When The TRiiBE connected with attorney Cierra Norris on April 1, she said she’s no longer the newly minted 27-year-old criminal defense attorney who established C. Norris Law Group (originally named The Law Office of CN Norris) back in 2017. Today, she is 33 years old, sober, and making waves on social media by breaking the mold of what it means to be a lawyer by entertaining, aiding, and inspiring future generations. 

Norris began her legal career with a clear mission: to dismantle the systemic injustices fueling cycles of incarceration in the Black community. Black Americans constitute 2.3 million, or 34%, of the total correctional population in the U.S.. After earning her Juris Doctor (J.D.) at DePaul University College of Law, with honors, in 2015, Norris got to work quickly. In 2020, Norris masterfully secured the release of 10 detainees from Cook County Jail, safeguarding them from the rapidly escalating threat of a jailhouse COVID-19 outbreak.

With over 345,000 followers on TikTok and 39,000 followers on Instagram, Norris’ viral journey began in 2023 with her posts under #AttorneyTok, branding her content with the hashtag #CallCierra. She cleverly taps into the “Of Course” trend, infusing her videos with popular tracks from female rappers like GloRilla and ScarLip, adding an edge and persona to her social media presence. The “Of Course” trend on social media allows people and businesses to express themselves by humorously highlighting aspects of their personal or professional lives, encouraging a mix of self-deprecation and pride that resonates widely for its authenticity and relatability.

“You litigate on behalf of your clients. And that’s why I always say we are for our clients, because we’re able to humanize them by leveraging popular references that they can relate to,” Norris said, explaining why she uses social media trends to relate to her clients and provide more insight into her profession.

@attorneycierranorris say they get money, but i cant tell / WE ALSO DO PERSONAL INJURY - check out my IG, the last post are some receipts #YEAHGLO #CALLCIERRA #CarCrash #CriminalCase #Attorney #Chicago #PersonalInjury #HBIC ♬ Yeah Glo! - SkitzU & GloRiIla

Her practice is more than a career; it’s a crusade against mass incarceration and injustice, marked by her authentic approach to criminal defense and her tenacity in the courtroom. Norris has not only helped to redefine what it means to be a criminal defense attorney but has also showcased the power of personal conviction in refusing to conform.

Read our full interview with Norris below.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

The TRiiBE: Can you share a bit about your journey into law and what motivated you to focus on serving Black and underserved communities?

Cierra Norris: Even as a child, I was never content with the status quo. I was very aware of injustice and I wanted to know why the world was structured the way it is.

I had a kid when I was 16. I chose to write about this experience in an AP English class. I later started reading a research article about the statistics surrounding the success of children who were born to Black single moms. As a Black single mom at 16, the statistic was something heartbreaking: 90% of young men that are products of Black single moms end up going to prison between the ages 19 and 25. And that really freaked me out and also enraged me, because I was already being counted out of my life.

Knowing that statistically, my son was already counted out, it just sparked something in me that made me want to be a difference.

There's often a conventional image or expectation of how an attorney should present themselves. How do you navigate these expectations while staying true to your own identity?

I saw a quote once that said “an abnormal response to an abnormal situation is normal.” I was already written off since I was 16. There was never really an expectation to follow the rules, because I wasn't even invited to the game.  I got to my success by following my own intuition, my own judgment, my own discernment, and I made a lot of mistakes.

But I also learned that I got out of those mistakes by being genuine and authentic to myself in my story, and I carry that into my profession. I think that you can be [rapper] Cardi B and [former First Lady] Michelle Obama.

People in our generation don't consider becoming a lawyer because they don't believe that they are the right person for that kind of job because of where they come from, or who their parents are; they don't even see themselves as being accepted in such a profession.

And if they do, they feel like they have to become, you know, this watered-down version of themselves. I really like to celebrate the things that make our community so wonderful.

We have tried to behave a certain way. We have tried to peacefully protest. We have tried to build our own Wall Streets. We have tried to build our own communities. But we can't do that because there's a systematic war on our community through mass incarceration. I think playing by the rules of professionalism, which are used to control people, will not do anything to help us win the game.

In an era where online presence is pivotal, how do you balance professionalism with personal authenticity on social media platforms?

I push the boundaries of what is acceptable through social media by questioning norms. I would rather be authentic than a fraud. I think it's professional for a then-27-year-old to market where they're at. I've invited people to my social media to grow with me as a young lady and an advocate. That gets people's attention. I don't make the rules. I'm showing people that they can be iconic, smart, and talented and still be urban and still be taken seriously. Being you is the best version of yourself. Being authentic to yourself is actually what makes you a great advocate.

What is “professional?” That's the question. I don't think that my [millennial] generation and Gen Zs have the same definition of professionalism, as it once was. I don’t think that we are willing to be controlled by that word.

Have you faced any challenges in maintaining your professional image online while being authentic to who you are? How have you addressed these challenges?

I've grown into different ways of not undermining my credibility. I think authenticity is growing, and just being honest with where you are at, not biting off more than you can chew, being transparent, and understanding that being young, vibrant, and hungry are good assets to have as a lawyer.

What advice would you give to young, aspiring lawyers who may feel pressured to conform to traditional norms within the legal field?

Is that what you want to do? You will never be palatable to everyone. You have to believe in what you want to do and know your purpose.

What message do you have for critics who may misunderstand your approach to practicing law and serving your clients?

See you on the other side.

is a freelance writer for The TRiiBE