Nontraditional lawyering helps to become community advocate

Written by: 
Geena DeMaio
Feki Pouha speaks to students during a legal forum on Nov. 8.


To build a prospective law student for community advocacy, you need to focus your purpose, proactively prepare, and keep perspective in paradigm shifts explained Feki Pouha, BYU–Hawaii Office of Honor manager.

Pouha emphasized, “The Lord in His wisdom has provided for all of us with the differing opportunities to capitalize on our talents, on our fate, and on our testimony. At the end of day, have you been faithful to what you have? Have you sacrificed yourself to the Lord?”

Prospective law students circled in a collaborative forum to ask questions about community advocacy, led by former Hawaii state representative and BYUH, Feki Pouha.


Drois Vi, a junior from Tonga studying English literature, asked, ” How do I make my voice heard?” In context of having her Tongan culture respected while giving respect to other cultures, she asked where the line of respect is drawn as an advocate.

Pouha replied, “You can advocate your right. In terms of the disrespect... the first time I heard the term ‘minority’ is when I was going to law school.”

Pouha heard the reference minority and thought, “There’s nothing minor about me. I don’t identify with being in any minority mindset. But it’s a choice. You can take that and let it fester in you, or you can convert that into something that helps you move forward. It’s still a choice whether you can react or proact. You can take that and convert it to something that fuels you into the best that you can.”

To answer Howden’s question how a law student can be collaborative, competitive, productive, and avoid being drained, Pouha said, “You have to understand, ‘What is your purpose? What is your long-term vision? What is your ultimate goal?”

Preparative steps

“The first key in community advocacy [is]- if you don’t know what the answer is find someone who does, find the answers and go after it,” explained Pouha.

Pouha emphasized to be the critical change you must be proactive. “For future legislatures this is showing that you have skin in the game and that you’re not just waiting for a handout... Someone is more apt to work with you if you’re already working on solutions yourself rather than just sitting down and waiting.”

Preparation for legal studies includes building skills, gaining a formal education, licensing, attaining experience, and working on relationships and partnerships, character and personality, Pouha said.

Governance responsibility

Pouha said during his inauguration to become the Hawaii state representative, Dr. Marcus Martins, BYUH religion professor, said to him, “Do the best you can. Learn the most you can. Serve the best you can.

“When the Lord returns in His fullness and glory, He will exercise His keys of governance. When He returns to do that, He will require His children or us. He will need you to be prepared to establish His kingdom in full power and glory when He returns.”

“We learn, we grow, we make mistakes, we repent, but we devote ourselves to serve not only temporally but eternally,” Pouha explained.

Rachel Howden, a junior from Idaho majoring in intercultural peacebuilding and political science, expressed the importance of caring about the cause as a source of good preparation. “Our purpose is to ‘bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man,’ and through that process we have Priesthood keys which are exercised by many of us. So it’s up to us to prepare ourselves.”

Paradigm Shift – The Bus and The Battleship

Pouha gave an example of what he referred to as “the bus and the battleship.”

“It’s a quiet Sunday morning and a dad and his five children get on the bus. The children are playing with each other and bumping into other people. Somebody close to the dad says, ‘Hey why don’t you watch and take care of your kids?’ The dad is dazed but goes over and gets his kids, and he says, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry. We just came from the hospital, my wife just died.’

“Immediately everyone’s paradigm shifted. It changed from anger to ‘how can we help you?’ These stories help to inform your thinking and your paradigm. We put meaning into facts. We see the world not as it is but as we are conditioned to see it. Those are some paradigm shifts.”

Emotional intelligence

Zabrina Bateh, a sophomore from Washington majoring in intercultural studies and peacebuilding, said emotional intelligence is required and being genuine about the preparation to be a community advocate. “It helps being members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints where our focus can be balanced.”

In response to emotional intelligence, Pouha included it’s important to understand the reason why the person is upset. “It can be tactical too. Understanding the motions of where other people are coming from.

Pouha encouraged the students, “Separate emotion and be proactive when looking at results. It’s one thing that is critical when you’re trying to communicate with the advocate. You can suspend your emotions, otherwise you might do something you may regret. Either in doing or saying, it’s very key as you are working as a community legislature or committee advocate.”


Date Published: 
Thursday, November 15, 2018
Last Edited: 
Thursday, November 15, 2018