Meet Anissa Patton: Child Welfare Law SpecialistAugust 29, 2012
When people think of lawyers, they usually think of power suits, large corporations, and money. Anissa Patton, 2000–01 AAUW Selected Professions Fellow and senior Office of the Child Attorney in Fulton County, Georgia, reminds us that in choosing a career, it is important to “follow your dreams, not the money.” In deciding what field of law she wanted to pursue, Patton was faced with the ultimate choice between money and passion — and she chose to go with passion.
After six years of Teach for America, Patton went to law school and planned a career in labor law. Thanks to her Selected Professions Fellowship, Patton was able to take care of her children, go to school, and volunteer with the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, where she worked with underprivileged women. This opportunity shifted her focus toward child welfare and welfare law. When she passed the bar exam in 2001, Patton was hired to work in Ohio in dependency court with the juvenile division of a state agency. Three years later, she moved to Georgia and began working with the public defender’s office representing parents in dependency court. In 2010, Patton was certified as one of the first child welfare law specialists in Georgia.
In addition to being named a specialist in her field, a rare and exciting honor in any profession, Patton is very proud to have two children who are currently in college. She also founded the Child and Women’s Advocacy Clinic, which has been certified as a 501(c)(3) organization and will eventually provide free legal services to victims of domestic violence. While the clinic does not have enough funding to start taking clients, Patton hopes that the project will come to fruition soon. Legal services for domestic violence are typically extremely expensive, and the clinic’s goal is to provide services for women who otherwise couldn’t afford legal help.
Patton’s work as an attorney may not fit precisely within the image that our society often holds for lawyers, but as she continues to demonstrate, this path can be just as rewarding as a corner office — perhaps even more so! Patton has provided terrific legal representation for children while also raising her own. She expresses a great deal of gratitude to AAUW for providing the funding for her degree and allowing her to give back. She says that while it is often easy to get caught up in the hunt for profit, you should “follow your dreams and love what you do. … Remember, you can always do well by doing good.”
Patton’s 2000–01 Selected Professions Fellowship was made possible by three endowments named in honor of outstanding AAUW members: the Rosamonde R. Boyd American Fellowship, created by members of AAUW of South Carolina in 1980; the Pauline Evansha American Fellowship, created by members of AAUW of Virginia in 1986; and the Anne Dale Kek American Fellowship, created by members of AAUW of West Virginia in 1982.
This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Bianca Zhang.