Focus on an AAARTA Fellow
Joanna Beck Wilkinson
|General Information:||General Information:||General Information:|
|1. Practice Affiliation: Jenny L. Womack, P.C. (I’m a solo practitioner)
2. Year Admitted to the Bar: 1998
3. Prior Occupation: spent 3 years in the brokerage industry between my first and second years of law school
4. Law School: University of Texas at Austin School of Law (Hook ‘Em Horns)
|1. Practice Affiliation: Law Offices of Mary Beck
2. Year Admitted to the Bar: 2008
3. Prior Occupation: Fashionista
4. Law School: University of Minnesota
|1. Practice Affiliation: Family Formation Lawyer; Sole Practitioner
2. Year Admitted to the Bar: 1981
3. Prior occupation(s): Sign language interpreter; Paralegal
4. Law School: Lewis and Clark Law School, Portland, Oregon
|Your Law Practice:||Your Law Practice:||Your Law Practice:|
|1. What led you to a legal career? When I was 6, my uncle (who had been a lawyer and even argued before SCOTUS way back when) suggested I should be a lawyer (most likely due to my arguing skills)
2. Did you set out to practice adoption law and/or ART law or was it a natural progression? I started in family law (divorce, custody, etc.) and progressed from there
3. Is there a particular aspect of the law you enjoy most? Least? I don’t like contested hearings/trials – especially when arguing over minor things (more of an issue when I still handled divorce cases). But I love helping families grow – and getting to see the children on adoption day is the best part!
4. What is your greatest accomplishment as a lawyer? I suspect it’s yet to come…but being recognized as a local “expert” on adoption and surrogacy is rewarding
5. What is the greatest lesson you have learned from practicing law? It is incredibly rare for one person to be 100% at fault
6. If you were starting over and choosing a career today, what would it be? Maybe architect or something in design?
|1. What led you to a legal career? My mother
2. Did you set out to practice adoption law and/or ART law or was it a natural progression? By the time I joined Mom’s practice, it had naturally progressed to include both adoption and ART.
3. Is there a particular aspect of the law you enjoy most? Least? I very much enjoy legislative advocacy. It really bothers me when judges don’t follow the law.
4. What is your greatest accomplishment as a lawyer? I’m still pretty green at this point in my career. I will say that having gotten to know Fellows over the years when I went to conference with Mom, and coming to understand how accomplished, professional, reputable and knowledgeable they are, it was a profound honor to be welcomed into the Academy.
5. What is the greatest lesson you have learned from practicing law? Graceful and informed persistence will eventually prevail.
6. If you were starting over and choosing a career today, what would it be? An adoption and ART attorney.
|1. What led you to a legal career? After college I went to work as a paralegal for a small law firm in Rochester, New York. Yes, the same Rochester where our very own Greg Franklin lives and works. Two of my college professors, both male attorneys, encouraged me to go to law school. For some reason they thought I would make a good lawyer. Realizing that I could do what my boss could do, I decided to apply to law school. Plus, the times, they were a'changing. Women were rising up and taking action. I had a supportive boyfriend (now my husband of almost 40 years) and decided that for me, there was more to life than housework and raising a passel of children. Besides, women were being told we could do it all. Off went my applications, including one to Lewis and Clark Law School in far away Oregon. A friendly DA I knew in Rochester thought Don and I would like the Pacific NW. I am now a born again Oregonian. There is moss between my toes and I don't carry an umbrella.
2. Did you set out to practice adoption law and/or ART law or was it a natural progression? I set out to practice anything but family law. Seriously. Then after law school I clerked for one of Portland's finest Circuit Court Judges and ended up learning family law and complex civil litigation.
After my clerkship, I went to work for a small family law firm. The rest, as they say, is history. For a number of years I was a family law attorney. Around 1984 I handled my first adoption case, a contested adoption where I represented the adoptive parents. Their first lawyer had truly messed things up. After discovery I had to advise them to return the baby to the birth mother. Ouch. What a way to start. I learned a lot from that case, mostly what not to do. It's impacted my practice ever since. My adoption practice started growing after that case. My ART practice has evolved from my adoption practice. Nowadays my practice is ART heavy, reflecting the changing times in our areas of law.
3. Is there a particular aspect of the law you enjoy most? Least? Most-liked aspect of the law: Helping people work out solutions; working together to resolve differences; using creative ways to resolve disputes; being collaborative; developing new procedures to use in my areas of law; being one of the innovators.
Least-liked aspect: Litigation. The adversarial nature of the law when it leads to unresolved dispute. The posturing.
4. What is your greatest accomplishment as a lawyer? It's difficult to choose one thing. I love that I've been able to help folks become parents. I am honored to help birth parents as they choose what has to be one of the hardest things a person can ever do. I love that my practice is collaborative. I truly enjoy and am proud of the legislative work I've done in Oregon. It's fun figuring out new ways to address and resolve issues.
5. What is the greatest lesson you have learned from practicing law? Perspective.
6. If you were starting over and choosing a career today, what would it be? I often say if I had to do it over, I would not have become a lawyer. At times I wish I'd gone into a more science-oriented profession. Working for NASA would have been awesome. Then again, maybe the foreign service. Should have learned more languages when I was young. I like languages and learning about other cultures.
|What Makes You "Tick":||What Makes You "Tick":||What Makes You "Tick":|
|1. What would anyone be surprised to learn about you? I have a tattoo…for some reason that shocks people
2. What was the very first job you ever had? Sales clerk at Mervyn’s department store when I was 16 (at least first job I got a paycheck for…my mom had me doing filing at her office when I was 12/13)
3. What is your greatest personal accomplishment (if different from your professional one)? My first European trip by myself – 10 days in Paris (see next)
4. Describe one of your most cherished memories. Standing on the Japanese bridge in Monet’s garden at Giverney on my 35th birthday
5. What contributions do you make to help others? I’ve done a lot of volunteer work with the local bar and other charitable organizations over the years, but currently, it is probably my involvement in mentoring young women lawyers locally as well as a law student at my alma mater – I am also the Law School Liaison for the Dallas Women Lawyers Association and in that role I have helped support female law student programs at all 3 local law schools and run the DWLA Bar Study Scholarship program (I assume you don’t mean all the things I help my mom with, like replacing the propane tank on her gas grill)
6. What inspires you to go beyond your legal career to help others? Knowing that I have been privileged/lucky and wanting to give back in some way
7. What would you like your gravestone to say about you? “World’s Best Aunt”? – but seriously, that I loved and was loved
|1. What would anyone be surprised to learn about you? There was that one time that I was apprehended by the United States Secret Service. For the record, I was wearing Chanel and I’m not sorry about it. Also, my name is not Joanna. Muwahahahahaha!
2. What was the very first job you ever had? Lifeguard
3. What is your greatest personal accomplishment (if different from your professional one)? People tell me that my children are kind and personable little boys. I’m very proud of that.
4. Describe one of your most cherished memories. Nothing can top the days when my three sons arrived.
5. What contributions do you make to help others? My husband and I are strong supporters of American Public Media.
6. What inspires you to go beyond your legal career to help others? The recognition that I am so fortunate in life, and others are not.
7. What would you like your gravestone to say about you? No gravestone for me. I’m donating my body to a local medical school.
|1. What would anyone be surprised to learn about you? I wish I could dance. Really dance. Here's another one: I grew up believing I was not a risk taker. Not true. I've climbed glacier-covered mountains, went to law school when women barely made up 25% of my class, started and maintained my own successful law practice for many years, hiked up a dangerous and daunting slot canyon in Jordan, traveled to and explored developing countries, kayaked ocean waters, and survived being a member of the Academy's Site Selection Committee since 2009. And how many of you would ever have guessed that as first chair alto sax in band, I got to play the solo in "Take Five" at a state-wide competition in Connecticut. Maybe Mr. Wallace, my band director and an amazing man of color, was instrumental in helping me learn to be a risk taker, all those years ago. Thanks, Mr. Wallace!
2. What was the very first job you ever had? Working in the local small town pizza joint, owned by a local guy who was known as being bi-sexual. While married with children, he had a reputation for liking the high school boys. I could work until closing and not have to worry about whether or not he would sexually harass me while giving me a ride home. For the times, it was liberating. And the start of my exposure to the reality that not everyone was/is heterosexual. A major "a ha" life moment in a quiet way.
3. What is your greatest personal accomplishment (if different from your professional one)? Giving birth to and raising our son, Evan, is my greatest personal accomplishment. I would not exchange it for anything.
4. Describe one of your most cherished memories. One cherished memory (there are many): Riding the cable car up Mont Blanc with eight year old Evan and hearing him tell a stranger, who had asked why he was wearing his ski helmet, "For courage". I was scared half to death. Should have worn my helmet.
5. What contributions do you make to help others? I try to live by the Golden Rule. Good to have goals. Once a year I go on a H4H Global Village build trip. Come back humbled and renewed. When Evan was growing up, I volunteered in his school, ran the school science fair for 4 years, and served on the local school site committee for several years. Don and I became known as the "Brownie Supply Team" to Evan's XC and track teams in high school (the shoe boxes full of brownies were very popular) and hosted team dinners at our house on a regular basis. Imagine 75 to 150 high school athletes showing up after practice, hungry and thirsty. I loved it and miss them. I help a friend with her 98 year old dad, who lives in the same nursing home as my 90 year old mom. I volunteer my time to help improve the law in Oregon, handle pro bono cases, and mentor younger lawyers in my areas of practice. I've helped my parents as they aged, sat with my dad as he died, and am now my mom's caregiver and manage her finances, etc. More recently I've become interested in voting rights and traveled to Florida to be a poll watcher on election day 2016 (with a shout out to Fellow Susan Stockham who came and kept me company that afternoon!). I plan to be in a battleground state for election day 2018.
6. What inspires you to go beyond your legal career to help others? My strong and lifelong belief that as human beings, we are all worthy of respect, compassion and love. By accident of birth, I have lived a pretty darn amazing life. I've worked hard and faced head winds along the way. I've also had more of a tail wind than some. As one of the billions living on Mother Earth, I have an obligation to contribute, to help make life different for others in a positive way. To be a participant in this life, not an observer.
7. What would you like your gravestone to say about you? I don't want a grave stone. Evan knows that as of right now, I want my ashes scattered in Glacier Park, Montana. Perhaps a memorial bench somewhere, with trees and mountains around, giving folks a place to sit and reflect, or simply to catch their breath, as they revel in being outside with nature. I love the outdoors. Maybe I should have been a forest ranger. My bench could say something like this: Robin once walked here. She took risks.