For Denyse Jones, one of the most satisfying aspects of being a lawyer is helping her clients to identify their problems and find ways to solve them.
Clients’ issues aren’t always as straightforward as they may seem, said Jones, a partner at Husch Blackwell in St. Louis.
“Sometimes they couch the issue in one light, but as you develop the facts, you start to learn, ‘This really isn’t the source of the problem.’ It might be a symptom, but you need to go to another stream to deal with it holistically,” she said.
A St. Louis native, Jones said she knew she wanted to become a lawyer at age 8.
“I was always impressed by the scope of law on all aspects of life, be it personal or business, and I was very drawn to what I perceived to be the structure of law,” she said.
She went to Saint Louis University for her undergraduate degree, where she studied accounting. She knew she wanted to go to law school, but she also wanted to take a break from school and explore accounting further.
She worked for accounting firm Arthur Andersen before attending Tulane University School of Law in New Orleans. She graduated from Tulane in 2001, and clerked for Judge Duane Benton during his term on the Missouri Supreme Court.
Jones said the clerkship was a great experience, particularly in terms of wrestling with legal issues and defending her interpretation of the law and the law’s application to the cases at hand.
“It taught us to think and to have an opinion,” she said.
After her clerkship, she joined Jones Day in Dallas, where she worked until she moved to Husch Blackwell in 2008. She focuses her practice on commercial litigation, with about 60 percent of her practice involving the areas of real estate, development and construction.
Jones said her foray into real estate law was “kind of serendipitous.” About seven years ago, she landed a case representing a developer trying to proceed with developing a neighborhood.
“I really enjoyed that case,” she said. “For the first time, I was working on litigation where it was something I could go and look at. It was a present, live dispute that involved land that we could go and look at.”
She said the developer was eager to resolve the case — something she doesn’t always see while representing companies in litigation — and she saw the direct impact on her work in terms of helping the business succeed.
Jones said she also enjoyed seeing how the development process plays out, from navigating political hurdles and gaining support of neighbors to pulling permits from the city.
“It was a nice change of pace from some of the other cases I was involved in,” she said.
Jones is also active in Husch Blackwell’s pro bono work. She and her colleagues were honored in January with a Missouri Lawyers Award for their work in securing an overhaul of the state’s parole process for inmates who were sentenced to life without parole as juveniles.
Outside of the office, Jones serves as a board member of Diversity Awareness Partnership, which aims to increase and improve diversity and inclusion in the St. Louis community.
She’s also recently taken up roller skating for exercise, “which is fun and a little scary at the same time,” she said.
“Things can turn on a dime out there on the wheels,” she said.