Over the last 20 years, Janice Brown has been a successful lawyer in San Diego and for the past eight years, she has done so as the head of her law firm, the Brown Law Group.
Now, she is preparing for her next challenge: expanding her law firm to Los Angeles and creating new opportunities for her current clients as well as attracting new clients.
For Brown, it is a possibility that she is excited about and it could not have come at a better time as she is satisfied with how her life and career have turned out.
“I’m a happy lawyer because I love running my business and being in control,” she said.
The irony of it all is that it took a moment outside her control that drove her into a law career. At the age of 21, Brown had dreams of becoming of a television journalist but a freak accident changed everything completely.
While riding her bike one day, she took a fall and severely injured her face. Her face later healed but thinking that her career in front of the camera was dashed, she decided to refocus her skills and set her goals on becoming a lawyer.
After graduating from Gonzaga Law School in 1983, Brown found work with the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. Working as a trial lawyer with the Tax Division, she won the Trial Lawyer of the Year in 1987 despite dealing with the dual hurdles of racism and sexism.
“I’ve had situations where people perceived me be the secretary or perceived me to be the court reporter,” she said.
She also added that when she handled cases on the West Coast, tax protesters did not want her to work cases because they assumed she was not a Christian lawyer because she was Black. However, she persevered and after four years, she moved to San Diego to join the Seltzer Caplan Law Firm in 1988.
During her eleven years at Seltzer Caplan, she worked her way to becoming a partner in 1992 and joining their executive committee in 1995. That same year, she was awarded the Lawyer of the Year by the California Association of Black Lawyers. But in her mind, something was missing.
Somewhere in her success, Brown realized she was not happy at her firm. In her words, she felt like the lawyers were not treated as “the biggest asset and expense” of a firm and they were often low expectations placed on what they could achieve.
“It’s hard to be effective at what you do if your not happy or authentic,” she said.
An entrepreneur at heart, she knew that she could not find happiness or true success if she stayed in her limiting role, so she decided to start her own law firm in 1999.
The Brown Law Group specializes in preventative law by helping companies avoid lawsuits by looking at legal issues beforehand. In Brown’s words, it is an innovative practice that has attracted clients all over San Diego.
“People know that my firm is pretty forward thinking in how it runs,” she said.
They say that a team takes on the look of its leader and in Brown’s case, it just so happens that the current staff of lawyers are all strong women like herself. She credits it to her flexible policies that “attracts amazing women lawyers,” but added that she has found a few men who will join her team in the coming months.
In regards to her plan of expanding to L.A., she hopes to open her new office by the end of July and is excited about the prospect of breaking through in a new market.
Most importantly, she says that she can finally be herself, no longer “feeling the burden of of a mask.” She stands tall as an empowered Black woman making her own decisions without fear of any obstacles.
“Being a Black woman is a wonderful thing to be,” she said. “Yes, there’s racism and there’s sexism, but neither of them are more powerful than me.”