Every four years, people around the world are transfixed by the Olympic Games. Few people are elite enough to compete at the Olympic level, though, and for many athletes, the honor of being asked to represent their country in the Olympic Games is one of the most profound and meaningful events of their lives. Recently, the MSBA spoke with one of its members, Edward W. Neufville, III, a former Olympic athlete, to discuss what he recalled from his time at the Olympics and how the experience impacted his career as an attorney.
Edward was born in Liberia and lived there until he was 14 years old. He emigrated to the United States with his family and settled in Sumter, South Carolina, where he started competing in track and field. He ran track at Sumter High School and was recruited by several colleges. He decided to attend UNC-Chapel Hill, and at the end of his freshman year, was chosen to represent Liberia at the 1996 Olympic Games in the 4 x 100 relay. For Edward, the most memorable experience from the Olympic Games was the opening ceremony. He described the feeling you get when the name of your country is called and you march with the national flag as supernatural.
Edward first came to the United States on a visitor visa. He later changed his status to student and maintained that status throughout high school and college. After he graduated from college, he had to make the difficult decision of whether to continue to pursue a career in track or obtain more traditional employment. Potential issues with his visa status and traveling in and out of the country for events ultimately led him to pursue a career in the law rather than continue training as a competitive runner.
Edward knew he wanted to work for a non-profit or in an area of law that allowed him to travel. After his first year of law school, he worked for Catholic Charities, which helped him understand his own immigration process. He realized that working in immigration would allow him to meet people from different areas of the world and learn about new cultures, and ultimately embarked on a career in immigration law.
While being an Olympic athlete and practicing law seem to be two very different experiences, Edward found parallels between the two. He relayed that throughout his Olympic training, he learned discipline, the benefits of practice, teamwork, and a constant desire to keep improving, all of which helped him during his legal career.
Additionally, the 1996 Olympic Games unexpectedly gave Edward a lesson on the importance of advocacy. Prior to the Games, the Liberian government was embroiled in a civil crisis, and the chances of securing sponsorships for the national team were in limbo. The men’s 4×100 meters sprint relay team decided to take it upon themselves to secure the necessary sponsorships, and Edward ended up getting through to one of the higher-ups at Nike to ask them to sponsor the team.
Edward has been a member of the MSBA throughout his career and is the program chair for the MSBA’s Immigration Institute for Legal Excellence Week. He believes the most significant benefit of being a part of the MSBA is member support, such as intellectual support, career development, and webinars. He commended the MSBA for the assistance that it provided to lawyers during the pandemic and how quickly it pivoted and adapted to the new reality.