On February 12, 2011, Jessica J. King received special recognition from the ABA YLD as a Finalist for the 2010 National Outstanding Young Lawyer Award. Ms. King, a bankruptcy and consumer law attorney from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, was nominated by her state’s young lawyers division for her dedicated service to the community and to young lawyers. During her years in the Wisconsin YLD, she developed and ran the state bar’s Law Day program and pushed forward many member service and pro bono initiatives. In her community, Ms. King served as Deputy Mayor and the only woman on the city’s Common Council. Today, Ms. King is running for the State Senate.
Below is a brief question and answer session with Ms. King:
The Affiliate: How do you feel about receiving special recognition as an outstanding young lawyer from the ABA YLD?
Jessica King: I was honored to be nominated by the Wisconsin Young Lawyers Division and humbled to be selected as a Finalist for the 2010 National Outstanding Young Lawyer Award. I think young lawyers across the country are working hard to improve their communities, meet the high standards of the profession, and build their businesses in this tough economy. I think it’s excellent that the ABA YLD is willing to recognize the accomplishments of solo practitioners working in small and mid-size communities.
The Affiliate: What prompted you to start your own practice?
King: I decided to start my own practice because I recognized my need for workplace flexibility. At the time I was assisting my disabled parents as they struggled with cancer and kidney failure. It was important for me to be engaged in their lives and also advance my career. Opening my own office allowed me to see clients on nights and weekends and be available during the day when my parents needed me. It turns out that my client base appreciated the flexible hours as much as I did.
The Affiliate: What prompted you to become involved as a member of the City of Oshkosh Common Council and the Deputy Mayor for the City of Oshkosh?
King: I love Oshkosh. It’s a great place to live. I realized that my perspective as a young professional, resident, and lawyer would be valuable to the community as it created its vision and strategic plan for the future. It felt great to give back to a community that has given so much to me over the years. The sustainability projects and downtown revitalization projects accomplished during my four-year term have made Oshkosh even better.
The Affiliate: How are you able to manage a practice and serve as a council person and Deputy Mayor?
King: Time management is the number one key to success as a part-time public servant and a full-time lawyer. It’s also important to be realistic about time commitments and how long committee meetings are likely to last.
The Affiliate: What advice would you give young lawyers struggling with the economic downturn in the legal profession?
King: I believe finding a mentor is the most important thing a young lawyer can do to build his or her understanding of the profession and the local community. I have had several over the years. Some mentors participate in the legal profession and others were women professionals that participated in civic engagement. Mentors can help open doors to your future client base, and it’s always great to get another person’s perspective when you are trying to evaluate options.
The Affiliate: What future endeavors are you pursing or would like to pursue?
King: I’m currently running for the Wisconsin State Senate as part of the 2011 recall elections. It’s an exciting time of political engagement.
The Affiliate: You initiated the statewide Law Day. Why do you believe this is important and what were your reasons for initiating Law Day?
King: Civic education is fundamental to our democracy, which is fundamental to healthy and strong communities. Citizens need to have ownership and understanding of government for communities to thrive. Law Day is one method to get young people excited and engaged in government, and I hope it continues for years to come!
About the ABA YLD National Outstanding Young Lawyer Award
Each year the Division recognizes ABA young lawyers that exhibit professional excellence; service to the profession and the bar; service to the community; and a reputation for or the advancement of legal ethics and professional responsibility. The nomination deadline is August 31 of each year. For more information visit www.americanbar.org/groups/young_lawyers/awards_scholarships.html.