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Home / Supplements and Special Sections / WJA 2020: Kalila J. Jackson, Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing & Opportunity Council

WJA 2020: Kalila J. Jackson, Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing & Opportunity Council

As a child, Kalila Jackson knew she wanted to become a lawyer one day.

She nearly abandoned that plan, however, after her less-than-positive experience as a deposition witness following a car accident at age 11. Walking into the deposition, she was excited to see attorneys at work — until she found herself in the middle of an adversarial system.

Kalila J. Jackson

Jackson

“It felt intimidating and scary,” she said. “It almost turned me off to the law in general, but knowing there was some sort of calling there for me, I’m glad I found my way around.”

Jackson shifted her plans for college and decided to become a forensic psychologist. As a psychology undergraduate student at Saint Louis University, she interned for the St. Louis County Public Defender’s Office.

There, she was inspired by the work of public defenders and that of Washington University in St. Louis School of Law Professor Peter Joy and his students at Wash U’s Criminal Justice Clinic. She decided to pursue law again.

“That experience just opened my eyes up to the public-service sector, and I realized that was where I wanted to be,” she said.

Jackson studied law at Washington University and graduated in 2009 into a tough legal job market. She immediately started volunteering on cases for Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, and she also served as a pro bono mediator and intern for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Through her volunteer work, she was able to go to court, meet judges, write and file pleadings, and connect with mentors who helped her to hone her legal skills.

In 2011, she joined the Schindler Law Firm in St. Louis as an associate, representing individuals and employers in a wide range of litigation matters, including in employment, labor and fair-housing law. She still consults for the firm.

At the time, she was also volunteering for the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing & Opportunity Counsel, also known as the EHOC, when a staff attorney job opened up.

Today, she is senior staff attorney for the organization. In that role, she’s responsible for managing the organization’s legal department.

The EHOC focuses on two objectives: educating the community in terms of landlord-tenant law and renters’ rights, and enforcing housing discrimination law.

Jackson helps to guide the trajectory of the organization’s legal cases. The EHOC is always looking for emerging issues that affect the community and is often at the cutting edge of the law, she said. The EHOC was among the first organizations in the St. Louis region to work on cases challenging laws that led to evictions of survivors of domestic abuse who were deemed a nuisance for calling 911 too many times, she noted.

Jackson said she sees herself as someone who is able to amplify the voices of her clients.

“What I really like is being able to make people who are otherwise made invisible visible,” she said.

One reason why she is so passionate about her work is that she herself is one generation removed from public housing in St. Louis, she said. She credits her career to the work of her grandmother, who had a fifth-grade education, yet against all odds put each of her 13 children through college.

Jackson is a voracious reader and enjoys spending time with her husband and nephew. She also serves on the board of directors for Saint Louis Counseling, a nonprofit organization formerly known as Catholic Family Services.

2020 Women's Justice Awards