By Camille Cannon
Jennifer Andrews has arrived at a pivotal moment in her career. After practicing family law in Washington state for almost 20 years, the Las Vegas native and 2002 graduate of the UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law recently transitioned from the bar to the bench.
The career shift was first revealed in mid-August, when Washington Governor Jay Inslee appointed Andrews to replace retired Judge Stephanie Arend on the Pierce County Superior Court. The move became official October 18 when Andrews was handed the gavel for Department 12.
“Getting the call was a little surreal,” Andrews says. “I was a bit in shock because it was my first time applying [for a judgeship], and there were many other really great candidates.”
One look at Andrews’ credentials explains why the governor selected her. A partner at The Narrows Law Group for the past 10 years, Andrews also has served as a commissioner pro tem handling family law matters for the Pierce County Superior Court since 2019. She is dedicated to her local community as well, having volunteered in roles such as board member of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound, president of the Robert J. Bryan American Inn of Court, and treasurer and president of the Pierce County Chapter of Washington Women’s Lawyers.
Andrews began building her impressive law résumé shortly after arriving among the second class of UNLV Boyd Law students in 1999. In addition to other activities, she worked as a student teaching assistant for former professor Annette Appell.
“Working with her helped me develop confidence and an interest in adoption law, and social issues surrounding mothers and the foster care system,” says Andrews, whose article “Minor Mothers and Consent to Adoption: An Anomaly in Youth Law,” was published in Adoption Quarterly while she was still a student. “I’ve always been a good writer, but Boyd’s writing program helped me so much.”
Another benefit: At the time, the fledgling law school had a limited student body. “The fact it was such a small school helped me to experiment and create a path for myself,” she says.
Motivated by a passion for social justice, Andrews co-founded the campus’ Public Interest Law Association. As president of PILA, she discovered the opportunity to apply for the competitive Goldmark Internship. She subsequently was offered an internship with the Legal Foundation of Washington, a public interest nonprofit.
Andrews describes her gig in Washington as a “sliding door” moment, in reference to the 1998 film of the same name. “If you go one route,” she says, “your trajectory will look so different.”
It didn’t take much time for the lifelong Las Vegan to fall in love with the Pacific Northwest’s climate, notably the beautiful summertime weather and lush landscapes. So after graduating from UNLV Boyd Law, Andrews accepted a job with the firm of her internship’s supervising attorney.
That launched a career that has since included a lot of pro bono work, some of which involved representing same-sex couples with children. Before the U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld the legality of same-sex marriages, many couples who had children through artificial insemination worried that their parental rights wouldn’t be recognized if their families left Washington. Andrews did at least a dozen no-fee adoptions to help protect those rights.
“I view the law as a really powerful tool to effect change,” she says. “The ability to practice law and get in front of a judge puts you in a position of privilege and power. It’s so important to remember that and never abuse that as a practitioner.”
As she enters the next chapter of her career, Andrews also is looking forward to change in her personal life. Because working on the bench offers a more structured schedule, she’s hoping to have more time to spend with her 13-year-old son and her mother, as well as expand her community engagement.
And of course, more time to appreciate and explore the state she first fell in love with almost 20 years ago.