Women in the Law

A profile on Jessica Childress, of Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. Part of a special editorial series celebrating the achievements of Virginia’s women legal professionals.

Photo by Elliott O’Donovan Photography

Jessica Childress, Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Managing Attorney and Founder, The Childress Firm PLLC

In her day job, Childress maintains a busy private practice in employment law, work she loves: “Knowing that I am practicing in an area that has a direct impact on people’s lives every day is very motivating,” she says.

“I love advising employers about how to comply with the law and I really enjoy advising employees as to how to resolve their employment disputes with their employer,” she says. “Every day I go home very fulfilled and feeling like I made a difference.”

But Childress, a University of Virginia law graduate, also leads a second life—as author of The Briefcase of Juris P. Prudence (the first in a planned children’s series) whose heroine is “J.P.” Prudence, an 11-year-old African-American attorney who forms a private-practice firm with her best friends (and fellow young lawyers) Izzy, Sophie, and Maddie to fight for children’s right to vote. 

As a child growing up in Chesterfield County, Childress was an avid reader—and a keen fan of attorney general Janet Reno, who regularly appeared on the evening news. “I knew she was the first female attorney general,” says Childress. “I thought she was really cool.” With her father, Childress looked in the World Book encyclopedia to learn how one becomes an attorney—setting her on the path to her future life in the law. So far in that career she has served in a number of volunteer positions and received significant recognition, including the National Bar Association’s “40 under 40 Best Advocates Award,” a Virginia Public Education Foundation Bravo Award from Chesterfield County, and being named one of the “Top 100 Black Attorneys” by the National Black Lawyers.

What inspired her to create the character Juris P. Prudence was her own love of reading and the fact that there seemed to be no children’s fiction featuring lawyers. “I wanted kids of all ages and background to see this 11-year-old lawyer who was able to change the world with her knowledge of the law,” says Childress. “I want them to see lawyers as people who help other people and who do good in the world.”

Editors’ note: Women were first admitted to the state bar in 1920, thus making it possible for them to practice law in the Commonwealth. Nearly a century later, women in the law throughout Virginia have risen into positions of leadership and responsibility in public and private practice, nonprofits, education, the judicial system and legal organizations. The editors of Virginia Living sought out some of these outstanding women for their perspectives on their work and the law, and insights from their careers. For more information, including a complete list of Virginia’s top-rated women lawyers, look for our August 2017 issue.

Read the rest of the profiles in our Women in the Law special series:

Patricia Roberts, Williamsburg
Pia Trigiani, Alexandria
June 11, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
July 9, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
August 13, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum