"I am passionate about family and adoption law."
Jennifer Boston Williams is an associate at Elizabeth R. Ondriezek P.A. She is one of 28 attorneys who are board certified by The Florida Bar in adoption law and is chair of the Jacksonville Bar Association Adoption Law Committee.
Who or what inspired you to become a lawyer? My family, albeit indirectly. I am a first-generation college graduate and my family has always been incredibly supportive of my goals. My brother and I enjoyed what I’ll call debating (and our parents would call something that can’t be printed) so the running joke was that I was born to be an attorney.
Someone other than my spouse who inspires me: My parents. They are loving, generous and strong. They’ll be celebrating their 50th anniversary in April and I’m incredibly lucky to have them.
How do you relate your undergraduate degree to your practice of law? I have a B.A. in political science and a B.S. in psychology. I went into my undergrad years thinking political science would be helpful in a legal career, and it has been. However, as an attorney focused on family and adoption law, my psychology degree has been extremely useful.
How did you decide your practice area? And why have you chosen that? It is one of those things that just fell into place. I finished my undergrad in winter and didn’t start law school until fall. I interviewed at a couple of law firms in hopes of getting some experience before law school and ended up working for Elizabeth Ondriezek. I had no intention of going into family law and Elizabeth had no intention of employing me part-time once I started law school. Twelve years later I’m still here and I am passionate about family and adoption law. I am fortunate to come from a very close-knit family; those values drive me to help others who are going through difficult times. Being able to help people through my work is deeply fulfilling and I cannot imagine going into another practice area.
What has been the biggest change in your practice area since you passed the Bar? Although it started well before I became an attorney, I’d say the shift away from the gender-related bias in terms of timesharing (child custody). The idea that young children should spend the majority of the time with their mothers and every other weekend with their fathers has not been completely eradicated but we have seen the “guidelines” adopted by various courts change over the years. The current 4th Judicial Circuit timesharing guidelines used in Duval County result in a roughly 60-40 split between parents, and 50-50 timesharing is becoming more common as well.
What do you think will be the next biggest change in your area of law? There has been a lot of noise about alimony reform over the years, and proponents aren’t giving up without a fight, so that’s one potential change we might be seeing in the not-too-distant future. I would like to see collaborative family law become more prevalent in Northeast Florida. The adversarial system so often causes lasting damage to families, particularly the children. I believe the collaborative law process can be used to minimize that damage and protect children more readily than we can hope to do on the battlefield of litigation.
What community service have you pursued and why that? I have enjoyed serving on the Outreach Committee of the Florida Family Law American Inns of Court for the past two years. Being a Jacksonville native, it has been uplifting to work with my fellow attorneys in ways that benefit our community. We endeavor to select a different cause each month and to encourage our membership to contribute, both by donating funds and goods and by volunteering their time and efforts. Some of the organizations we have worked to benefit include Hubbard House, the Family Nurturing Center and the Jacksonville Humane Society.
What’s your advice for new lawyers? Find a mentor. Listen 10 times for every time you speak. Observe experienced attorneys as often as you can, but don’t assume they will all be good role models. Prepare for every hearing you attend, whether it is set for five minutes or five days. Extend professional courtesies whenever you can and remember your roots and your community.