Valda Ricks’ path to becoming a successful, respected attorney was not easy. In the past, she has been homeless, on welfare and a single mother of four.
She overcame all of that with a tireless drive and work ethic, putting herself through college and law school, and eventually earning a reputation as a champion for Baltimore’s disadvantaged.
After earning her law degree at the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Law in 1991, Ricks went to work as a law clerk in the Baltimore Office of the Public Defender. She later became an assistant public defender, a job she held until 2016, when she was named deputy state’s attorney in Baltimore.
Her legal career, Ricks said, has been devoted to “representing the disadvantaged, voiceless and poor in the City of Baltimore.” Her passion, she added, is “fighting to keep the judicial system fair, defending the Constitution and … the quest for equal justice while giving a voice to those who have been victimized.”
Outside of work, Ricks has devoted countless hours to the same cause. She worked with the mayor’s office to provide books, clothing and food to the needy in south Baltimore’s Cherry Hill community. She has tutored students at Coppin State University, counseled law students and mentored young lawyers.
As chairwoman of the Alliance of Black Women Attorneys’ Outreach Committee, she has volunteered for numerous activities outside of her profession, including serving breakfast to the homeless at My Sister’s Place and working on National Adoption Day.
Ricks is also a member of the Bar Association of Baltimore City’s Bar Foundation, a charitable organization that provides financial support for nonprofit organizations and programs.
In 2012, Ricks was given the annual Margaret Brent/Juanita Jackson Mitchell Award, which recognizes female lawyers who have surmounted substantial barriers to succeed in their profession.
“Valda Ricks’ presence in Baltimore City has been and continues to be impactful,” said fellow attorney Deborah Warner-Dennis, who has worked with Ricks in both the public defender’s and state’s attorney’s offices. “She is a trailblazer who challenges Baltimore’s legal community to grow and reach greater heights.”
Warner-Dennis noted that Maya Angelou is one of Ricks’ favorite poets, and said her colleague’s life embodies two of Angelou’s poems: “Phenomenal Woman” and “Still I Rise.”
What piece of advice would you give a young attorney today?
Be professional. Be prepared. Be compassionate. Work hard. Be committed to public service through bar association involvement.
(My passion is) fighting to keep the judicial system fair, defending the Constitution and … the quest for equal justice while giving a voice to those who have been victimized.”