Executive Profile – Janice Brown

Janice P Brown

When San Diego attorney Janice P. Brown decided to go solo in 2003, she discovered that she was a much better businesswoman than she thought she could be. But she couldn’t anticipate everything.

"I didn’t understand or appreciate that, in small firms, who people are on a day-to-day basis is more important than it is in a big firm," said Brown, founder of Brown Law Group. "The personalities of people are more significant in a small firm — how you click, your values, what your beliefs are. Why have your own thing, if you don’t have the energy that you want?"

Brown also discovered that some big companies prefer smaller boutique law firms to handle their affairs, believing that they get a bigger bang for fewer bucks. Brown and her staff of six lawyers represent such major clients as San Diego-based Sempra Energy, Wells Fargo, locally based builder Barratt American, Liberty Mutual, Manpower Inc. and Pfizer.

Brown, whose firm specializes in employment and contract law, is a big believer in preventing lawsuits before they happen.

"The benefit of being preventive is that you end up having a relationship with somebody that isn’t based on misery," she said. "It’s like going to the dentist for a cleaning, rather than a root canal."

Brown said that she has no regrets about going out on her own.

"I am very fortunate," she said. "I have a lot of business and tons more opportunities that I don’t have time to explore. But if you are too busy and overwhelmed to take time with people, you lose what is special."

What is special to Brown is to have the time to make a difference in people’s lives.

"I had people who helped me along the way," said Brown. "I grew up in Montana, an African-American girl growing up in a place where there were no other African-American girls. I grew up understanding that people are people. You learn that, with issues of race and gender, the human part overrides all that other stuff."

Brown fondly remembers her own mentor, Bonnie Reading, a former law partner at her old firm, Seltzer Caplan McMahon, who died in 1995.

"She had a perception of me that was bigger than myself," said Brown. "My mother and father are still alive, but they love me as a human being. But Bonnie loved me bigger than I am. I think that she would be very proud of me."


  • Name: Janice P. Brown. Company: Brown Law Group.
  • Title: Founder.
  • Education: Juris doctorate, Gonzaga University Law School.
  • Residence: San Diego.
  • Family: Husband, Marine Lt. Col. David Fennell.


  • Essential business philosophy: Beliefs create thoughts, create behavior, create results.
  • Best way to keep a competitive edge: Take risks, hire smart people and listen to them. Guiding principles: Express gratitude for the good things and learn from the bad.
  • Yardstick for success: Is my family proud? Am I kind to my friends? Am I generous?
  • Goals yet to be achieved: Write a book and teaching "success" to others.


  • Best business decision: To start my own law firm, Brown Law Group, in October 2003.
  • Worst business decision: Not listening to my "gut"; not following my instinct.
  • Toughest business decision: To start my own firm, leaving my former partner and taking the entire staff from my former firm (Seltzer Caplan McMahon in San Diego) to my firm.
  • Mentor: Bonnie Reading, former partner at Seltzer Caplan, who died in 1995.


  • What you like best about your job: It doesn’t feel like a job to me. I like the business of law.
  • What you like least about your job: Sometimes it is too much. So much opportunity, so little time.
  • Pet peeves: People who complain, but do nothing to make themselves or others better.
  • Most important lesson learned: That it isn’t "show friends," it’s "show business."
  • Person most interested in meeting: Oprah Winfrey.
  • Most-respected competitor: San Diego employment-focused law firms. With respect to preventive law, it doesn’t seem that we have any competition.
  • Three greatest passions: Personal development/fitness; my husband; movies.
  • First choice for a new career: Public speaking, author.


  • Favorite quote: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure," Marianne Williamson, used by Nelson Mandella in his 1994 inaugural address.
  • Most influential book: "A Return to Love," by Marianne Williamson.
  • Favorite status symbol: First class travel.
  • Favorite movie: "Shawshank Redemption."
  • Favorite restaurant: Island Prime.
  • Favorite place for business meetings: University Club.
  • Favorite vacation spots: Italy and Miami.
  • Favorite way to spend time: At a spa.
  • Favorite automobile: Mercedes-Benz 500SL.


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