The brief case of Juris Prudence, or how a Petworth children’s author aims to diversify the legal profession

Illustration courtesy Jessica Childress

by Elissa Fuchs

Petworth resident Jessica Childress loved the field of law, but found it lacking in diversity. So the labor and employment attorney decided to do something about it. She put pen to paper and wrote The Briefcase of Juris P. “JP” Prudence, a children’s book featuring an eleven-year old African-American lawyer who lives in Petworth.

This book chronicles JP and her array of friends as they fight for the right to vote and is written for seven- to twelve-year olds. The book is for sale at Upshur Street Books and Sankofa Video Books and Cafe. Of course, you can also find it on Amazon as a Kindle or paperback.   

Juris "J.P." Prudence always wondered if her parents named her Juris because they knew that she was destined to become a lawyer. Her parents probably never expected that she would become a lawyer at just eleven years old and use her law degree to change history.

Last year, JP and her best friends, Sofia “Sofie” Flores-Ramirez, Isabel “Izzy” Carrington, and Madeline “Maddy” Rosenfeld, finished the law program that they started at the National Kids Leaders Academy at the early age of five years old. Despite the fact that they are only eleven years old, they are now real lawyers.

Since passing the bar exam, they have not done anything to put their law degrees to use, that is, until the day that J.P. and her best friends form a law firm to change the law for kids.

Illustration courtesy Jessica Childress

In talking about her desire to write the book, Jessica said, “I wanted to show kids, especially kids who don’t have lawyers in their families, that lawyers come in all forms.” 

JP and her legal team have diverse backgrounds that are under-represented in the law — one is from South Korea, while another is presumably of Latin American descent. And this team is all-female for a reason: to show that girls can be strong, powerful and successful.

Through her work, Jessica also hopes to make the law more relevant to children. For her first book she chose a legal topic — the right to vote — hoping it will spark an interest in kids. She wants to get them excited about the law and realize that attorney can make a difference in the world.

“Lawyers are out there doing good things, helping people and protecting intellectual property,” she said.

Illustration courtesy Jessica Childress

Illustration courtesy Jessica Childress

Illustration courtesy Jessica Childress

Last year, Jessica quit her job at a global law firm to create a children’s content company, Jurisprudence LLC, to produce the next set of books in the Juris P. Prudence series. A picture book geared toward a slightly younger crowd should be out later this year.

Her company hosts workshops for children based on the Juris Prudence books. In these workshops, children ages 8-12 spend time learning basic legal principles, then they get put their new-found legal knowledge to use in a mock trial. Those interested should check out the next workshop, which will be held at the Francis Gregory Neighborhood Library (3660 Alabama Ave SE) on August 26th.

Jessica still works as a solo law practitioner, but cherishes the time to focus on her content company. “I really want to do something about the pipeline,” Childress says. “This is my small contribution to increasing diversity in the legal profession.”

Help support a local Petworth author and pick up a copy!

Author Jessica Childress

Author Jessica Childress

Elissa Fuchs

Elissa writes feature-style human interest stories for Petworth News, often with a focus on health and wellness. A native Washingtonian, she now lives in 16th Street Heights with her husband and son. She works in communications and enjoys yoga and running in her spare time.

Contact Elissa with any story ideas or say hello when you see her at Qualia Coffee, one of her favorite Petworth spots.

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