LEFT: Jones reportedly studied Socrates while at the beach as a teenager.
RIGHT: Even though she hadn’t finished high school, and had only taken an unofficial SAT exam that very afternoon, Emory University accepted her at age 16.
was the opposite of Mikey from the old Life
cereal commercials: she would try anything.
Legal malpractice cases kept coming to
her, too, and she worked with Taylor Jones
(no relation), the “godfather in the field,”
she says. Once, the Joneses were trying a
complex case that involved both legal and
medical malpractice in a prison setting.
They had a few minutes to draft a closing
argument, and, she says, “I turned to Taylor
and said, ‘I just get so nervous about these
things. Are you nervous?’ Because he looked
so calm. But he said, ‘Hell yeah, I’m nervous!
Why would I do this if I didn’t get nervous?’”
That’s when she realized that legal
malpractice brought its own adrenaline rush.
“The standards are very, very high. If you’re
going to bring a claim against a lawyer, you
darn well better cross your t’s and dot your
i’s,” Jones says. “I guess that’s why I don’t have
much taste for adrenaline rushes outside
the office. You will not find me climbing a
mountain or racing cars or any of the things
some trial lawyers do. I get quite enough.”
Although she says her contingency fee is
the same for all her clients, and she doesn’t
negotiate, she recalls a case involving a
judgment against a teacher due to a lawyer’s
negligence. “It would not be large compared
to the damages in most of my cases, but it was
very large given her teacher’s salary,” Jones
says. She took the case, and was surprised
when it was defended for several years. Finally,
the case went to mediation. “They offered us
exactly the amount of the judgment,” Jones
says, “which, very obviously, meant after
two years of work, I wasn’t going to make a
dime. As I recall, they wouldn’t even kick in
for half the mediator. I remember thinking,
‘The rubber just hit the road. If I could help
somebody, would I still do it if it hurt me?’”
The answer was yes. They settled the case
and the teacher paid off the judgment.
Although a couple of times a year she
takes on a smaller case, or a pro bono case,
she adds, “You really do have to have a
case with an approximate minimum value
of $100,000 to justify what we put into it.
Legal malpractice is expensive, it’s risky, it’s
time-consuming and it’s complicated. So
the bar is pretty high for the cases we take.”
A strong legal malpractice case, according
to Jones, has clear liability that caused
financial harm. “I’m not interested in suing
lawyers over possible malpractice,” she says.
The first woman in the U.S. to be
board-certified in legal malpractice by the
American Board of Professional Liability
Attorneys, Jones estimates she takes one
or two out of 100 clients who approach her.
“So many people will call me because they
are dissatisfied with their lawyer, especially
people who have just come through divorce.
… They may have gotten bad representation,
or they may just have had a bad outcome,
but they haven’t had legal malpractice.”
Defense attorney Smith says he trusts
her. “She sizes the facts up very well,” he
says. “I think every time I’ve dealt with her,