Early in her legal career, she brought her passion for justice and fairness to the legal community in Houston. Jackson Lee worked as a Houston attorney and was chosen to hold a number of prominent positions, such as chairperson of the Black Women Lawyers Association and president of the Houston Lawyers Association. She became active in the legal and civic community also through the American Leadership Forum, Leadership Houston and more.
In 1977 and 1978, Jackson Lee served as staff counsel for the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations, which studied Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, among others that occurred in the late 1960s.
In 1983, Jackson Lee chose to pursue elected office to become Harris County Judge. After several close races, she was appointed to the City of Houston Municipal Court to serve as Judge in 1987. Then in 1989, she entered the City of Houston At-Large City Council Race, Position #4. In a close race, she defeated the incumbent to become one of the first African American women to serve in an at-large seat for the city of Houston.
While a councilmember, she chaired the first Human Relations Committee, along with the Airport and Cable Committees. She served as Councilmember with distinction for two terms until 1994, when she entered the primary for the 18th Congressional District in Houston and won.