On April 11, the Georgia Latino Law Foundation honored Georgia State University College of Law alumna Jessica J. Wood (J.D. ’94) with the Trailblazer Award. The award recognizes attorneys who have helped amplify the foundation’s mission to guide and mentor Latino law students, and specifically Wood for her unwavering support of that mission.
“She has gone above and beyond in mentoring and being available. Jessica never hesitates to help, she really believes in and champions Latino law students,” said Ana Maria Martinez (J.D. ’09), Georgia Latino Law Foundation founder. “She’s not Latina but she really values these students and our community.”
But Wood is quick to point out that her efforts are simply supporting people and an organization she believes in.
“GLLF’s architecture is carefully put in place. Everything Ana Maria Martinez does is purposeful. And GLLF partners with other fantastic organizations,” Wood said. “They even give fellowships to Latino law students every year, and historically a few every year are from Georgia State. So, when Ana Maria says jump, I ask how high and what shoes should I wear?”
Explaining her tendency to “push people to the front of the line,” Wood called upon her experience at Georgia State Law. “My experience at the college and leadership training in bar organizations showed me how to help propel people forward.
“Georgia State Law has students with a wide range of ages, experiences, and backgrounds, including many who are the first in their family to attend college or law school,” Wood said. “I am impressed by the efforts of Lyn Knapp (senior director of the Center for Professional Development & Career Strategies), Amy McCarthy (J.D. ’02) (director), and alums like Ana Maria, who ensure that these students get appropriate support from the school and the community.”
Martinez also drew inspiration from her experience at Georgia State Law when starting the foundation. “The mentoring of strong women like Wendy Hensel that I received while at the law school was critical to my experience at the Georgia State Law and greatly educated me in how invaluable mentorship is for success,” she said.
Martinez founded Georgia Latino Law Foundation in response to the difficulties she faced navigating the legal world.
“Latinos make up less than 1 percent of the bar, and many Latino students are the first in their family to go to law school. It can be difficult to know where to start or how to take advantage of opportunities,” Martinez said. “I saw that Latino law students in Georgia were not being intentionally and substantively supported, so we started the Foundation to help law students have vision, a sounding board for questions and advice, and access to opportunities that were tailored to them, their backgrounds, and their life experiences.”
Wood is a principal at Bodker, Ramsey, Andrews, Winograd & Wildstein PC, where she focuses on commercial litigation, including business tort, contract, employment, trade secrets issues. She has a long list of achievements, including Top 100 Super Lawyer.
Wood is active in the legal community, serving on the Atlanta Bar Association’s Board of Directors and on advisory boards for Atlanta Legal Aid Society Inc. and Good Thinking Inc., a nonprofit organization that creates communications strategies for other nonprofits. She also started Water Cooler Office Hours, a mentoring program that allows pre-law students, law students, and less experienced attorneys to build relationships with experienced attorneys and judges.