“Before I have to give a speech or a closing argument I get very nervous,”… (Gary Friedman, Los Angeles…)
The gig: As a kid Jamon Hicks spent many afternoons in courtrooms where his mother was a clerk. He still spends a lot of his time in courtrooms, but now Hicks, 32, is a trial attorney with the Cochran Firm in Los Angeles.
Also, last month Hicks became president of the California Assn. of Black Lawyers, an organization founded in 1977 that now has more than 6,000 members, including lawyers, judges, law professors and students.
Growing up in court: Hicks was raised in Inglewood and Baldwin Hills, and after day care or school he was often whisked to courtrooms where his mother was finishing her workday. He was expected to behave. "If you knew my mom," he said with a laugh, "you'd know that she would not allow for any energy in the courtroom."
Hicks watched the lawyers at work, and he learned about the hierarchy of courtrooms. "The judge to me just seemed like an almighty position. I was more impressed than I was nervous."
Gaining skills: During his high school years, Hicks attended a summertime speech and debate program at Stanford University, developing his skills in making arguments. And when the O.J. Simpson murder trial was televised, he found himself drawn to watch how lawyers worked the case.
"I was fascinated by the arguments regarding evidence," he said. "I was obviously captivated by the art of argument by Johnnie Cochran and all the lawyers on the case."
At UC Berkeley, Hicks earned undergraduate degrees in English and African American studies. But he knew he wanted to go into law. "I felt like you could make the most difference through trial work," he said.
Going to work: Upon graduating from Loyola Law School, Hicks began work at the Douglas Law Group in Beverly Hills, and in 2010 he went to work for the firm started by Cochran. Hicks deals mainly with civil litigation suits involving wrongful death, serious personal injury and police misconduct.
High-profile case: Hicks is currently co-counsel in the defense of Christopher Chaney, who was accused of hacking into the email accounts of numerous celebrities, including Scarlett Johansson and Christina Aguilera. The case gave Hicks his first brush with media pressure.
"We had a driver that was dropping us off" for a hearing, Hicks recalled. "I wasn't paying attention when we pulled up to the courthouse — I was so busy reading my notes that when I opened the door, I was just caught off guard.
"I had cameras shoved in my face and questions being asked, and I'm trying to make sure my client isn't saying anything."
Hicks never met Cochran, who died in 2005, but the famed lawyer's advice on dealing with the media came down to him from others at the firm.
"No. 1: No matter what, it's always about the client and never about you," Hicks said he was told. "And No. 2: The media can be your best friend or they can be your worst nightmare."
Chaney has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
Pushing for diversity: At 29 Hicks was elected as a vice president of the California Assn. of Black Lawyers. When the top position became available, he went for it.
"I wanted to bring a youthful energy," he said. "I wanted to make sure younger attorneys were getting involved to carry the torch into the future."
He said he wants to help not just African Americans but all minorities get positions in the state judicial system.
"It can always be more diverse," he said of the courts. "We're nowhere near where it could be, but we have made great strides."
Future endeavors: Hicks doesn't rule out running for political office one day. But for now, he still gets a charge out of being in a courtroom and working a case, just as he did vicariously as a child.
"Before I have to give a speech or a closing argument I get very nervous," he said. "But once I begin to speak I get this sense of adrenaline that I can only compare to sports.
"The only thing I can compare that feeling to would be like basketball. I really enjoy basketball."