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Janice Stillman - Women in Law Scholarship Recipient

by Debra A. Newby

What were your dreams when you were nine years old? Maybe to own a unicorn? Fly to the moon? For Janice Stillman, this year’s recipient of the Women in Law Legal Scholarship, perhaps her dream was more realistic… not to feel like a social outcast because both of her parents were in prison. Instead of allowing the “stigma” of her parents to shape her, Janice has garnered her inner strength and drive to help others by choosing law as her profession.  

At age 12, she attended a program called Project Avary, a summer camp which offers children of incarcerated parents an outdoor environment to develop social and life-skills. It was there that she found her voice and a safe environment to tell her story. A fellow attorney and Board Member at Project Avary encouraged her to go to law school. She did, and has never looked back. Instead, she gives back. Now, Janice is a second year law student at UC Hastings, with an eye on public interest law and perhaps running for a political office. 

Janice has volunteered as a Mentor/Counselor at Project Avary since she was 15 years old.  “I’ve witnessed first-hand the confidence of the children grow,” Janice said. “The camp offers them a safe place to articulate and share their story, so that they do not feel like an outcast.” 

Janice was basically raised by her grandmother, Nana. She led by example by offering a warm and loving household for Janice and her six siblings. Janice was taught to be thankful, positive, and the value of being connected to her community. Janice and her twin sister, Jessica, were the first in the family to attend a four-year college. Her community work also extends to writing advocacy letters for Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (“LSPC”). During her stint with LSPC, she engaged in policy work to help co-write bills and even testified at hearings in Sacramento on legislation that would waive the fees for expungements in certain situations.

Her most inspiring moment was when she was in high school and her class traveled to the south to learn about the civil rights movement. On that trip, she personally met Congressman John Lewis. “I was particularly struck by his dedication to helping others, even though he was only 18 years old when he became involved in the struggle for racial equality,” said Stillman. “Just like Congressman Lewis, I know it is the right thing for me to dedicate my life to helping others.”

It looks like the Sonoma County Women in Law have also done the “right thing” by choosing yet another impressive candidate to receive their annual Law Scholarship. The WIL Scholarship Drive, under the steady tutelage and inspiration of Judge Gayle Guynup and The Founder’s Circle, has provided over $35,000 in law scholarships to deserving law students since 2008. WIL always seeks candidates who have proven ties to Sonoma County, and in the past has awarded the scholarship to law students from Berkeley, Hastings, Golden Gate, and Empire Law School. Donations to the WIL Scholarship are totally tax-deductible and can be made on the WIL website. Janice Stillman was honored on November 5, 2015 at WIL Scholarship Reception at Judge Guynup’s gracious home. Lemonade and other refreshments were served!



Debra A. Newby chairs the Communications Committee of the SCBA. She maintains a solo and successful law practice in Santa Rosa, CA, which emphasizes personal injury law.