Janice Kemp ’81 used to run with the big dogs, or rather sit with them in smoky depositions, huddled over documents in war rooms and at counsel tables before the bench. For 14 years she traveled across the country dealing with personal injury cases and contract disputes, but mostly back and forth to the Harris County Courthouse. Her work for a large downtown firm was rewarding in many ways, the hours long and the deadlines brutal. Over the years, she moved from the pressure-cooker of litigation to appellate work to part-time, but finally the pull of motherhood prevailed.
“Practicing law was something I truly enjoyed until the birth of our first long-awaited daughter,” Kemp says. A second child sealed the deal.
“Having children seemed to put life in a different perspective, and I wanted the time to cherish the moments with the girls.
“Law being a jealous mistress, I didn’t think I could give 110 percent to law and have time to make an impact on my daughters’ lives. I didn’t want someone else raising them.”
Today, after 10 years as a Scout leader, room parent, team mom and semi-professional volunteer, Kemp is once again dealing with the big boys -- and girls -- but this time her “clients” are middle school honor students. Two years ago, she returned to her first career, and first love, teaching -- sharing her passion for reading and writing, speech and language, and thinking, with kids eager to learn and not quite old enough to be caught up in the pressures of adolescence. Her law school training and courtroom experience prepared her well.
“I remember my Law Center training in brief writing and logical, persuasive argument and those skills transfer well into the classroom,” she says. “In today’s world of text messages, I feel I might be among the last defenders of the English language as we know it.”
The hours are still long and the rewards are different: a hug or handmade “Thank You” note as satisfying as a jury verdict. But for this alum, making a difference in the life of a child is its own reward.
“And as I tell them almost every day . . . after practicing law for more than 14 years, they can’t win an argument with me!”