( ENSPIRE She Did That ) Lerae Funderburg Uses Her Brand Lawyer Mommy to Help Black Mothers Grow and Protect Their Businesses
ENSPIRE Contributor: Abby Ladner
For Black business owners, building a brand can be difficult. This is especially true for those who are also mothers who must navigate raising their family and running their business all at once. Among the many challenges faced by Black mothers in business, establishing the legal foundation to support their company is one of the most arduous tasks. Luckily for them, “Lawyer Mommy” Lerae Funderburg is on their side.
Lerae Funderburg is an entertainment, trademark, and estate lawyer using her skills to help Black mothers in business. With her company Lawyer Mommy, Funderburg focuses on helping Black mothers legally protect their brand and build a legacy. Lawyer Mommy offers a variety of products and services, including templates for legally-binding contracts, workshops on registering trademarks, and industry-specific guidebooks. Lawyer Mommy helps Black mothers find the resources they need to navigate the legalities of starting their business and watching it grow. Read the interview below to learn more about Funderburg and Lawyer Mommy.
I would love to hear more about your journey—could you take me through the big moments in your life that led you to where you are today?
If I had to choose defining moments that have the greatest impact on where I am today, I’d start with my uncle being convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sentenced to life without parole. The only time I ever saw my uncle, not behind bars, was at his funeral. He was no stranger to the law and had definitely done his fair share of less than desirable things, but he wasn’t a murderer. I studied his case file for years, and I was supposed to handle his appeal and get him out. He died in my 3rd year of law school. My mom used to take us to the prisons every Saturday morning to visit with him. So, while to the world, he was a murderer, to me, he was my happy-go-lucky Uncle Jerry. I think that coupled with attending an HBCU and having lost a lot of family members and loved ones to senseless street violence or the prison system, I decided I was going to work to level the playing field. Interestingly enough, once I got to law school, I really hated all of my criminal law classes and found an interest in copyrights, trademarks, and contracts. But, since I hadn’t lost sight of the plan, upon graduating, my jobs were working in the criminal defense sector, representing juveniles charged with offenses or people who were facing capital punishment. At some point, it got to be a little weary on my soul. The system was not built for us, and, the more I worked in it, the more I realized I had to do something else. Becoming a mother was a monumental moment for me. It wasn’t until then that I decided to boss up because I had eyes on me all the time—watching me, watching me. You can’t hide from your children. They see every piece of you, and they see you, see you, like for who you really are. They love you still. I don’t think I knew or understood unconditional love until they came along, and it changed how I viewed a lot of things, especially entrepreneurship. I knew I had to be better for them while also being there for them, and business ownership was the best way I knew how. Then it became my mission to help other Black mothers do the same.
Why did you decide to go into entertainment and trademark law?
So, funny story. I got into entertainment because when I attended Howard University School of Law, I learned that the law school paid for members of the executive board of the Sports and Entertainment Law Students Association to attend the BESLA (Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association) conference. BESLA conferences are always held overseas, and I think, at that point, I’d only ever been to Costa Rica, so I was like, I’m going to get voted on this board so I can get this free trip. The rest was history. I went, and I loved the people I met there. The subject matter was as interesting as it was challenging. I’d already fallen in love with copyrights, trademarks, and contracts, so it just all came together full circle after the conference. I did trademarks for some of my entertainment clients, and, once I made the transition to work with more Black women business owners, brand protection was a huge part of that.
What inspired you to start Lawyer Mommy with a focus specifically on Black mothers and business owners?
I grew up in Boston and went to school with white people my whole life. I was always the one Black girl or the Black girl if there were a few more of us. When I left for college to attend Clark Atlanta University, I just wanted to be with my people. I’m always amazed at how much strength we’ve demonstrated and proud of how much we have overcome, especially as women and mothers, and, if I could lend my knowledge and expertise to help us get further, well, that was just what I was going to do.
What particular challenges do you hope to help people with through Lawyer Mommy?
I started Lawyer Mommy to help reach us in the Black community who understand the need for lawyers and the importance of having contracts for your business and protecting your brand but who couldn’t necessarily afford my services through my Funderburg Law firm. To me, it was just so much more important that we have access to the information so that we don’t invest time, money, and resources into a business that doesn’t have a solid legal foundation. So, that’s what I bring to them via Lawyer Mommy—affordable, accessible legal services so that they don’t have to go without it.
With Lawyer Mommy, you combine your family life with your professional life. What made you decide to bridge these worlds, and what has that been like?
Interestingly enough, it wasn’t a conscious decision for me to bring lawyering and mothering together as my brand. It just became that way. You could always find me at the office with my kids, with one hanging off my breast and the other sitting close by, and that was just who I was. I was very open and candid about that with my clients, and the people I work with always just respected and appreciated it. I was out a couple of times and would run into people who knew me from social media, and they’d be like, “Hey, aren’t you that lawyer mommy?” and I’m like, “Yessssss, yes I am” and it stuck.
One of your main areas of focus is building a legacy—what does legacy mean to you? Why is it so important?
Legacy is important because it’s the mark you leave once you’re gone. It’s like a part of you lives on forever. And knowing that you’ve made a contribution—however big or small—and made an impact on someone’s life is really what living is all about. I used to get so caught up in legacy and thinking it had to be something grandiose in order to qualify as a legacy, but, as long as my work and my service has touched one person or contributed to their growth and success or the impact that they have on another person, then it’s a job well done.
What has been the most rewarding part of your career so far?
Honestly, the most rewarding part of my career so far has been having the freedom to live my life on my own terms. I mean I could be wealthier, and that is most certainly the plan, but I love that I can work from anywhere at any time and have time to do what I love and spend time with those that are important to me. I think that’s all most of us really want anyway—freedom.
Lerae Funderburg is helping Black mothers build their businesses and leave a legacy. To learn more, check out the Lawyer Mommy website or follow her on Instagram. Find more information on Funderburg Law on their website.