This month, to kick off the new year, I interviewed GPSolo’s own Kelly J. Adams for some insight into what makes this dynamic and beautiful woman tick. Kelly was the recipient of the GPSolo Difference Maker Award last Fall in Kansas City, Missouri. It was such a joy to see her receive the award in her gorgeous red dress. It was obvious she was surprised and awed by the honor. The Difference Maker Award is very prestigious in the ABA. I wanted to find out how much it meant to her and to learn how she manages to do so much in addition to being a mother of three and running her own successful law practice. I’ve known Kelly since she joined GPSolo, and we have connected on a deep level from the beginning. In this interview, I learned some gems to share with you.
I found out that she was a deeply spiritual woman with a heart for public service early in life. Kelly was born in Wilmington, Delaware, and was raised in Chadds Ford, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. She graduated law school in 2013. She joined the ABA Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division as a Diversity Fellow in 2015 and, in 2020, became the Division Diversity Director. She has created and overseen the Division’s very successful diversity programming and has been a valuable member of the group. Kelly has served on the Book Publications Board and has always been there to help and support me in my efforts on behalf of the Division. I am grateful to her for that love and support. You can always count on Kelly.
Kelly says that even as a child, she was dedicated to “advocate” service. By advocate, she means that she helps people learn to advocate for themselves. She thought she wanted to be a pediatrician, but everything changed for her one day when her uncle Vandell Bland, an attorney, took her to trial with him when she was just under ten years old. It was a criminal trial, and she heard the defendant say on the stand, “I didn’t steal those jeans!” with such fervor that Kelly believed her.
From that moment on, she was fascinated with the law. She wanted to follow in her uncle’s footsteps and represent people who could not speak for themselves. She continued her young adult life of service to others by volunteering at a nursing home and being there for elderly people who were lonely and needed a sympathetic ear. She studied English literature in college and sailed through law school excited about the possibility of being able to really help people once she had her law degree.
Kelly says that the most defining moment in her life came when she was 24 years old and gave her life to Christ. Up until that point, she admits her life was chaotic; she didn’t have it all figured out. She says, “Once I surrendered to the Lord, my life started changing.” She got married at 23, had a son at 25, started law school at 26, had another son at 28, graduated law school, and then at 33, she had her third boy. Right now, the boys are 14, 11, and seven. Kelly says, “With all that change and activity, the decision to surrender my life to Christ put my life in order. I stepped into the path that was ordained for me.”
Kelly had a series of spiritual experiences that put her firmly on the path of mindfulness, too. She had a law school professor who instilled the concepts of mindfulness into her lectures, and something in one of them inspired a “light bulb” moment for Kelly that changed her life: She got the message to take care of herself. Sometimes, these insights happen so fast and without warning, and thank heavens Kelly was intuitive enough to catch that message she needed.
After that, she realized she needed to do something for herself that brought her joy. She started to sell Lia Sophia jewelry through a direct sales company. This venture was a big change of atmosphere for her; she enjoyed working with beautiful jewelry and being around a group of fun people in a less serious, nondemanding setting. And she made some money, too. The whole experience was very therapeutic for her, and it taught her a couple of very valuable lessons.
I became very cognizant that I need to do things that make me happy and that don’t require anything from me. And that my time with God, when I can break away and take whatever extra amount of time I have to take a deep breath, whether it’s three minutes or 15 minutes, is the most restorative time for me. It helps me sleep better and to feel restored. This is when my life changed, and I know that the Lord has my back.
Know Who You Are
Kelly’s LEAD line is “Know Who You Are.” She says, “Your identity is important. You can do anything. Everyone comes from a different background and can accomplish what they set their mind to do.” What an honor and joy it was for her to share this message that she has learned so young in her life to a group of more than 600 students from ten schools on a mission trip last August in Limpopo, South Africa.
Right now, she juggles a very active life, being deeply involved in her three sons’ lives. They are all scholars and athletes. She balances her career and running her own firm with that deep sense of purpose that her faith provides her. Kelly admitted she was still trying to process receiving the Difference Makers Award. She said,
I’m still kind of in shock. I feel so honored to be perceived as a Difference Maker. Most people didn’t know that at the time I became a Diversity Director, I was going through a divorce I didn’t understand, and my life was going in different directions. It was so rewarding to have that job to do while I was adjusting to a new way of life. And now, to be recognized for what I did amidst the adversity, well, it just spurs me on to keep going. We are resilient, and with God having my back, the sky is the limit.
It is going to be fun for me to watch Kelly’s life trajectory and see what she does with it. She is young but has the wisdom instilled in her that will take her far. I’m encouraged and inspired by her faith, and I know that this is only the beginning for her. And, as you begin your new year, ponder your defining moments and think about how they have shaped your life. There may be some gold in there that can help you deal with things in the future as you contemplate everything you have been through up to this point.
Please contact me with your questions or comments at [email protected].
Defining Moments: Insights Into the Lawyer’s Soul
By Melanie Bragg
Product Code: 1620777
2019, 241 pages, paperback and e-book
$29.95; member price $23.95
Published in GPSolo eReport, Volume 13, Number 6, January 2024. © 2024 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association or the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division.