Community Law for the Community

Jen Hitomi Bond is a one-woman, do-it-herself show. Don’t expect a receptionist to take your call or answer the door. Bond does it all.

Jen Hitomi Bond is a one-woman, do-it-herself show. Don’t expect a receptionist to take your call or answer the door. Bond does it all.

Jen Hitomi Bond tells it like it is. She says, “I want to break the myth that law or lawyers are scary.” Bond is definitely not scary. Not much over five-feet tall, she is slight of build and soft-spoken, but you get the sense she knows her stuff and that if pushed, she stands her ground.

Bond set up JH Bond Community Law on the eastside of Madison just over a year ago.

She delights in her Madison practice where she gets “to actually see my clients, and get to know them, and their families. It’s a great feeling to see, first-hand, that I’m making a difference in their lives.”

Originally from Yokohama, Japan, Bond moved to Boston and then Minneapolis for college. As Bond’s mother and step-father began the complex process of immigrating the family to the States, Bond experienced first-hand the need for community-minded attorneys. Since Bond was the only U.S. citizen in her family (her biological father is a U.S. citizen, her mother a Japanese citizen), she was very much involved in the process. Luckily, says Bond, the immigration attorney was “knowledgeable and compassionate and made the otherwise excruciating process bearable for us.”

When in law school at the University of Minnesota, that same attorney was her professor, and she inspired Bond to pursue the field of immigration law. Along the way, Bond also became interested in family law and estate planning. She says, “I saw that these areas of law impacted everyone in some capacity, and the humanness of these areas of law really fascinated me.”

Bond’s awareness of LGBT-specific issues grew as her best friend evolved as a transgender person. As she met others in the LGBT community, Bond saw how the traditional family law structure not only doesn’t protect LGBT couples, but has dire effects on their partnerships. As she watched gay and lesbian couples lose out in immigration and other rights, she decided to provide services specifically for the LGBT community. At her practice, Bond offers ways for LGBT families to protect their legal rights and get some recognition of their relationship using contract law tools and proper estate planning.

Many of us don’t think of ourselves as owning an “estate,” and so we might think these documents have little relevance. But according to Bond, “Even if the couple does not have any assets to speak of, a will enables them to name an executor — the person who will gather and take care of everything. If you want to make sure your partner is the one sorting through your personal things, you want to make sure to have a will.”

Bond offers a flat fee structure for these legal services. She says emphatically, “I want people to know ahead of time what they are getting.” She urges gay and lesbians couples to have these documents before they need them. She warns that after the fact, it gets difficult and expensive.

Bond feels lucky to be doing this kind of work. Admittedly, it can be stressful, like the time she had a client who had one month until his deportation hearing. The case had been in limbo for nearly ten years, bungled by incompetence or greed. Unsure if she could prepare everything given the time constraint, she says, “I knew I had no choice, because this man’s life was at stake.” Happily, the case was successful. Afterwards, she recounts, “the client looked at me, started crying, and hugged me. That was the best moment of my career so far.”