Latoya Willams Shelton is the 2019-20 president of the D.W. Perkins Bar Association. The organization is hosting its Bar year kickoff reception and membership drive from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Zodiac Bar & Grill, Downtown at 120 W. Adams St.
Who or what inspired you to become a lawyer? It sounds so cliché, but I decided I wanted to be a lawyer around the age of 13 from watching “Law & Order.” I loved the show. It helped me to realize that I wanted to help people. When my dad would ask me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would proudly say, “I want to be a lawyer!”
One person other than my spouse who inspires me: My father always inspires me to work hard and be more than average.
ow did you decide your practice area? And why have you chosen that? I am in private practice and have three main practice areas: criminal law, family law and personal injury. When I began practicing, I was constantly being referred criminal cases. I enjoy being able to help those who find themselves in a difficult situation with the law. With family law, it chose me. As my practice grew, I began to receive additional requests for consultations regarding family law matters. I always wanted to practice personal injury because I have first-hand knowledge about the long-term physical effects that can result from another’s negligence. As a young child, I was struck by a speeding car, which resulted in a serious injury. That incident gave me a passion for wanting to help those who have been injured receive the necessary support needed to heal and to hold those responsible accountable.
What has been the biggest change in your practice area since you passed the Bar? One of the most significant ways the law has changed is in the vast amount of online resources that are available to the general public and clients. While at times helpful, these web-based resources often result in inaccurate information and can lead clients to believe that they can handle complex legal issues on their own. By the time clients choose to consult a professional like myself, they have, at times, done considerable damage to the merits of their case. On the other hand, when reputable, these resources can provide individuals who cannot otherwise afford counsel with access to the courts to pursue or defend a claim.
What do you think will be the next biggest change in your area of law? I think we will see a big change in the coming years in the prosecution of cases involving possession of marijuana.
If I could change anything in the legal system, I would: If I could change just one thing about the legal system, it would be to provide justice for each person that finds themselves involved in the system, not just to those who can afford it or who have the right connections.
What community service have you pursued and why that? I serve on the board of directors for Jacksonville Area Legal Aid. I am honored to work with legal aid and see the internal work that is done daily to help those who are unable to afford an attorney. I specifically enjoy presenting in their Lawyers in Libraries program. Through this program, individuals in need can get valuable information from an attorney regarding specific areas of the law simply by visiting their local library. I chose this community service as I thoroughly enjoy helping others and I think it’s important to give back and help others regardless of their ability to pay.
What’s your advice for new lawyers? Always be willing to grow in knowledge, find a mentor, and don’t be afraid to ask questions or to admit when you do not know the answer.