Jerry R. Ford
the Bar No. nd Beyond
;My path to becoming a lawyer did not start as a childhood
dream. I lived with the ever-present hopelessness for a
better life due to the circumstances of my parents. My father grew up feeling slighted due to his native heritage.
As a young adult, he left Montana and tried to blend in
as a white man in Seattle. My assumption was that I was
a poor white kid, and I never really paid attention to the
oral family history my grandmother attempted to provide for me. Due to the help of some good high school
teachers and counselors, my older brother and I were
both accepted to the University of Washington. This was
quite the accomplishment because we were the first in
the Ford family to have completed high school, let alone
college, and attain graduate degrees. It was in college
when I wondered what I would do with a degree in political science — studying the law was my conclusion.
;For some reason when I started college, my father decided
to seek enrollment in the Blackfeet Tribe of Montana.
Why then? I don’t know; it might have been because he began
to feel proud of himself. The funny thing was, my father was
seeking enrollment in the wrong tribe.
;As a part of his process, I learned of my Indian heritage and our family history. I began to realize why there was a lack of opportunities in
our past. I became excited about my tribal ancestors and mentioned it in my application letter to law school. I was admitted
to the University of Puget Sound as a minority candidate. My
vision was to be an environmental lawyer and I studied the appropriate courses for that direction in the law. But my search
to learn about my native heritage went on the back burner, so
to speak, as I finished school. I moved our young family to a
small town on the Washington coast to begin my law practice.
After a year, and missing “big city life,” we moved back to
Tacoma and I started with the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office. Thirty-one years later, I am still here. I have worked both
criminal and civil law, doing a variety of work primarily on
the civil side. My favorite practice area remains family law,
where I have been for 20 years.
;Can anyone smile when they practice law? I do when the underdog
wins. What I mean by this is when I go to court and face a pro
se representing themselves due to financial struggles. You
see the emotional energy of trying to explain their situation,
and when the judge rules in their favor, it does make me smile,
that the regular citizen sees justice in its purest sense. On the
other hand, I roll my eyes when dealing with the system obstacles the government creates getting in the way of common
sense. The worst part of it is trying to explain silly rules to the
people I interact with on a daily basis.
;Working in the public sector gave me family time that my peers
said they could not do as they started their own law practices. I could be involved in Girl/Boy Scouts, Little League,
and school activities that my own parents never did for me.
Once my children were older, I decided to take up the search
for my tribal identity that my father had started many years
before. I spent many hours in the library (this was pre-Inter-net) and soon discovered that my family was not only Indian
but had lived on various reservations and had attended the