RIVERDALE, Md. — When she first set out to become an attorney, Kisha Brown immediately found herself fielding questions.
“From the minute I started law school, I felt like people have been asking me for lawyer referrals,” she said.
So, Brown decided to formally do that, and Justis Connection came to be.
“Justis Connection is the first Black lawyer referral and legal resource platform,” she said.
Potential clients fill out an online form to find a Black attorney that fits their needs. The service began in the Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area, but has since expanded to states from Florida to New York and out to Illinois and Texas, among others. Attorneys pay a fee to be part of Justis Connection.
Normally, just finding a Black attorney can be a challenge. Out of the 1.3 million lawyers in America, less than 5% percent are Black.
“It's hard to find someone,” Brown said. “Sometimes you don't necessarily know where to look.”
That’s what brought Patricia Browne to Justis Connection.
“It was important to me to make sure that our legal representation was diverse,” said Browne, who is president and CEO of the National Children’s Center, which focuses on helping kids, some with physical and intellectual challenges.
She said it was important that the center have diversity in its legal representation.
“We want to show that we're representative of the community, and so that's very important,” she said. “And, also, that person will have a different feel for what the challenges are, the cultural competencies, and all of those things that go into whatever the issue might be.”
Sean Trice is a business attorney and Senior Counsel at Whiteford, Taylor and Preston law firm in Washington, D.C.
“When clients, lay people, engage with the legal field, it can be intimidating,” he said.
Trice said he found unexpected clients through Justis Connection.
“Although they have been focused on African American attorneys, I have gotten clients that weren't African American from Justis Connection, which is really good,” he said. “It's not just for Black people to use Black attorneys; anyone can use Justis Connection. Anyone can choose to support minority attorneys, African American attorneys.”
That is what Kisha Brown said is the goal: the hope of finding balance on the scales of justice.
“In this country, Black people have had a very unique history and the legal system has historically and continues to be one where it is very challenging for us to navigate, where we are marginalized and even oppressed,” she said. “I want folks to feel empowered.”