Jones '95 is hopeful "Sisters in Law" can change perception of black women on reality TV 

Jolanda Jones '95 is a trustee for the Houston Independent School District's Board of Education and is also a criminal defense attorney.

June 3, 2016 — Jolanda Jones is one of the busiest attorneys in Houston, and her schedule recently became more hectic.

The 1995 alumna of the University of Houston Law Center recently completed filming the first season of "Sisters in Law," a reality show on WE tv that features Jones and five other black women lawyers in the Houston area.

After appearing on "Survivor" in 2005, Jones said she was skeptical of joining the cast of another unscripted television program. She ultimately decided to participate, embracing the opportunity to showcase an underrepresented community in the legal field.

"There aren't very many black, women lawyers in the courthouse," Jones said. "There are way more men lawyers than women lawyers. I was willing to put reservations about joining the show aside, because I thought it was game-changing in that most law and order shows are shown from the perspective of the victim, or the police, or the judge. They're never shown from the perspective of criminal defense lawyers and their clients."

Jones also hoped to address what she sees as a negative representation of black women, especially on unscripted television.

"We're on TV because we all overcame tremendous obstacles to be successful and productive, and we help people along the way," Jones said. "It shows positive role models for young black girls who have video vixens to look up to. We thought that they should know you can make a lot of money and be successful if you use your brain, and not your body."

Jones is also optimistic that "Sisters in Law" will change how lawyers are depicted in popular culture, and highlight the importance of advocacy.

"People always have negative connotations about us," she said. "They think we're slimeballs, and that's not the profession I know. I thought it was a chance to allow people to see the job that we do, and I thought it was an opportunity to show issues that society doesn't want to talk about, but that we need to talk about. The arch of the moral universe is not going to bend towards justice if we don't at least discuss it."

Jolanda Jones '95

Jones is no stranger to the public eye. She served as an at-large Houston City Council member from 2008 to 2012 and currently balances her time as a criminal defense attorney and trustee for the Houston Independent School District's Board of Education, and was voted as secretary of the board.

Jones' life in the spotlight started at an early age because of her athletic prowess. She was an All-American basketball player and track and field athlete at Elsik High School, which earned her an athletic scholarship to the University of Houston.

After graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in political science, Jones set her sights on pursuing a legal education. After earning an NCAA postgraduate scholarship, Jones received her J.D. from the Law Center in 1995. It has been a decision she does not regret.

"I was absolutely prepared to be the best lawyer in the courtroom on any given day because of the University of Houston Law Center," Jones said. "Law school teaches you to identify the issue and find the answer. That's also important in life. It teaches you how to not be knocked off course if something comes up to impede you. Law school teaches you to think of alternative theories. It teaches you the pursuit of relentlessness."

Jones said her writing ability is one of the skills that helps her preparedness. She praised the late Law Center Professor Irene Rosenberg for developing her skills as a legal writer.

"I've won a lot of cases based on my writing," she said. "I didn't start off law school as a great writer, but I ended up winning most improved writer in a class. I know that I am a great writer because of her."

She also credits Professor Paul Janicke and his evidence class for her success as a trial attorney.

"If you want to be a top of the line trial lawyer, you better know evidence," Jones said.

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