Jessica Mathis is the 2018-19 president of the Jacksonville Bar Association Young Lawyers Section. She joined the Dawson | Orr law firm in June as senior associate attorney.
Who or what inspired you to become a lawyer? When I was attending Florida State University, I took a class on the Supreme Court. My professor pulled me aside after class one day and asked if I ever thought about pursuing a career in the law as he saw great potential in me. I had not considered it, but after speaking with him I signed up to take the Law School Admission Test. Without that professor’s encouragement, I would not be a lawyer today.
How do you relate your undergraduate degree to your practice of law? My undergraduate degree is in political science and I minored in international affairs. I believe that my undergraduate degree provided me with a foundation of understanding the political process and key issues in politics, which is undoubtedly intertwined with the law.
How did you decide your practice area? And why have you chosen that? In law school I had the great fortune of clerking every summer. I tried to gain experience in various areas of the law. Civil defense litigation seemed to be what best fit my personality. I enjoy the practice and being in the courtroom. Litigation provides me with that opportunity.
What has been the biggest change in your practice area since you passed the Bar? E-discovery. With everyone communicating via email, text messages and on Facebook and other social media, it has broadened the information that we need to gather when investigating cases. Much of the e-discovery necessarily includes hiring an expert or outside firm to assist in this process, as the method by which we collect these forms of data is challenging.
If I could change anything in the legal system, I would: Ensure that cases are resolved in a more expeditious fashion. There are many times that cases go on for years and clients are left with large legal bills and no end in sight. In some cases, this dissuades people from bringing their grievances to the legal system. I think we can do a better job of case management to keep cases moving and on track for resolution.
What community service have you pursued and why that? The majority of my community service is through the Young Lawyers Section of the Jacksonville Bar Association. We put on several events for local charities each year. The golf tournament, poker tournament and chili cook-off are the three charitable events that the YLS hosts. We have donated thousands of dollars to the HEAL Foundation, the Ribault High School mentoring program, K9s for Warriors, Rethreaded and many other organizations. We try to include a variety of charities that have unique missions. I look forward to continuing to donate to local charities this year.
What’s your advice for new lawyers? Get a mentor and find work-life balance. For many of us, the beginning of our practice was all work. While work is important, no matter how long you’ve been practicing, finding a balance is important for longevity in your career and for stress management. Sometimes we allow our stress to take over, and having something outside of work to assist in this is critical.