CEO AND FOUNDER OF THE JUSTICE DEPT.
Jennifer Justice (JJ) is a true superhero fighting and advocating for women to get them the pay they deserve. JJ is the CEO and founder of The Justice Dept, a female-focused management, legal and advisory firm that aims to support, advocate and negotiate on behalf of female entrepreneurs, executives, talent, brands and creatives.
As a music lawyer she worked for 11 years with major artists like Jay-Z, Beyonce and Outkast. She then helped build Jay-Z’s Roc Nation from day one, working closely with the artist as general counsel for both S. Carter Enterprises and RocNation, helping structure the vision and growth of Roc Nation. In 2016 JJ joined Superfly as the President of Corporate Development. She stayed at Superfly for two years and was in charge of expanding the portfolio of the live experience company.
JJ worked as Jay-Z's personal entertainment attorney for a total of 17 years, helping build Roc Nation from the ground up.
Like all superheroes, JJ has her own origin story, one that highlights her resilience and perseverance. She had a humble upbringing and moved around Washington six or seven times before her mom finally settled in Yakima, Washington. For college she applied to several grants, scholarships and financial aid to be able to attend the University of Washington. She decided to pursue law as a means to garner financial independence, she explained to Goop: “We had nothing, I saw how when you have no money, you sometimes have to make decisions that you don’t want to make. I wanted that ability: the freedom to make all the decisions I wanted to make." After acing the LSAT, JJ was actually solicited by Cornell Law School-- who offered her a full ride to attend.
I had the honor of asking JJ some questions about how/when she started being a fierce advocate for women, how The Justice Dept came to be, the challenges she has to overcome as a CEO of a 1-year-old startup, and how she hopes The Justice Dept will evolve.
What inspired you to take the leap and start The Justice Department?
Well I had for a very long time been interested in gender equality. From a young age I’ve been a fierce proponent and advocate for gender equality. As a lawyer I had a lot of experience advocating for people and helping structure deals -- basically making men a lot of many by day… but I really was trying to overthrow the patriarchy at night. When it came to really figuring out what I want to do with the rest of my life, given my vast experience in strategy and business development and law, I focused on the segment of the population that had more passion than power: and that was women. I wanted to help them, in the same way I had helped many men make money. Because I feel like [money] might bring happiness, but it also can bring power to make change, and if women had the same financial equity as men we would not be in the place where we are today.
JJ with her adorable twins, Jack and Nico. (PH by The Grace Tales)
You have such an amazing story of perseverance and resilience, what led you to become a gender advocate?
Well it started when I first got into law school. Growing up I wasn’t exposed to business and the fact that there weren't as many women in it. So when I was representing musicians I was also doing a lot of work for executives in the music industry and I would just start noticing very quickly that I would do a deal for a man at a director level and he’d be making in the hundred thousands dollar range. I would then make the same deal for a senior director woman and she’d be making in the tens of thousands range. And I was like: this makes no sense, she has a higher title, more experience, brought in more revenue yet they’re paying her a lower salary. And it just kept happening, no matter how much I would draw it to their actual attention that it was completely inappropriate, they just didn’t think about it. So when I started The Justice Dept. I was hoping [the disparity] had changed some but it is actually just as bad, and in some ways worse because there are more women in the workforce to discriminate against. It happens constantly.
JJ's nuggets of wisdom-- check out TJD's insta for more!
What are some of the challenges you are dealing with as you're starting The Justice Department?
It’s all challenges when starting a business. It’s doing all the technical and administrating. You have to revert to doing stuff you haven’t done in a long time because you can't just hire people. I didn’t have an office or anything. At the beginning of this year I was thinking about getting an office, but now that doesn’t really matter. So it’s all the same stuff, getting clients and ramping it up, but also partially -and unfortunately- a challenge is convincing women that this is a necessary platform for them. A lot of them don't want to accept the fact that we are still so discriminated against in the workplace because it’s just emotionally draining to think about it and to think about how little progress we’ve made in the past whatever years. And unfortunately, during COVID, we’ve regressed more. The numbers and the data are there. It will take 208 years for women to have equal power in the US alone. Just look at fortune 500 companies and how many women are running them. Just look at politics and how many women run for office.. And while we make tiny increments it’s not enough to make real change.
I wholeheartedly agree. It's so important for women to stick together and fight against discrimination (of any form), especially in cases with the pay gap were the disparities are so obvious. How would you like The Justice Dept. to evolve?
We want to achieve financial equality for women. Women are every race, religion, socioeconomic background, political affiliation… So when you support women you support 50% of the population and that’s how it should be. We should all rise together. I really want for women to support each other, give each other business, buy their products, hire them… Hire lawyers, accountants, but not the ones that ladder up to the patriarchy. We are 80% of the purchasing power. We can control a lot that happens in the economy by only supporting each other. Then we don’t have to be knocking on the door and asking for a seat at the patriarchal table. We can build our own matriarchal table, where everybody gets a seat. And that does not mean one should be putting men down, it’s just lifting women up.