Using the law to change lives is Josie Brumfield’s passion.
“I come from a family of doctors and while I admire the way they help people, I felt a different calling,” she explained. “I care for each of my clients and empathize with their battle. One of the hardest things to acknowledge in America is that justice isn’t available to everyone and the right thing doesn’t always happen in our justice system. While it is a good system, there are so many areas worthy for improvement. The law allows me to help people and to continue to grow and explore new areas that need attention from the legal community.”
Her path to success and to where she is today was filled with a mix of timing, wonderful female mentors, and mostly a burning passion to help others.
Her Path to Criminal Trial Work
At the beginning of her career, Brumfield was working at the Salt Lake Legal Defender’s Association. She was in the appellate division and was in the middle of oral arguments in front of the Utah Court of Appeals when she had an epiphany – she realized that her passion was to do criminal work.
She transferred to the trial division and began to build her expertise, winning cases and making a name for herself, later moving to a private practice.
Soon though, Brumfield along with Zachary Weyher and Melissa Fulkerson – two friends she had met in 2002 at law school – realized that they not only had complementary practice focuses, but that they could band together and create a firm with a culture that fit both them and their clients.
And thus, Weyher Fulkerson opened its doors.
“We wanted to run a practice we felt good about, that was guided by our principles, and where our clients could feel that difference. So, we created a firm with a culture we love,” Brumfield said. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously. We love going into our office. We are approachable. We care. We laugh and cry with our clients. We continue to grow and we think and talk about our clients and their cases and how to best advocate for them in our spare time outside of the office. We have a great firm. I am lucky to be a part of it.”
Helping Change the Laws
Today, Brumfield specializes in criminal defense and family law litigation, with cases ranging from misdemeanors to serious felony matters. She also practices civil litigation, both plaintiff and defense.
“I love being able to change what is wrong,” she shared. “For example, I had an 18-year-old client become a sex offender for conduct that involved absolutely no criminal intent from a victim who admitted she lied about her age. He was a month out of high school. This is unacceptable. In another case, I had a young mother lose custody of her child because a rogue and notorious juvenile judge granted a default custody judgment before the time had run and before the very first court hearing. It took a two-year battle to get her child back in her arms. This is unacceptable. Lawyers have the power and responsibility to change these things.”
Brumfield recognizes that impacting change requires realizing that every case is different, every client is different, and so every defense or approach to advocating for her client requires truly understanding that and tailoring her approach accordingly.
“No two cases or clients are the same. Understanding what is most important to your client and ensuring your strategy is guided by that premise is being a true advocate,” she said.
That philosophy is also what makes Weyher and Fulkerson stand out. The three attorneys in the firm collaborate on every case, understanding that the outcome will truly impact a client’s life.
“Simply understanding that while going to court and arguing motions and filing pleadings is routine for us, it is very dear and personal to our clients. We are not just involved in the daily grind; we are protecting what is often most important to our clients.”
Being a Woman in Law
Brumfield admits that being a female attorney can be difficult and credits four mentors with helping guide her.
“Joan Watt, the chief appellate attorney with Salt Lake Legal Defender’s Association; Linda Jones, partner at Zimmerman, Jones & Booher; Jensie Anderson, executive director of Rocky Mountain Innocence Project; and Debra Nelson, appellate attorney with Salt Lake Legal Defender’s Association,” she listed. “These women are superstars in the legal world, fierce and brilliant. I feel so lucky that I was trained by and mentored by some of the most brilliant legal minds in the state. They will never know how much I appreciate them and their influence on me.”
Knowing how much of an influence those women had is not only something Brumfield appreciates, but is something she hopes to one day pay forward.
Making an Impact
Brumfield is known in Utah as one of the top criminal attorneys, a fact that both her clients and several organizations recognize. But of course, it’s not about the awards and honors for Brumfield.
“Those rare moments when you know you really made a difference in someone’s life; the moments when my clients know I did everything I could even when the results aren’t ideal; the moments when my clients appreciate that I truly care and fought for them – those are the moments I cherish and the reason I practice law,” she said. “Our firm has handled high-profile cases, achieved incredible results from a strong motion and trial practice, but if I am being completely honest it is most often the small victories that feel like the biggest accomplishments. If we reach our client’s goals so they can move forward, often against very difficult odds, we feel we have made a real difference.”