The Ontario County Bar Association selects Susan Gray Jones as 2016 Attorney of the Year.
CANANDAIGUA — When asked what her motivation was in becoming an attorney, Susan Gray Jones shares a story from her childhood involving a conversation she had with her father.
“My father said to me, ‘Susan Elizabeth, you like to argue with me so much, you should be a lawyer,’” Jones said.
His recommendation made sense to Jones. The Canandaigua resident, who was recently selected as the 2016 Attorney of the Year by the Ontario County Bar Association, is now in her 32nd year of practicing law.
Jones describes the discussion from years ago as the quick, funny answer to the question about her motivation to select this line of work. As for her more serious response?
Jones said it comes down to her concern about justice and protecting the rights of those less fortunate and not as empowered as she is.
Tiffany Sorgen, president of the Bar Association, said that engraved on the award is a quote from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg about how she would like to be remembered.
“Someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the best of her ability," it states. "And to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has. To do something … outside myself.”
Sorgen said the quote captures who Jones is.
“She’s an asset to everybody,” Sorgen said. “She’s always willing to cover cases, help other attorneys out if they need it. She is always on top of her own legal files and a zealous and excellent advocate for her clients.”
Jones expressed shock about being chosen for the award.
“I really don’t feel that I do anything special,” she said. “I am privileged to work in a legal community with some of the most ethical, hard-working and considerate lawyers I know. I am extremely honored and this is certainly a bright spot in my career.”
Most of her career was spent in Buffalo, but she moved to Canandaigua in 2003 and operates an office on Sly Street.
The married mother of four — who was a little less than nine months pregnant with her first daughter when she took the bar — concentrates on family law.
“At this point in my career, I am limiting myself to working as a child advocate as well as for the indigent through the Conflict Defender’s Office in Ontario County,” Jones said.
Sorgen pointed out that Jones does work on the Attorney for the Child panel in both Ontario and Yates counties. Most of her work in Family Court includes custody, visitation, neglect proceedings and juvenile delinquency.
Local judges described the Attorney of the Year selection as ideal, including state Supreme Court Justice Craig Doran. He described Jones as a tremendously dedicated attorney in serving the area's neediest clients.
“I am particularly grateful for the work she has done in the matters I’ve presided over, representing children and families in their times of crisis," Doran said.
Ontario County Judge Frederick Reed stressed Jones' ability to cooperate.
"If one attorney can’t make it, Susan will pick up that other attorney’s file and cover for that attorney if they are tied up for whatever reason," Reed said. "That makes a big difference in getting cases through the court.”
The 2016 Attorney of the Year award will be presented at the Ontario County Bar Association's annual holiday party at King’s Catering & Party House in Canandaigua on Dec. 16.