Shining a Legal Lens on Conversations about Race
Three Questions with Associate Treja Jones
In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Schwabe attorney Treja Jones will be a guest of DoPE’s (Dreaming of Potential Excellence) presentation for Justice vs. Just Us in the Criminal Justice System.
Founded by community educator Paula Dennis, this annual event highlights leadership and community for Black middle school and high school students in the Portland region. This year’s panel will address the criminal justice system and barriers to justice for people of color.
To learn more about where Treja’s passion for law intersects with her advocacy for the Black community, we sat down (virtually) for a quick chat to hear why she believes events like this panel are so important for today’s youth, what inspired her to pursue law, and her advice for the next generation of leaders.
What made you decide to join this panel?
TJ: I decided to join the DoPE panel because as both a woman of color and a lawyer, I believe conversations about race and racism in the United States’s justice system are critical to this country’s growth and development. I am very passionate about diversifying the legal field within the Pacific Northwest and saw the DoPE panel as a great opportunity to participate in an open dialogue about important race-related issues while engaging with young people of color interested in a legal career. As a young Black legal professional, I also think it’s important for young Black lawyers and law students to see strong Black role models in the legal community.
How and when did you know that you wanted to practice law?
TJ: For as long as I can remember, I have always had an interest in writing, research, and debate. At about the age of 15 I decided that a legal career would best suit those interests and from that point forward worked towards accomplishing my goal of becoming a lawyer. The litigation experience I earned through participation in mock trial during my undergraduate studies solidified my passion for law and sparked my interest in a career as a civil litigator.
What advice would you offer Black youths and young adults interested in pursuing a legal career?
TJ: I would advise Black youths and young adults interested in pursuing a legal career to stay the course and not be discouraged by our justice system’s history as it pertains to race and diversity, but to instead be inspired by their opportunity to add value and perspective to their legal community. I would also suggest taking every opportunity to connect and engage with Black mentors, be it judges, lawyers, professors, mock trial coaches, etc. This field of work is very relationship-driven and connections can lead to later opportunities.
Treja is referred to by many of her Schwabe colleagues as a rock star, and her experience makes her an invaluable choice to join this panel. In law school, she served as Vice President for the Black Law Student Association. Her long list of accomplishments also includes participation in the competitive moot court team that competed nationally, and she was a semi-finalist in the University of Washington Law School’s Hugh Miracle Opening Statement Competition. During her last two years of law school, Treja was a member of the Thurgood Marshall National Mock Trial team, which ranked as undefeated first overall champions regionally and qualified for the national competition both years. Treja was also recently was named to the 2020 Order of the Barristers, a nationally recognized honor society for lawyers and law students who demonstrate exceptional skill in trial advocacy and oral argument.