Adoptee Flourishes, Becomes Lawyer and Role Model

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Attorney D.D. Pawley doesn’t spend much time lingering on his past. He was adopted a very young age after being abandoned outside a Los Angeles hospital in 1983. As an infant he was in agony from drug withdrawal and his constant cries of pain led two adoptive families to give up on him. But his third adoption was a charm. His new parents, Dale and Ila Pawley, never gave him up. With lots of love, patience and attention, he thrived. Recently Pawley, 31, passed the California bar exam and now hopes to open his own practice.In a touching ceremony, the same judge who presided over his adoption 28 years ago, Judge Marcus Tucker, 78, swore in Pawley as an attorney at law this month. Tucker, who supervised hundreds of public adoptions as presiding judge of Los Angeles County Juvenile Court in the early 1980s, said this marks the first time he heard back from a child he placed. Meeting the judge and becoming a lawyer mark a new beginning for Pawley, who cites Judge Tucker as an example of a worthwhile and noteworthy legal career that he looks to for inspiration.

How did your parents instill in you the importance of education?

My Dad provided enough from his job that my Mom stayed home. When we were in elementary school she was a frequent visitor, and even a volunteer at our school. Starting when I was in the 6th grade, she began homeschooling me and my 4 siblings through a charter school run through our church so that we could get the individual attention we needed. I excelled in homeschool, (though I did not appreciate it at the time), and graduated with my high school diploma at 16.

Did you always want to be a lawyer?

I have wanted to be an attorney since I was a junior in high school, but I decided to be an audio tech for bands through college. For a while my younger brother and I owned our own audio reinforcement and engineering business. After a work injury, I decided to get serious about my legal career. I’d spent enough time on tours and clubs at that point.

What did you say to Judge Tucker when you saw him?

When I first met Judge Tucker, I thanked him for granting my parents petition and asked him if he had ever found out about any of the adoptions that he had done. He related to me that my story was the first time he had heard back from anyone who he had adopted. In the several conversations we have had, I’ve grown quite fond of this impressive jurist and would not mind if I turned out to be ¼ of the giant he is in the Los Angeles legal community.

What is your advice for other children who are adopted or may have come from difficult backgrounds? How do you persevere?

As far as what I would say to other adoptees, I would say the same to anyone really. Try to ground yourself in the important things in life: faith, concern for others and hard work. As an adoptee it may seem easy to get lost in your current circumstances or lack that feeling of belonging that others may have in a fully biological family. However, we all make the final decision as to where our lives take us, and we all have to find our own anchor from within, whether or not we have been adopted, whether we’re foster children, or whether we’re wards of the state. We can all make our own choices to be successful so long as we focus on what we can achieve, and reach out to others, be they foster parents, older adoptees or foster kids, or mental health professionals and clergy.

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