Jamila Brinson and Shelisa Brock are both first-generation attorneys who have found their place at Jackson Walker, helping provide for their families and mentoring those who are new to the legal profession. In this Fast Takes episode, Courtney White speaks with Jamila and Shelisa about their upbringings and journeys to practicing law.
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Research Attorney, Dallas & Houston
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Courtney White: Hi, everyone. I am Courtney White, and this is Jackson Walker Fast Takes. Jackson Walker deeply values various cultures and cultural experiences. Jackson Walker is extremely proud of our African American attorneys and allied professionals who have provided leadership and helped shape our firm into what it is today. I asked my colleagues to join this podcast episode to share more of their life story and how those experiences have shaped their legal practices here at Jackson Walker. Today, we are joined by Jamila Brinson, a partner in the Houston office, and Shelisa Brock, an associate in the Dallas office.
Thank you so much for joining us today, Jamila and Shelisa. Shelisa, will you please share your life story with us first?
Shelisa Brock: Thank you for having me, Courtney. A little bit about myself: I’m a Dallas, Texas native, and I was raised in a household of blended cultures. What I mean by that is my mother is also from Texas, but my dad is from Ghana, and he immigrated here to the U.S. later on in life. As you can imagine, that meant that there were several cultural differences. Now, despite those differences, there was also some similarities, and they both valued some of the same things – one of those things being education.
Education was important on both my father’s side as well as my mother’s side. In fact, several people in my family had obtained postgraduate degrees, including master’s degrees, PhDs, but there were no lawyers in my family. No one had gone to law school. Because education was important, it really wasn’t a question of whether or not I would go to college or even whether or not I would pursue some sort of postgraduate degree; it was more of a question of what it is that I wanted to study.
I would say that pretty early on in life, I knew that I didn’t particularly enjoy math or science. But I did realize I loved reading, writing, and even history. So, maybe some time, I think in my junior year of high school, I really started considering and thinking about pursuing becoming a lawyer. But again, because there were no lawyers in my family, I honestly didn’t really know what it meant to be a lawyer or what their day-to-day looked like. But from then on out, I started to seek opportunities to speak to lawyers and hear about what it is that they did. My dad, although he wasn’t an attorney, his career in Human Resources often involved legal issues. So, he would work with attorneys from time to time, and I enjoyed hearing about what it is that he did when those issues arose. I looked for opportunities to speak with people as I was in undergrad, and then even in law school, I was still looking for opportunities to speak with different attorneys. It was that search that actually, I guess, led to me learning about Jackson Walker.
I was introduced to Jackson Walker my first year of law school when I signed up for mentor and I was paired with one of the attorneys in the Austin office, Chris Mugica. I guess you can say the rest is history. I interned at Jackson Walker as a summer associate, I started practicing in 2015, and I’ve been with Jackson Walker ever since. I’ve enjoyed practicing here because it’s a place where people have a variety of different backgrounds. There are plenty of other attorneys who are also the first in their families. So, I’ve really enjoyed learning, and I’ve enjoyed looking for ways to carve space for others just like me, other African Americans who may be the first in their family or maybe they’re the third in their family. But Jackson Walker has been a great place to practice.
Courtney White: Thank you, Shelisa. Jamila, I’m excited to hear your story next.
Jamila Brinson: Thank you, Courtney. My story is a little bit different from Shelisa’s in that I am a first-generation American. Both of my parents were born and raised in Belize in Central America. They came to the U.S. in their early 20s, late teens, as adults in search or in pursuit of, you know, what we refer to as the “American Dream.” Both of my parents came here, and my father joined the Army and was in the Army. Through that experience, he was able to obtain his U.S. citizenship. Because obviously my parents were married, my mom became eventually became a U.S. citizen, as well.
What I remember most growing up is that it was an expectation that I and my siblings work hard. It was understood my parents sacrificed a lot to be able to come to the U.S. in pursuit of greater opportunities and to be able to provide us with opportunities that they did not have access to. So, I did not take that for granted. It was very important to me to make my parents proud in that regard, and to be able to set myself up in a way that I could eventually assist my family financially, both in the U.S. and back in Belize. Also, you know, just be able to give back to others, because I saw even though my parents came here with not much, they still made it a priority to give back to their community back in Belize and also here in the U.S.
I was introduced to Jackson Walker in I believe 2006 as a 1L, when I interviewed for a summer position through the summer opportunity that was provided through the HPA for minority students and law school. I interviewed with Bruce Ruzinsky, who was the then-Chair of Jackson Walker’s Diversity Committee. I fell in love with the personality of the firm, as a team, to learn about it and to know about it. Even though I was not a summer intern with Jackson Walker until my second year, by that point, after going through that experience, I was sold in terms of the attorneys that I was able to work with and being exposed to their practices and what was important to them. There were several attorneys who were also first-generation Americans, or they were new to the practice of law, and they were thriving a Jackson Walker. They were able to create practices that they loved and that they were able to be successful in. So, I knew this was the place where I wanted to begin my legal career.
I am here 12 years later and still happy to be here, growing my practice and now in a position as a partner, to be able to continue to help other associates who are coming behind me.
Courtney White: Jamila and Shelisa, thank you so much for coming today to share your stories.
Jamila Brinson: Thank you, Courtney.
Shelisa Brock: Thank you, Courtney.
The music is by Eve Searls.
The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.
Jamila M. Brinson is a labor and employment and litigation attorney who partners with clients to proactively shape their workplaces and resolve issues when they arise. Whether handling labor and employment disputes, commercial disputes, or media, trademark, and copyright litigation, Jamila listens to her clients and creates legal strategies to obtain the best possible result. She also serves as Chair of Jackson Walker’s Diversity & Inclusion Counseling group. In recognition of her practice, Jamila has been named to Thomson Reuters’ Super Lawyers – Rising Stars list (2019-2022) and Lawdragon’s list of the 500 leading U.S. corporate employment lawyers (2020-2022). She is Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.
For several years, Jamila has coordinated the Houston office’s participation in the University of Houston Law Center’s Pre-Law Pipeline Program, mentoring students, facilitating “Dress for Success” workshops and coordinating internships at the Firm for program participants to gain exposure to law firm practice. In addition to UHLC, Jamila volunteers her time as Vice Chair of the Media Law Resource Center’s Employment Law Committee, The Downtown Group, Chinquapin Preparatory School, West Orem Family YMCA, and the National Black Pre-Law Conference and Law School Fair. She is a past Fellow of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD) development program.
Shelisa E. Brock represents clients across a variety of industries in both state and federal court as well as before federal and state employment practice agencies. Experienced in all phases of litigation, Shelisa has represented clients in a wide range of labor and employment law, including matters involving discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and wage and hour disputes. She has also represented clients in union grievance proceedings. Shelisa volunteers her time on the Susan G. Komen Dallas County Board of Directors and with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Collin County. She is also a member of South Dallas Business and Professional Women’s Club, Inc. In 2019, Jackson Walker selected Shelisa to participate in the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity Pathfinder Program.