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Pat Joyce: One of first female lawyers in area works with personal integrity

#jcmo Inside Business 16 in '16 October 31, 2016 at 5:00 p.m. | Updated October 31, 2016 at 7:55 p.m.
Judge Pat Joyce poses in her fourth-floor Cole County Courthouse office.

Cole County Presiding Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce graduated from St. Louis University Law School in 1979 - and took her first job at Jefferson City's Mid-Missouri Legal Services in 1980.

At the time, she was one of the few female attorneys in the area.

"After moving out to Mid-Missouri, Lori Levine (now retired from the Carson & Coil law firm) and I were the only women actively practicing law in the area," Joyce told the News Tribune in July 1990, "and when I went out to the outlying areas, it seemed like the male bar had no idea there were women lawyers.

"That was an experience in itself, but I got used to dealing with that."

She was an assistant prosecuting attorney when she made that comment in 1990.

Today, Joyce is in her third six-year term as a circuit judge, after serving eight years as an associate circuit judge.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/MELISSA SUE GERRITS 08/19/13 - Amy Nicholas embraces daughter Avery Nicholas, 7, at Gibbs Magnet Elementary School August 19, 2013 while they wait to hear which classroom Avery will be in for her first year of school at Gibbs.

"I've been at the courthouse since 1983, so it seems like I've spent my whole professional life here," she said earlier this month. "I've never had a job where I've had to compromise what I believe is my personal integrity."

Still, she acknowledged, there are times when her personal beliefs conflict with legal principles.

"I think that, as you go through law school and when you do it (the job), there are times when it's not what your first choice would be, but you have to realize that you swear allegiance to the law," she said. "And for people to have any confidence in the judicial system or in the system of laws, you have to follow the law.

"I'm not following the law because this is how I feel. This is what the Legislature decided or this is what a higher court decided. I'm going to apply that law. That's important for the stability of our nation."

Joyce met her husband, Dana (Dan) Joyce in law school - they've been married 37 years and have five now-adult children.

She's been a member of St. Joseph's Cathedral and several statewide judiciary committees for the Supreme Court.

She's a former, 15-year member of the Rape and Abuse Crisis Service Board; former member of the Lincoln University Board of Curators; former member of the St. Mary's Health Center board; and a former Rotarian.

Q. Who has invested in you and your career?

A. "I think my parents and my extended family invested in me. They encouraged me when I was making those career decisions and said, 'Yeah, you can do it.'"

(After she began working in the Cole County Courthouse, Joyce said prosecutors Tom Brown and Rich Callahan, who later served as judges, as well as Judges Byron Kinder, Jim McHenry and McCormick "Mac" Wilson, all "spent a lot of time" helping her develop her legal skills "and encouraged me along the way.")

Q. What choices have you made to invest in yourself and your own success?

A. "I think the first choice you make is setting a dream. I think the dream has to be set first because, until you've got a dream ahead to look at, it's hard to get to where you invest in yourself. You've got to set a dream and goals, and then you start working toward those goals. So much of it is the journey. As a youngster when you're thinking about setting this, you think it's straight, when life just happens to be meandering around, and who knows what opportunities are there and what pathways you're going to go."

Q. What do you think are the biggest issues still facing women in the workplace?

A. "I think the hardest issues in a workplace are learning how to balance family and (other) things outside the workplace. I think men tend to be more able to block out other distractions whereas, when you (women) go to work, you might be having a lot more on your plate. I think more women have other responsibilities and are trying to juggle them and keep that balance. But I think it makes for a better employee, because I think you're (women are) more rational in a lot of ways, about handling different responsibilities and crises."

Q. What drives you most in life and in your career?

A. "I think it's my values that drive me most in life. I've always had a really strong values system, and I think living up to my Christian beliefs, honoring people and honoring the people that I love by doing work that's important, that does something good. I've been so fortunate to be able to have a job where I've been able to live out my values and do what I believe is important."

Q. What advice would you give to a woman entering the workforce?

A. "Be true to yourself. I think you have to be really stable, but you have to be true to yourself - if you feel like this is not a job that you're going to enjoy, find something new. But you don't get to leave a job until you have another one. There is no perfect job - I'm sure I was told that about a zillion times when I was growing up. Life is so, so short - wherever you are, find a place for you to grow, to do well and to be happy where you are."

See the full October 2016 edition of #jcmo Inside Business here.


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