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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Julia Virginia Jones, October 6, 1997. Interview J-0072. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Decisive role in mentoring young female lawyers

Jones helped recruit new employees early in her tenure at Moore & Van Allen. In this capacity, Jones frequently served as a mentor to young female lawyers. Embedded in this passage is the extra attention women had to pay to their professional attire.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Julia Virginia Jones, October 6, 1997. Interview J-0072. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

...One of the things that happened at Moore & Van Allen I think was really good, I was put on the recruiting committee early. Practically right after I started at the firm, so I had a really good opportunity to meet a lot of young law students. Through that I somehow became an informal mentor to almost, it seemed, like every woman lawyer that was coming to Charlotte. Not only ones that were interviewing with Moore & Van Allen but a lot of people who didn't have a regular interview but just wanted the lay of the land would call me, and I felt very good about that. It was a role that I liked, because there certainly weren't many. I started in '79. There were several women that practiced in district court - state district court. There were very few women trial lawyers in Superior Court, and there just wasn't anybody there. So, I was very glad to be able to talk to women who were only slightly younger than I was or maybe even my age come into town, but I kind of became one of the unofficial mentors for every woman in Charlotte. At Moore & Van Allen we did not hire another woman for five years, but I interviewed a lot, and a lot of them would come back and talk to me afterwards. We had a lot of summer clerks that were women, so I had the opportunity to be a mentor with them. One of my favorite stories, and this sounds kind of silly, but it's very important, and it's what is the proper clothing for a woman to wear in court? Right now there have been some big issues about pants suits and sleeveless and things like that. When I started, it was, can you wear anything other than a black, gray, or brown suit? Very tailored. Well, one summer, it must have been the summer of '80, I was going to a meeting with the senior partner in our firm, and three of our clients. We met over at the Radisson for breakfast or something. I had on a tan or khaki colored gant suit. Not just a tailored suit. It in fact was a Gant suit that I had bought up at the outlet when I went to see my sister. I had on a checked button-down collar shirt that matched, that you bought to wear with this Gant suit. My partner from the firm had on a khaki suit. This was July. All three of our clients had on khaki suits. I decided this would not do. That this was much too boring. That very weekend I went out shopping, and bought an aqua and a pink suit. Both just alike. Both with a slit in the side; little side pleats; short jackets. They were very nice. They had dyed and matched blouses to go with them. They were Darncaster. I went up to the outlet because I couldn't have afforded to buy them otherwise. So, on Monday morning I showed up in aqua. Everybody about fell out. One day I wore the pink one to court. It was like, the bees were just hovering around. People could not believe that some woman, some young woman lawyer, had the nerve to wear a pink suit to court. Then, somehow I got a red suit, and the red suit was the one that really seemed to have an effect. I had several women lawyers come up to me and say, "You know, I have this great looking red suit that I wear to church, but I have always been afraid to wear it to court. But now that you've worn that red suit, I'm going to wear my red suit to court." And again, that sounds silly, but that's really what it was like. I developed the philosophy that you needed to wear what you looked good in, what you felt comfortable in, and of course now women wear dresses to court, and I think that is perfectly appropriate if it is a professional style dress.