Alameda County
Bar Association

Volunteer Spotlight: Teresa Francis 

Legal Access Alameda Volunteer Spotlight: Teresa Francis

Teresa Francis
Teresa Francis

Teresa Francis started her volunteer path at a young age by spending her teen years volunteering at SAVE, an organization that supports survivors of domestic violence. After facing adversity, Teresa went back to school to complete her education and go to law school.

She became the attorney she aspired to be while being a wife and a mother to seven children. Teresa is a solo family law practitioner in Alameda County and continues to assist others by volunteering as an attorney for SAVE, Narika, and Shriver Custody Project clients.

When did you know you wanted to be a lawyer?

Although I have always been interested in law, I did not decide to become an attorney until after a difficult divorce. I was a single mother of three working in a furniture store who couldn’t afford an attorney. Fortunately, my support system got me through the challenging process, inspiring me to pay it forward. My divorce experience inspired me to help others maneuver through the difficult process. I did not have the finances to hire an attorney, but I was very blessed to have generous people help me. I knew that I wanted to become a family law attorney to help others who do not have access to legal help.

What would you be doing if you hadn’t become a lawyer?

I can truly say that being a lawyer is my dream career. If I hadn’t followed my dream, I would be working to survive and support my family instead of doing something I’m passionate about. I feel lucky that my past life experiences prepared and guided me to find a career that is abundantly personally rewarding and fulfilling.

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were first admitted to practice?

Anything is an adjustment when first starting out. I wish I listened to my intuition more.

What is the biggest challenge facing you as a lawyer today?

My biggest challenge is balancing my pro bono cases and volunteer work with bringing in income to support my family. My purpose is to help people, and I struggle to turn people away who can’t afford my services.

What is your favorite part of being a lawyer?

I absolutely love being in court both as an advocate for my client and as a spectator. I could sit in court and listen to cases all day. It’s like watching a movie to me.

What is your dream vacation?

My dream vacation is a family cruise with our seven children and four grandchildren. I love going on cruises with my husband. It is something that allows family time and a variety of activities so that everyone can enjoy it. Plus, being out in the middle of the ocean with my family allows me to disconnect from work to actually enjoy my vacation.

What are you reading now?

I spend so much time reading for work that I do not make the time to read for entertainment.  When I do read, I usually read true crime. Lately, I have been reading and listening to all things legal relating to the January 6th insurrection.

What’s one thing people might be surprised to learn about you?

I have only been practicing law for seven years. When I decided to become an attorney, I had to go back to school to finish my college education. I had three young children that I was solely supporting, so it was a long process. After law school, it took me eleven attempts to pass the Bar Exam while working full-time and raising our children with my current husband. I was fortunate to know that practicing family law was what I was meant to do, and I was even more blessed to have family and friends supporting my long journey.

What person, living or dead, real or fictional, would you like to have dinner with?

I would like to have dinner with my Grandma Ethel. I have learned so much about her in the last 20 years that I would love to talk to her over a nice home-cooked Jewish meal. I would love to hear about her life before she was a grandmother.

Why do you choose to volunteer with Legal Access Alameda? Would you encourage other attorneys to get involved?

Volunteering with the Shriver Project has allowed me to do pro bono work and help people who cannot afford an attorney without taking up too much of my personal resources. It has allowed me to help more people than taking pro bono cases on my own. I encourage other attorneys to get involved because it allows the opportunity to practice your craft in a beneficial way for all parties. It’s also great to work with other attorneys with whom you wouldn’t normally have the opportunity.

Are you ready to get involved? Learn more on Legal Access Alameda’s website.

Interested in more interviews? Check out our member spotlights.