Lawyer Limelight: Jessie Weber

Many young attorneys enter the legal profession out of a passion for social justice, but few make the type of impact that Jessie Weber has since graduating from Yale Law School in 2009. Even fewer, of course, get to litigate on the most critical issues of the day. In Weber’s work, that has involved advocating for blind voters in a constantly shifting election landscape as part of her plaintiff-side practice focusing on civil rights and employment law. While taking on powerful interests takes tenacity, Weber also credits her success in court and negotiations to being true to her nice personality. That combination has found a long-term home at Brown, Goldstein & Levy in Baltimore, where Weber has worked since 2011 and appreciates for making her a more-rounded litigator.  

Lawdragon: Can you describe for our readers the mix of work you do within your practice?

Jessie Weber: My practice focuses on workers’ rights and civil rights, with some other plaintiffs’ side cases mixed in. The types of cases currently on my plate include disability rights cases pushing for accessible information technology for the blind in retail, medical and governmental settings; a case involving the rights of students with disabilities; an employment discrimination case involving sexual harassment and retaliation; a personal injury case where I represent the family of a slain Uber driver; and a national fair housing case against Bank of America for racially discriminatory practices. I also enjoy handling collective wage and hour cases. I think the common thread in my work – and what makes it so rewarding – is fighting for the rights of individuals and marginalized groups against large and powerful opponents.

LD: What draws you to those fights?

JW: I am drawn to both the interesting subject matter of my cases and the tremendous outcomes so many of my clients have been able to achieve, both for themselves individually and on a systemic level. Through my work, I’ve learned about accessible technology for the blind (like what needs to happen to allow a blind individual to use a touchscreen kiosk), election technology and security issues, the intersection of disability rights and copyright law, best practices for working with students with disabilities affecting their behavior, and the nuances of timekeeping and pay structures for workers in various industries, among other topics.

I love diving into a new substantive area with each case and immersing myself in the particular subject matter at issue. All of that is intellectually satisfying for me, but what has given me the greatest personal satisfaction are the results. My clients have collectively secured million-dollar settlements against employers who failed to pay them all wages due, making employees whole and sending ripples throughout their respective industries. They have succeeded in changing the way elections are conducted throughout this country to ensure that people with disabilities have all the same options for voting privately and independently as everyone else. They have reformed prisons, school and government programs to ensure fair and equitable treatment for themselves and others. And they have stood up to large employers, publicly sharing their stories of discrimination, and prevailed. 

LD: Out of all the work you’ve done in your career, what would you say is the most interesting matter you’ve handled?

JW: The work I’ve done to ensure that blind voters have equal access to elections has been among the most interesting issues I’ve handled. I’ve had to take a deep dive into election technology, concerns around election security and the politics surrounding the administration of elections. The way we vote has changed so much over the past decade – and especially over the past two years  with Covid-19. Ensuring that voters with disabilities are not overlooked and left behind in this quickly-changing landscape requires deep substantive knowledge and the ability to stay on top of all the changes. It’s been a fascinating area of the law to work in and incredibly rewarding when I hear from former clients who are now able to have equal voting experiences, sometimes for the first time in their lives.

LD: How would you describe your style as a lawyer? Or, how do you think others see you?

JW: I think of myself as a warm and friendly person. When I started practicing law, I thought I had to hide those attributes and present myself instead only as stern and tough to be taken seriously by my opponents. But I learned quickly that I am most effective as a lawyer when I bring my full, authentic self to my work. I produce better results for my clients when I have a good working relationship with opposing counsel – and where, despite my best efforts, I don’t have that good relationship, then at least I usually come off as the reasonable, professional one when the judge needs to intervene in some way.

And my “niceness” has proven valuable in depositions or in cross-examining a witness, when the witness feels so comfortable with me that they maybe open up a little more than they should. I think my personality also makes me a natural consensus-maker, which comes in handy when working to find non-adversarial solutions to my clients’ problems. Even in situations where the litigation has grown quite heated, I have often managed to successfully engage my opposing counsel to switch gears and join me in thinking through creative solutions that result in settlement. I take particular pleasure in the settlements reached in the most hard-fought cases, where no one would have guessed that consensus could ever be obtained.

LD: Feel free to describe your career path and how you arrived at your current position. What do you like about where you currently practice in terms of culture or other characteristics?

JW: I have always known I wanted a career where I could help advance social justice. Becoming a lawyer allowed me to pursue that goal in a very concrete way and suited my strengths. What I did not anticipate though when I began law school was how wonderful it would be to practice in a small law firm that includes a diverse array of practice areas, with a strong focus on workers’ rights and civil rights. This has meant learning how to litigate across different areas of the law and applying lessons learned from one area to another. This opportunity for cross pollination has made me a more creative litigator. On top of that, I genuinely enjoy working alongside my colleagues, who are smart, passionate and kind individuals – with rich and fulfilling lives outside of work. Each of us is heavily involved in our communities, and it’s definitely part of our firm ethos.

LD: Are you involved in any pro bono or public interest activities? Please tell us what you find meaningful about your time serving them.

JW: I have had the privilege of serving on the board of FreeState Justice for many years now. FreeState is Maryland’s statewide LGBTQ equality group and provides free legal services to the most underserved members of the LGBTQ community. As a member of the queer community myself, it’s been incredibly rewarding to support this organization’s critical mission and growth. I have also served on the board of the ACLU of Maryland and currently serve on the board of Disability Rights Maryland. I enjoy working to support organizations doing such important and groundbreaking work to uphold civil rights and liberties. I am also grateful that I’ve been able to take on many fulfilling pro bono matters, particularly in the area of immigrant rights. I worked with a gay Central American couple to help them obtain asylum and have assisted children in securing legal immigration status. Crying alongside my clients at the asylum office as we received a favorable decision allowing them to remain safely in this country was a moment that will always stay with me.