#StigmaFreeYLD – Michele Rayner-Goolsby

Michele’s Story

I had known since I was four years old that I wanted to be a lawyer. However, I took a longer path to get there. After I completed my undergraduate studies at Florida State University, I took an extra year and a half to earn my master’s degree in international affairs. During this time, I traveled the world and worked on sustainability projects in developing nations. I loved it but always knew I would eventually get to law school. Subsequently, I began working in the political field; first on campaigns and then I moved to legislative politics, where I worked as an aide to a Florida State Senator.

When I FINALLY (😀) made it to law school in the fall of 2009, I felt as if it was dream that was beginning to come into existence. I had a wonderful law school career and even managed to graduate a semester early. So, I just knew I was going to pass the bar the first time. I studied extremely hard but unfortunately, I did not pass on my first attempt. In fact, I failed by half a point. I was devastated. I was embarrassed and could not believe this a part of my story. I even considered giving up. In that dark moment, I had to remember that every success comes with some type failure and that all things we experience in life are lessons that God would have us learn. I retook the bar exam and passed on my second try. I now look at my bar exam experience as one of the most impactful personal and professional blessings of my life.

How Michele Got Help

After I found out I did not pass, I leaned on my family and friends. I also began writing out affirmations and plugged into a great therapist. Also, I began to do a lot of yoga and meditation to ground myself and get out of my head. Lastly, I read a lot and had a ritual of watching Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday or physically going to a house of worship. These are all practices that I maintain today.


Michele K. Rayner-Goolsby is the founder and principal attorney of Civil Liberty Law. Michele is an award winning and highly sought-after attorney due to her commitment to pursue justice for her clients. Michele has been selected as a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers and is a Top-Rated AVVO attorney and has garnered many community awards.

Born and raised in Clearwater, Florida, Michele came back to her hometown to hone her legal skills as an assistant public defender for Hillsborough and Pasco counties. She later continued her career working with two well-established law firms in the Tampa Bay area before establishing her own successful practice.

Michele is passionate about her client’s rights and takes that approach in every matter she handles. She ensures their rights are protected as if they were her own family. She has successfully represented clients in criminal, civil rights, family law, and personal injury matters.

Michele is committed to serving the Tampa Bay area, as she regularly volunteers with the Pasco County Teen Court, Pinellas County Law Fest, and the Clearwater Bar Legal Fair as a volunteer attorney. She is a member of the Fred G. Minnis Bar Association, where she is the co-chair for community outreach. She previously served on the Florida Bar’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee and is a founding member of the Women Lawyers of Pasco County. Michele is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and is the chair of the Social Action Committee and for Political Awareness and Involvement for her local chapter.

Michele has been featured on CNN, The Today Show, Fox News, Good Morning America, The Root, HLN, The Huffington Post, Blavity, and various local radio, television and print media.