Kirsten Doolittle is chair of the Jacksonville Bar Association Labor & Employment Law Committee.
Who or what inspired you to become a lawyer? My parents are lawyers and inspired me to pursue this path.
Someone other than my spouse who inspires me: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
How do you relate your undergraduate degree to your practice of law? As a history major and education minor, I developed an appreciation (or tolerance) for reading high volumes of material at a significant pace, identifying key facts and themes and discussing information in a semi-intelligible fashion. I did not know it at the time, but that work provided the foundation for the skill set that I rely on every day.
How did you decide your practice area? My grandfather was a union organizer and my dad is a labor lawyer in Mississippi. In high school, I worked in my dad’s office and spent some time in union halls and contract negotiations. I ultimately chose a labor and employment practice because I saw the impact that he made for individual clients as well as large groups of workers and felt called to do the same. About four years ago, I migrated into Title IX compliance to help schools protect all students by investigating allegations of sexual misconduct in a fair, prompt and thorough manner.
What has been the biggest change in your practice area since you passed the Bar? Probably the evolution of employee protection statutes: The Americans with Disabilities Act, Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, Fair Labor Standards Act and Title VII, as well as the enactment of state and federal whistleblower statutes.
What do you think will be the next biggest change in your area of law? Over the past five years, there has been an uptick in litigation brought by students alleging that schools have violated their rights under Title IX by virtue of inadequate investigations and/or unsupported findings. As a result, many schools have changed the manner in which they respond to allegations of sexual misconduct. In addition, the Department of Education is on the eve of announcing significant changes to Title IX regulations that will further impact how schools respond to these issues, particularly at the K-12 level. Given the climate, I expect that we will see similar regulations prescribing how employers respond to workplace misconduct.
If I could change anything in the legal system, I would … Eliminate the use of email to communicate on substantive matters.
What community service have you pursued and why that? I have served as a board member for Planned Parenthood for nearly 10 years to ensure that people in our community have access to excellent reproductive health care and education. I also serve on the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville and work as a pro bono mediator for the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission.
What’s your advice for new lawyers? Work hard. Speak up. Be kind.