Cleveland-Marshall College of Law graduate Ashley Jones ’11 has great passion for her work as a criminal defense attorney. She has always enjoyed the ability to help people in need navigate the justice system, but could never pinpoint exactly what set criminal justice apart from other areas of practice in this regard. That changed recently, when her husband helped illuminate why she is so drawn to criminal defense.
“My husband recently told me ‘you don’t like it when people are bullied’,” said Jones. “That really encapsulates why I enjoy this criminal defense work because people who get arrested are always bullied in the system whether they are guilty or not.”
Jones came to C|M|LAW open as to what area of practice to pursue. At C|M|LAW she spent two years as a teaching assistant in criminal law and fell in love with the field.
After graduating and passing the bar, Jones decided to immediately open a solo practice in criminal defense. She did so without any business background, having never taken a business or accounting course in her life.
“There are a million reasons to think starting a practice will not work,” explained Jones. “But if you are really committed to opening your practice, the rest will work itself out.”
Now five years into her practice, Jones has established exceptional client ratings and was honored as a “Rising Star" for 2017 from Ohio Super Lawyers. As is the case for most solo practitioners, she is still trying to strike a balance between the number of clients she takes and the size and quality of the cases. Jones would like to expand her practice in the near future by hiring an associate and attracting larger cases. Looking farther down the line, she would consider running for judge, believing it falls in line with her overarching ideal of protecting individuals.
“Traffic violations and minor criminal cases are the only interaction most people have with our court system, so local judges have a strong ability to shape the way people feel about our justice system at a time where people are very suspicious,” said Jones.
As part of growing her practice, Jones has made it a point to become immersed in the local legal community. She serves on the Board of Trustees for the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association and is head of the Bar's Solo/Small Firm section. Jones is also a trustee for the Ohio Women's Bar Foundation, the West Shore Bar Association and an active member of the Ohio Association for Criminal Defense Lawyers. In addition, she has stayed very active within the C|M|LAW community, including with the Cleveland-Marshall Law Alumni Association as chair of the Membership Committee and a Board of Trustees member.
“One-on-one interaction and the referrals those relationships generate are still incredibly important in this business,” said Jones. “The most successful solo practitioners are people who are out and about, involved with their alumni association and the local bar association.”
Part of her involvement with the law school includes working as the coordinator of the school’s Solo Practice Incubator. Jones has held the position since the incubator opened in February 2014 and wishes she had a resource such as the incubator when she began her practice. Among her priorities as coordinator are supporting the incubator’s resident attorneys to help keep overhead low, providing a sense of community among practitioners, and assisting with business aspects of running a practice.
When operating a solo practice with business responsibilities as well as caseloads, and with no set hours or managerial oversight, it can be easy to overwork. Jones is attempting to combat that by scheduling time in her weekly calendar for herself and has recently taken up running to work on her physical and mental health. She has now completed two 5Ks and will train for future runs as she finds it helps reduce stress and make her work more productive.