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Kids' Book Heroine Could Draw New Students to Law

Of the 1.3 million lawyers in this country, only 35% are women, and only 5% are African-Americans. Jessica Childress noticed the lack of people like her as a student at the University of Virginia’s law school, and now – as a practicing attorney – Sandy Hausman reports she’s doing something about it.

When Jessica Childress was a kid, she loved the American Girl Doll Addy – a former slave who learns to read and write within months of starting school.  Addy was featured in a book, and as an adult, Childress decided to create her own character for kids.

“Staring at my bright pink backpack bearing my name at the top, made me wonder if my parents knew I would be a lawyer when they named me Juris Prudence," the story begins. "People usually had two reactions to my name: first a strange look upon hearing it, and then ‘What does your name mean?’ It means the study of law.”

In that book, The Briefcase of Juris P. Prudence, Childress describes a girl who hangs with a gang of junior attorneys.

“They are best friends," she says. "They have sleepovers.  They eat lunch together.  They’re 11-year-old lawyers, but they’re also kids."

And  Are they brainy? 

"They’re brainy!" Childress confirms. " I can’t lie, but brainy is cool.”

And their fight is noble.

“The mayor who’s running for re-election does not like kids, and Juris Prudence finds out about it and says, ‘We have to do something,’ and she and her best friends fight to change the law so that kids can vote,” the author explains.

Childress has also produced a workbook and coloring book for readers, and she organizes mock trials in which children defend recess – making their case against a pro.

In addition to a story book, work book and coloring book, Childress organizes mock trials in which kids argue the merits of recess.

“The case against recess was actually one of my very good friends from law school.  He was the opposing counsel, and the kids very much enjoyed arguing against a real lawyer.”

Childress hopes this story and associated activities will inspire other girls of color to consider careers in law.