Alumni Profile: Jessica Sherrill

Mar 13, 2023
|   Alumni, News
Jessica Sherrill with her family

Jessica Sherrill, Class of 2006
General Counsel
Oklahoma City Public Schools
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Q: Why were you interested in attending OCU School of Law?
A: Law School was not my plan. After graduating from the University of Oklahoma with a Psychology degree, I was considering graduate school to become a school counselor. I knew I wanted to protect children as my career.

I credit my husband, Jay, for my applying to law school, because he convinced me that going to law school could be an even better way to launch a career advocating for children on a large scale. A best friend of mine, Andrea Moates, was returning as a 3L at OCU Law in the fall. I decided to apply to OCU Law – and only OCU Law. My mother was recovering from breast cancer and lived in Oklahoma City. After I was accepted, I set a personal goal to graduate as quickly as possible to minimize the semester fees. The flexibility offered by OCU allowed me to do that, and I graduated a semester early in December 2006 – saving myself nearly $25,000 in student loan debt.

Q: What did your time at OCU Law mean to you?
A: My time at OCU Law was intense with a crash course on time and priority management. I met incredible lifelong friends but still felt like an imposter. Many of my peers had always planned to become lawyers with their political science and business degrees and many came from families of lawyers. And there I was, an Alpha Chi Omega chapter advisor (OU) who wore pink and purple and jumped in without a clue. I needed to find my community, and OCU Law provided many ways to do just that.

I joined the Black Law Students Association, Women’s Law Student Association, and was selected as an OCU Law student ambassador. I obtained a limited law license and was hired as a licensed legal intern for Oklahoma Lawyers for Children and was a CASA volunteer.

The OCU Law Career Services team became a conduit to my future, and I am extremely grateful. Mock interviews, resume reviews, special guest speakers, and on-campus events helped me gain experience and confidence. I became familiar with public service legal jobs and knew that was where I was heading. Professor Laurie Jones was a role model for me through law school and connected me with the public education law field.

Q: How has your OCU law degree shaped your career choices?
A: I created my own unique career path through OCU Law. A law degree alone led to so many opportunities that weren’t otherwise available. However, OCU Law courses like Remedies and Mediation taught me how to resolve conflicts and strive for a win-win outcome. My psychology degree and law degree ended up complimenting each other rather than being exclusive and separate.

OCU Law’s wrap-around services and support rounded out my law school experience. Upon graduation, I not only had connections with lawyers who advocated for children, I had advocated for children in court already myself. I was able to get relevant experience before passing the bar. Student success was an obvious priority at OCU Law.

OCU Law opened doors for me to become a public education lawyer, and now I am very happily helping children as the General Counsel for Oklahoma City Public Schools.

Q: Are you where you expected to be at this stage of your career and life?
A: In a way, I knew I would spend my career helping others, protecting children, and doing it my own way. But being the first college graduate and lawyer in my family, I could not possibly have imagined where this degree would take me. It is beyond my wildest dreams what I get to do today!

Although I had borrowed from my future self, student loans were the only way I could continue my education. I remember my mom’s reaction to my news that I was considering law school, “I don’t know how you will be able to do that.” That was her way of using reverse psychology to motivate me to think big. Unbeknownst to all at the time, my working in public service as a lawyer allowed a large portion of my student loans to later be forgiven through a federal public loan forgiveness program. It worked out!

If I could go back in time to that pivotal moment when I decided to go to law school and to only apply to OCU Law, I would do it all over again!

Q: What inspires you?
A: The ups and downs and surprises of life inspire me. No matter what happens, there is a new day around the corner. I lost my mother to cancer several years ago, but before she passed, we embraced a saying about being a pineapple: “Stand Tall, Wear a Crown, and Be Sweet on the Inside.” Life will take you where it may, but you decide that which is within your control. Your actions and words matter. Choose them wisely.

Q: What are some interesting facts about you that we may or may not already know?
A: Jay and I have been married for 17 years and have two amazing children, Hill who is 13 years old and Ainsley who is 8 years old. We love to watch movies and travel. I am still a chronic volunteer. I was honored to serve as District Governor for Rotary District 5750 in 2018-2019. Soon I will serve as Chair for the Putnam City Schools Foundation. My husband is a Putnam City Public Schools board member, and we are excited to lead together in our respective roles next year. I still wear a lot of pink and purple.

Q: Tell us about your experience providing legal advice to the Superintendent and the school board. Are there any lessons you take away from it?
A: As in-house counsel, my client is the school district, which is run by a school board consisting of eight locally elected members. The board employs a Superintendent who runs day-to-day operations. We all work together very well as we maintain a laser focus on the students and their needs. This aligns our collective priorities.

I recall a great lesson from one of my OCU Law professors who explained that law is a practice. There are no set steps to reach your desired outcome. You digest the relevant facts, conduct your research, consider all angles, assess your risk, anticipate all possible outcomes, and advise your client as best as you can. Some final outcomes of our decisions remain to be seen, but I know I did my best and will continue to do so for our students.