Md. Attorney Sets Up Referral Service Linking Black Lawyers With Black Clients – Maryland Matters
Kisha A. Brown is the founder and CEO of Justis Connection, a legal advisory service for black lawyers. Courtesy photo.
From the moment she entered law school, Kisha A. Brown was asked by family and friends to make legal recommendations. The claims persisted throughout her 15-year career as a civil rights attorney.
“Most people don’t really know lawyers or don’t have them on their network – especially for blacks,” Brown said in an interview.
As she moved from job to job, she worked for leading Maryland political officials, such as the former mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D) and the former attorney general Douglas F. Gansler (D), together with attorneys – and lobbying in Annapolis – Brown began to think more about how blacks could get in touch with black lawyers and vice versa.
It has become a full time job.
The result is a new organization she calls Justis Connection. After three years of building the groundwork while having other jobs, “bootstrapping” in Brown’s words, she started Justis Connection earlier this year. She has already built a database of some 950 multidisciplinary black attorneys in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC – and she hopes to have national lists under way by the end of the year.
“I really hope this changes the way people have access to justice,” Brown said.
The concept is a breeze for Brown, who lives in College Park, and the lawyers she works with. About 5% of the country’s lawyers are black, she said. But often, when blacks seek legal representation, they almost automatically tend to turn to a white attorney.
Justis Connection can unleash and harness the economic power of black Americans to help black legal practitioners while providing black clients with the convenience of working with an attorney who can better understand their life experiences, Brown said.
“I was able to see the light of vision from the start,” said Anu B. Kemet, a personal injury and family law attorney for Beltsville. “We have to take care of ourselves. We have to control our dollar. We have to control our professions. “
Aimee Griffin, an estate planning, business, and geriatric care attorney practicing in Maryland, DC and Massachusetts, said on hearing of Brown’s plans, “I couldn’t imagine not going to Justi’s Connection. We know it makes sense to form an alliance with someone who looks like us. “
Other attorneys say Justis Connection is also a great way for attorneys to connect with attorneys when looking for expertise they don’t have. White-hand law firms that need to add black lawyers to their legal teams can also use the service. Justis Connection can also act as a catalyst to push white-owned law firms to diversify.
Brown said she wants blacks to get used to not only hiring lawyers in trouble but also proactively to plan their estate, start business, and think strategically about their future.
Brown has raised money for the organization from investors large and small, and she said it was going well. Lawyers pay a monthly or annual fee to be included in the Justis Connection database. Brown distributes her services through small businesses, churches, and community groups.
“Right now the price for the lawyers is prohibitive,” she said.
Admirers call Brown an entrepreneur and marketer.
“Kisha is an excellent contributor, networker and attorney, so Justis Connection is a natural extension of that drain,” said Jolene Ivey, D, a member of Prince George’s County Council.
Brown said she found the fundraising, technical, and marketing aspects of starting the company daunting at times. “These are not my skills,” she laughed.
Brown remains a civil rights activist at heart. But she sees Justis Connection as an extension of this work and calls it a “legal tech startup”.
“I believe Justis Connection can make a lot of money, and I believe all of these lawyers can make a lot of money,” Brown said. “And I think we can benefit the community at the same time.”