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mEET JAckie

I am a lawyer, a mother, a wife, and an autoimmune encephalitis survivor. I wish to share my story about autoimmune encephalitis through motivational speaking and writing. And I look forward to making new friends along the way! #StebbinsStrong #JustKeepSwimming #BetterDaysAhead

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Jackie M. Stebbins attended college at the University of North Dakota where she graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in political science. She graduated with distinction from the University of North Dakota School of Law and was named to The Order of Barristers. She served as the Outside Articles Editor for the Law Review Board of Editors.

On July 31, 2009, Jackie began her work as a lawyer in Bismarck, North Dakota. She primarily practiced in the areas of family law, criminal defense, and civil litigation. She was a contract city prosecutor and handled appointed cases as a public defender in federal court. She also performed appellate work in front of the North Dakota Supreme Court. She was named to Super Lawyers Rising Stars in 2013-2018. This is a distinction earned by only 2.5 percent of attorneys in North Dakota. She was also named to The National Trial Lawyers in 2014-2018. She earned various awards in criminal law and family law for her demonstrated excellence in her work. In 2011, she was named to Prairie Business Magazine’s Top 40 Under 40 Business Leaders and the Bismarck Tribune’s 40 Under 40 for recognition of her achievements in business and community before the age of forty. While in practice, she was a regular guest lecturer at various schools and educational legal activities, and often presented at continuing legal education seminars. She appears in the internet book “Real World Divorce,” where she analyzed family law in the state of North Dakota.  

On June 1, 2015, Jackie and her law partner started the Stebbins Mulloy Law Firm. From there, the tagline was born: “Competent. Efficient. Effective.” In the years of its existence, Stebbins Mulloy was a hustling, bustling, successful law firm. Jackie is incredibly proud of all that Stebbins Mulloy accomplished and the people it served. 

In May 2018, after a grueling, prolonged onset, and her slipping into cognitive failure, Jackie was diagnosed with autoimmune encephalitis. She was first hospitalized in the psychiatric ward after having significant struggles with insomnia and what was thought to be anxiety and depression. She was later referred to a neurologist who immediately and correctly diagnosed her rare condition. At the height of her disease, she suffered from memory loss, hallucinations, paranoia, anxiety, limited verbal communication, insomnia, confusion, tremors, and seizures. She was hospitalized for a week after a grand mal seizure, and then began doctoring at the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota. She received steroid treatments for the autoimmune encephalitis which set her on the long path to recovery. She also treated for a seizure disorder. To date, she remains seizure free and in remission from autoimmune encephalitis. But she never returned to her dream job or to her beloved law firm.  

Jackie’s childhood dream was to become a formidable trial lawyer, and by hard work and determination, she was able to live her dream. But on July 31, 2019, ten years to the date from her entrance into the practice of law, she retired.

In October 2019, Jackie founded JM Stebbins, LLC, to spread awareness about autoimmune encephalitis as a motivational speaker and writer. She now uses the experiences and wisdom she gained in her career as a trial lawyer, and her story of survival and recovery from autoimmune encephalitis, to captivate audiences young and old. Jackie has followed her dreams in the face of adversity and encourages others to do the same. Her story is one of hard work, devastation, hope, and faith, and she wants to share it with as many people as she can. She frequently reminds people to stay "Stebbins Strong" and to "Just Keep Swimming," because there are always "Better Days Ahead!"

In May 2022, Jackie's memoir, Unwillable: A Journey to Reclaim My Brain, was published by Wisdom Editions. Brain on Fire author Susannah Cahalan praises Unwillable as: "An inspiring story of a brilliant woman's battle with autoimmune encephalitis and the circle of support - from loving family members to dedicated physicians - who helped guide her through a hard-won recovery. Her story is as moving as it is important and is destined to help so many others facing this condition."

Jackie hails from a small town in North Dakota where she was born and raised on her family’s farm. She spends most of her free time with her husband, Sean, and their three children at their home in Bismarck, North Dakota. When she was younger and her body more youthful, she was an avid runner, basketball player, tae kwon do black belt, and kick boxer. She now takes a more seasoned approach to activities and aqua jogs, walks, and bikes (and naps). She loves to go camping, read books, and watch the news. Jackie firmly believes that she is Elton John’s biggest fan. 

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