? Facebook.
 
Since you started clerking at Iglesia Martell Law Firm, what’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned? How inaccessible the American legal system is for those who are not proficient in English, and how often disastrous misunderstandings in legal situations occur for those with a limited knowledge of English. 
 
What is your happiest childhood memory? Eating toast with cinnamon sugar while watching cartoons late at night during sleepovers at my grandparents’ house.
 
What would surprise people about your job? I don’t stay in the office all the time: I get out in the community and partner with organizations and government agencies in various projects to make positive change happen in the local community.
 
What do you wish someone would invent? A portable device projecting a holographic Sign Language interpreter that could interpret for any deaf person 24/7.
 
What has been your favorite year so far? It’s a tie between the year I spent traveling in Europe after college, and my first year working for Angie and making a measurable difference in people’s lives.
 
What’s your most typical mood?  Cheerful, with a twinkle in my eye.
 
What do you do to relax? Play squash, read The Atlantic or GQ, and watch films.
Why do you want to become a lawyer? Law had always been a side interest throughout my life, but I did not consider it as a career until I dealt with education and employment law while serving on a school board. Working at Iglesia Martell has made clear my desire to work in law. There is a dire need for more attorneys who intimately understand the important issues the deaf community faces. There are roughly 200 deaf lawyers in the U.S., but over 4 million deaf adults. Because I have been fortunate enough to grow up bilingual in English and sign language, I am able to work as a liaison and bridge the awareness gaps between both the deaf community and the greater hearing populace. I envision myself having a career in community-oriented lawyering with a holistic approach, operating at the juncture between law and advocacy, while helping educate the courts and fellow attorneys about the importance of understanding cultural minority groups in order to serve them effectively. 
 
How has being deaf affected who you are? It has made me deeply aware of the prevalent civil rights issues, inequalities, and injustices that continue today for deaf people, 24 years after the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed.
 
What do you most want people to know about this disability? Passing notes back and forth is not a suitable or legal replacement for an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter if a deaf person requests one for any legal proceeding or meeting. American Sign Language, the native language of many deaf people in the U.S., has an entirely different grammar than English and thus it can be very challenging for many deaf people to translate ASL into written English and vice-versa. 
 
If you could trade places with someone for a day, who would that be? James Bond — being able to save the world in a tux would be quite a day.
 
What’s the most awe-inspiring place you’ve ever been? It’s another tie, between the Alps overlooking the lake in Lucerne, Switzerland and the hillside trails by the Italian Riviera in Vernazza, Italy. 
 
What did you do last weekend? Took care of the animals on Fluffy Bottom Farm, my boss’ farm in Chelsea. I had a great time with the dogs, llamas, goats, sheep, and other animals while unplugging from the Internet for 48 hours.
 
If you could have one super power, what would it be? The ability to stop time, so I can squeeze in a few more hours every day.
 
What would you say to your 16-year-old self? “Enjoy being an only child — that’s going to change very soon.”
 
How would you describe your home? Tastefully decorated with New England influences and mementos from my travels.
 
If you were starting all over again and couldn’t go into law, what career path would you choose? I would be a primatologist.
 
What’s one thing you would like to learn to do? How to fly a plane.
 
What is something most people don't know about you? I can whip up a mean risotto.
 
What do you drive? A 2005 Toyota Highlander.
 
What would you drive if money were no object? George Jetson’s flying car.
 

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