For Jennifer Oswald Brown, practicing family law means working behind the scenes to make people’s lives better.
“The only really bad divorces are the ones you hear about,” she said.
Brown’s practice ranges from the standard matters of dividing marital assets and negotiating custody arrangements to serving as a guardian ad litem and extensive work as a mediator.
That’s just her work on the back end on behalf of families in need of guidance and healing. On the front end, she’s involved in an array of organizations that both help families in crisis and suggest changes in policy and law to accomplish those goals.
Among other things, Brown serves on the Missouri Supreme Court’s Combatting Human Trafficking and Domestic Violence Commission. She also serves on the boards for the Child Abuse Prevention Association and for Empowering Parents, which provides low-cost aide services for parents in Jackson County. In 2016, the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association presented her with the Kelly J. Moorhouse Dedication to Children Award.
Last year, Brown helped to plan a summit that brought together family law practitioners from around the region. And she joined a group of local attorneys to publish a book, “How to Hire Lawyers,” which walks potential litigants through the process of securing legal representation. As Brown wrote in her chapter, “family law is highly fact-specific and your certain set of circumstances will be unique.”
In short, Brown is all-in on an area of practice that she discovered at the start of her career in 2001, when she clerked for the Jackson County Circuit Court. Judge Michael Manners, now retired but newly appointed at the time, was assigned to the domestic docket — where Brown found her calling.
“I felt like it was a good niche for me, and I liked the work of dealing with the families,” she said.
After completing her clerkship, Brown took the Missouri bar exam only to fail on her first attempt. It was devastating at the time, she said, but ultimately “it made me a better person.” She won her Missouri license in 2003, earned her Kansas license in 2004 and went to work at Oswald, Roam & Rew in Blue Springs.
“Many people think the ‘Oswald’ is me. It’s not,” she said. That would be her father, Julius M. Oswald, who has practiced in eastern Jackson County for more than a half-century.
“I think it was shocking for a lot of people that my dad and I were working together,” she said. She began as an associate and later became a partner. Being the daughter of one of the firm’s founders didn’t mean special favors. “I’ve always worked my tail off at this law firm,” she said.
In addition to her father, Brown’s family includes another lawyer, her sister Julie Oswald Bautista, a law clerk in Jackson County.
Besides her legal work, Brown’s community involvement includes serving on the board of The School of Economics, a Blue Springs-based nonprofit organization that teaches elementary school students to become better economically prepared.
The mother of two boys and a girl, Brown is also active in her daughter’s Girl Scout troop.