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WJA 2021: Jennifer Matthew

Jennifer Matthew always loved the world of trial advocacy.

matthew-jennifer“I really thought that I wanted to be in the courtroom and I wanted to litigate,” said the 41-year-old Saint Louis University graduate. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do at the time but I definitely knew I wanted to be in the courtroom.”

Ironically, helping others avoid a courtroom is now Matthew’s primary job. She works at Alaris as director of alternative dispute resolution and counsel. It is a position she’s held for four years, supervising a team of 90 former judges and attorneys who act as neutrals to assist others in settling disputes.

“We’ve been really busy as you can imagine and people are still trying to have their matters heard and have their cases resolved,” she said. “It is really fulfilling for me to be a part of that and assist them in getting to the finish line.”

Matthew took an unusual path to her own finish line. She majored in international relations which she said left her with three options for a career, law, politics and international business, the latter two of which held no interest for her.

From there, she interned at Legal Services in Michigan, working as a hotline operator for domestic violence victims, an experience she called “eye opening.”

“It made me realize it was an important profession,” she said.

Matthew practiced in bankruptcy law, did personal injury work and also spent 11 years as a prosecuting attorney. At the time, she said she wanted to do the trial work and be in court.

“I did that for many, many years,” she said. “I’ve tried tons of cases but what’s enjoyable about what I do is that I get to bring people together to try and resolve their disputes outside of the courtroom.”

That’s become an especially important role in the age of COVID as in-person trials have been delayed, while the courts, like the rest of the planet, have grappled with fallout from the pandemic.

Matthew is an immediate past president of the Women Lawyers Association, co-chairs the ADR committee for the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis, and currently sits on the Board of Governors for the Missouri Bar Association. She feels the legal system has an important part to play in society and that attorneys occupy a key role in that dynamic.

“I don’t think we have the best system but I think we have the best system out there that exists,” she said. “Without it, our society would basically fall apart. I’m a rule-follower as you can probably imagine. I think the law is absolutely important and it has evolved over time but I think lawyers can do, in some ways, the most good to protect our rights as citizens and as people in this country.”

Women's Justice Awards 2021