'Join your local organizations and get out there. You never know where your connections are going to lead you.'
Kimberly Woods is the communications director of the Jacksonville Women Lawyers Association.
Who or what inspired you to become a lawyer? I grew up in Richmond, California, wanting to be a teacher. When I was in the eighth grade, Mr. Steele, my history teacher, held a mock trial for Civil War participants. I was selected as one of the attorneys and Mr. Steele took the time to teach us the basic overview of the legal system and how it is designed to be fair and just. Ever since that lesson, I have wanted to devote my life to the practice of law.
People other than my spouse who inspire me: My grandmother, who grew up in rural Mississippi and has never let anything stand in her way. And my mother. She taught me the value of hard work and perseverance.
How do you relate your undergraduate degree to your practice of law? My degree is in government with a concentration in international relations. The majority of my classes focused on interpersonal communication among people of different backgrounds. This helps me with everything from client communications to working with other counsel.
How did you decide your practice area? And why have you chosen that? Throughout law school and in the years immediately after, I worked on the plaintiff’s side. I made the change to defense last year because I wanted the experience of working on both sides of civil litigation.
What do you think will be the next biggest change in your area of law? I think it will involve personal injury protection or PIP benefits. It seems like there is a shift toward heavy modification or even complete abandonment.
If I could change anything in the legal system, I would: Make it more affordable or increase funding to organizations like Jacksonville Area Legal Aid or Three Rivers Legal Services. I would also require, instead of encourage, pro bono hours for every attorney. That would encourage employers to accommodate those attorneys who want to branch out into pro bono pursuits.
What community service have you pursued and why that? I pursue community service through organizations like the Jacksonville Bar Association and Jacksonville Women Lawyers Association. My biggest project, thus far, has been heading the JBA Senior Holiday Project. This is my second year as chair of the committee and seventh year as a participant. My 94-year-old grandmother lives back home in California and she still goes out every holiday and buys blankets for homeless people. She always wants to find ways to help those who are less fortunate. She is the inspiration for my involvement with the project.
What’s your advice for new lawyers? Join your local organizations and get out there. You never know where your connections are going to lead you. There is so much you’re not going to know, and you have so many resources that you’re not going to know about. Make friends – it’ll make everything so much easier.