On paper, Jacqui Ford looks good.
She is a remarkably accomplished criminal defense, personal injury, and civil rights attorney who has received awards, recognition, and praise from those who love and despise her alike.
But paper just doesn’t do her justice.
Odds are, a blog post won’t either, but it’s worth a shot.
Determination from the Start
Jacquelyn Leslie Ford’s story starts in her hometown on the southside of Oklahoma City where opportunity and ease never did abound. Her childhood was difficult, and growing up with two very hard working, but struggling, lower-middle class parents had its disadvantages. But in 2002 Jacqui became the first member of her family to receive a college degree.
She graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Marketing from Oklahoma State University.
Despite a strong voice and a clear way with words, Jacqui had other ideas for her professional life. As Jacqui put it, she could “argue with the wall.”
She spent her childhood picking fights with the bullies, and if she caught one whiff of injustice in the air, she found herself at its origin, fighting its source.
Jacqui didn’t last long in marketing.
Two weeks after she realized that law school was an option, she sat for the LSAT. Soon after, she was accepted at The University of Oklahoma College of Law, graduated, and passed the bar in 2006.
Putting In Time
Glamourous as beelining towards your dream job might sound, it’s not realistic, and even a force of nature like Jacqui Ford had to fight for years.
In order to achieve her vision of fighting for the little guy and working as a trial lawyer, she had to start with “the grind.”
For this aspiring trial lawyer, the grind looked a lot like working as a public defender for five years. According to Jacqui, public defenders are inundated with cases and time constraints, and the unfortunate result is overworked attorneys fighting cases they hardly have time to get a grasp of.
Despite its challenges, Jacqui put in the time and represented over 3,000 people charged with felony crimes as an Oklahoma County Defender. During this time, Jacqui received the Clarence Darrow Award for excellence in trial advocacy, a highly prestigious, peer nominated award.
Encouraged, hopeful, and a little bit frightened, Jacqui decided to change course and open her own private practice in 2011.
The Litigation Life
Not everyone is cut out for a life in the legal field.
Even fewer are ready for the intensity of the courtroom.
For Jacqui Ford, it’s a battle zone, and her solution lies in self perception: “I’m 5’2 but I walk around like I’m 7’2”
When asked what it takes to represent the least popular person in the room – the woman accused of murder, the man accused of serial rape, etc. – Jacqui told us that you’re either born with it or you’re not.
“It takes a huge amount of courage, but different than almost any lawyer I know, I love love love my job. I absolutely believe this is the calling on this earth.”
But things can get ugly. Jacqui has been called everything from pro-ISIS to pro-cartel, but she stays in the game because she deeply believes in the absolute necessity of acting as a check on the government and its power over the people. As a result, “they get tired of me pointing my finger,” but rather than deterring her efforts, the name calling has caused her to double down.
In fact, she’s grown quite fond of a few: “Junkyard Jacqui” and “Action Jackson” are two in her growing collection, and as far as she sees it, they’re badges she has earned while representing the voiceless, and she wears them with pride.
A Different Side of Jacqui
Despite the hardball she plays in the courtroom, Jacqui Ford strikes a different chord when she’s with her clients – a more personal, more vulnerable chord.
“I didn’t used to tell them. There was a time that I hid from my past. I wanted them to have this image of me, but I can’t anymore,” said Ford.
In a moment of unobstructed honesty, Jacqui laid bare what she meant:
“I’ve struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. I’ve found myself on the other side of that table, and I realized that this job requires such a level of intimate honesty, that in order to have someone be open and honest with you, you have to be open and honest with them.”
It’s frightening, but “vulnerability is the magic” as Jacqui says. She strives to be just as transparent with her clients as she is with the jury, the judge, and the opposing lawyer.
Because her job lives and dies by the quality of her relationships, and she believes that the best ones are built in truth.