The Human Lawyer: Kelly Rains Jesson
For Kelly Rains Jesson, life is her dance. While Kelly may not have always “wanted to be an attorney,” her story shows that how bright a person’s light shines is more important than when the light turns on. Kelly’s story also shows that life’s greatest opportunity is responding to your unique call to evolve and grow. Because for Kelly, in responding to her call, she became the owner of a successful and growing law firm! That’s no small feat. Want to know more? Here’s Kelly’s story, in her words.
How’d You Get Here?
I first began thinking about the possibility of being a lawyer in college when I became incredibly interested in public policy. I thought: “A law degree puts a person in a position where people listen to them. Law is a profession that opens doors.” And so it began.
I was really successful in law school because I was an older student. I knew that I was paying a lot of money for a higher education and that making good grades was my ticket to a good job. If I had gone to law school right out of undergrad, I would not have done as well because I was very immature. I would not have gotten into the University of Miami, and I would not have graduated summa cum laude.
At first, I was the typical ideological law student, wanting desperately “to help people.” Then, the law school “machine” cleansed me. Here’s how it worked: (1) make good grades; (2) get on law review; and (3) get offered a high-paying job at a nice law firm. Initially, that machine did a great job of “cleansing” my desire to help people.
However, I soon realized a lawyer can have a lucrative career AND still help people by donating time and money to worthy causes. I’ve learned that, in addition to helping my current clients, which absolutely gives me joy, I can build a practice that enables me to perform pro bono work, serve on nonprofit boards, and donate money to charitable causes. That possibility breathes life into my day-to-day.
So, when we moved back to North Carolina, my husband, Edward Jesson, and I started our law firm—Jesson & Rains. We believed we had enough experience to serve clients, and we were right! I am so proud of the work we do, and the business we have created. Together, we are building a business we are proud of in part because we serve clients who inspire us. For now, our firm quenches my insatiable desire of wanting to one up myself. Who knows what I will do next?
I’m Inspired By . . .
It makes me really happy at the end of the day when I have done good work for a client. If I can efficiently solve a problem that a client could not solve themselves, and if the client believes that I have delivered a valuable service, then I have done my job. And it feels great!
Practice-wise, I am proud that, at our firm, we sincerely put the client first. We also value our employees’ feedback and want to make them happy. We are inspired by successful small law firms building modern practices with a focus on rewarding employees, developing efficient systems, utilizing streamlined processes, and leveraging paperless or virtual practicers. I believe (at least I hope!) all of the above leads to higher quality of life for the owners.
My Passion Is . . .
Women business owners. Women have been successfully running households for hundreds of years. So, we should not be surprised that they make the best CEOs! [Look at Lynn Good as an example.] Plus, soon a woman will be POTUS, and I have no doubt she will make us proud.
Locally, I am a member of several women’s professional organizations, including the National Association of Women Business Owners and Women Lawyers of Charlotte. I love being a part of those organizations because it’s an opportunity to thrive at the intersection of passion and purpose. We work to make sure women have a seat at the table. In being a part of that effort, I am reminded by my experience at Peace College, an all-female college at the time, because I learned to be confident and to be heard. Every day, I witness other women helping women succeed in business by making sure they have the confidence the stand up and the courage to speak out.
If I Could Change One Thing About the Practice of Law . . .
I think access to justice is a big problem. A lot of people (dare I say, most?) cannot afford to hire an attorney to represent them. At the same time, attorneys deserve to get paid for their work. However, it should be easier for people to resolve disputes through alternative means. There’s a role for attorneys to play in developing a solution where people can resolve disputes without filing a lawsuit or engaging in ridiculous discovery.
In an effort to be a part of a solution, I’ve taken some “low bono” cases. I am heartbroken at the thought of someone having been wronged, needing an attorney, but not being able to afford one. Because Legal Aid services are not available for every type of case or every person, I can fill that gap.
Something The World Should Know About You
I love to dance. I’ve danced my whole life. When I graduated college, I needed a part-time job to supplement my income, so I started teaching dance a few nights a week. I taught for almost five years! While I miss teaching terribly, recently, I’ve started taking classes again. Heads up: I’m in an adult dance class at Charlotte Dance Alliance! It’s me and approximately 14 other former dancers and dance teachers. We’re really good! I love having a creative outlet again.