Jessica Childress- Attorney & Children's Book Author
Founder and Managing Attorney, The Childress Firm PLLC
CEO, Juris Prudence LLC
Describe your legal background and your current role today.
I am an Attorney and Children's Book Author.
After graduating from the University of Virginia School of Law, I clerked for a Federal Judge, served as an Attorney for the United States Department of Justice, and served as an Associate at two global law firms. As an associate, I represented large organizations in employment law matters.
I have always loved writing, and I have always written as a hobby in my leisure time. In 2014, as a hobby, I published a children's book entitled, The Briefcase of Juris P. Prudence, a fictional novel about an 11 year-old female lawyer, Juris Prudence, who fights for children's rights. The book is the first in an anticipated series. I developed the idea for the book while I was in law school. To assist in the writing process, I constantly kept a journal beside me, writing down ideas as they came. I also wrote during my holidays, weekends, and vacations—moments when I had blocks of time to focus.
In 2016, I left my position as an associate at a large global law firm to pursue my passion of creating more content involving Juris Prudence. Then, I launched Juris Prudence LLC*, a children’s content company with the social mission of exposing children of diverse backgrounds to the field of law at an early age. The company is based on the Juris Prudence book that I wrote as a hobby. The company is producing the next set of books in the Juris Prudence series, as well as educational materials related to the legal profession. In addition, I launched my own law firm, The Childress Firm PLLC, which is based in Washington, D.C. and focuses on employment law.
As the CEO of Juris Prudence LLC and the Managing Attorney of the Childress Firm, I have complete autonomy over the way that I structure my day. I direct all aspects of the businesses, from the books that will be created to the topics for the mock trial academies to case strategy for my law firm clients. I know that I am most creative in the morning, so I wake up super early to write and develop big picture ideas for Juris Prudence. I love being able to structure my schedule in a way that is most conducive to my productivity.
What three words would you use to describe your role?
Innovator. Problem Solver. Visionary.
What inspired you to pursue your current career?
I enjoyed working as an Associate, and I loved being a lawyer. However, I equally loved writing, but it wasn’t just writing for the sake of writing. It was for the impact that I knew my writing would make. Throughout my career as an African American female attorney, in each legal setting in which I worked, I noticed the lack of racial and gender diversity, especially in senior legal positions. I loved writing about Juris Prudence, the 11-year old African American, female lawyer, who encouraged children to be leaders and who exposed them to the field of law. An 11 year old, girl lawyer was not an often-seen image in children’s literature. It was my hope when writing, that one day, children from all backgrounds would have access to the book and strive to be a leader and a scholar like Juris Prudence.
I developed the idea for the book and the related content company based on the need to diversify the field of law. I believe that if children of all backgrounds (socio-economic, racial, etc.) are exposed to the field of law at an earlier age and see positive images of lawyers, more children would consider entering the legal profession, helping to diversify a profession that is lacking in diversity. I came up with the idea for The Briefcase of Juris P. Prudence by thinking about what I was like as a child and what legal cases I would have found interesting if I were a child lawyer. I thought that an adventure series about a child lawyer would be not only fun, but also educational and great exposure to images of lawyers for children who did not know what lawyers actually did.
Name one movie or song to describe your career.
“Devotion” (Earth, Wind, and Fire)
How has your legal education/background shaped the way you perform in your current career?
As lawyers, we are held to the highest ethical standards and the highest standards of competence. In both my legal practice and in my children’s content company, I pride myself on having a strong understanding of my ethical obligations and placing those obligations above all.
Attorneys have a tendency to strive for perfection. Perfection is always my standard. Throughout my career, I have been accustomed to working long hours and not stopping until I knew that the work product I was delivering was the best it could be. I apply a relentless work ethic to everything I touch—whether it is a legal case or a project for Juris Prudence LLC.
What lessons learned or unexpected challenges did you face in your current role?
The greatest lesson I have learned is that there is always room to grow and more to learn. As an entrepreneur, your role is to create and innovate. That mandate requires constantly expanding your knowledge base. You can only do that being a lifelong student and making it your mission to constantly perfect your craft.
What advice would you give to those career pivoting or pursuing a career beyond the practice of law?
The best career advice that I have ever received is, “This is your career and no one else's. Take it by the horns.” I took that to mean that many career decisions cannot be determined by anyone other than you, even though it is fine to receive career advice from others. You know yourself best, so you know what position you are striving for and what your passion and purpose are. Therefore, if you want to be a pilot, be a pilot. If you want to be a singer, be a singer. That is what taking your career by the horns means to me. It means being resourceful and utilizing all opportunities to make your dreams a reality.
What is your personal motto, mantra or favorite quote?
“Good, better, best. Never let it rest. 'Til your good is better and your better is best.” –St. Jerome
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” -- Wayne Gretzky
*Juris Prudence LLC has published the following: The Briefcase of Juris P. Prudence, Juris Prudence & Associates Intern Case Kit and the Juris Prudence & Associates Coloring Book. The company most recently released a picture book, Juris Prudence Goes to Law School. In addition to books, the company hosts the Juris Prudence Kids Mock Trial Academy, a workshop that allows children to interact with real attorney and act as lawyers for the day, putting on a trial on a topic of importance to them. Mock trial topics include those such as, “Should Kids Have Right to Vote?” and “Should Kids Have Recess”. The books are geared towards 5-12 years old and Mock Trial Academies for children at 8-12 years old.