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Among those who are unsurprised by the orderly success that Amianna Stovall has made of her New York law career is Christine Neubert, the choreographer and director of the Neubert Ballet Company at Carnegie Hall. “I require my dancers to have the physical technique, of course. But I train the mind as well as the body,” said Neubert, who has seen two of her students enter the law profession: Stovall, 31, and Frances Stadler, 43, of Washington, D.C. “I want my dancers to read, and to go to school. The ballet — the way I teach it — helps the law.” Stovall’s boss at Dreier & Baritz, which she joined in January as a litigation associate, would agree. “She’s graceful under pressure; she’s not afraid of attention being focused on her,” Mark Dreier said of Stovall. “If she was in court and had to stand up on one toe she wouldn’t fall down. “I mean that figuratively, of course, but my meaning is important,” he added. “When you’re a litigator, you really do sort of have to stand on one toe in court. You have to have the discipline to control yourself emotionally and physically, and to hold your balance.” Discipline gained from the ironclad rules of ballet class led to something at the heart of Neubert’s teaching philosophy: “possibilities that become surprises,” as Neubert puts it. Stovall reflected on what she has come to see as her teacher’s great lesson in irony: “You need to have discipline — all the rules, all the technique — in order to have the freedom you need for dancing,” she said. “If you don’t know the rules, you can’t do ‘Swan Lake.’ It’s the same in law. You need all the rules of practice to develop a creative overlay, so that you can get the most satisfactory result for your client.” Stadler, too, links ballet discipline to her performance as deputy senior counsel for the Washington-based Investment Company Institute, a mutual funds trade organization. When she applied to Amherst College, she wrote of her experience in ballet class: “It was not easy to attain total satisfaction with the results of my efforts, but instead of becoming discouraged I intensified my efforts and thus increased my satisfaction … . The ability I developed to discipline my body by means of the discipline of my mind not only helped my dancing, but also gave me a greater sense of self-confidence.” An instance of Stovall’s confident melding of rules and creativity — and staying on her toes — is related by James E. Tolan, a partner at Dechert Price & Rhoads, where Stovall was an associate from 1997 until this year: “We were on the subway together, en route downtown to federal court,” said Tolan. “I had a client to defend on a motion of contempt. I’d made various and sundry arguments to show that we were not in violation of an order of discovery. “So the night before, a slew of documents had come in from our London counsel,” he said. “Amianna got them, and studied them. Now in the subway, she’s explaining the documents to me. She’s found a way of pinpointing each and every one of the documents to an argument I’d made. An ingenious defense! “I said to her, ‘You know more about this than me — you argue it.’ “ Her first defense opportunity in a federal appellate court and what did the ex-ballerina do? “She started writing like crazy,” Tolan said. “I was very proud of her, seeing her up there on her first argument on appeal. She did a fantastic job.” Professor Michael Perlin of New York Law School, where Stovall received her J.D. in 1994, credits the “ingenious” subway solution to her ballerina days. “I think her right brain was well-trained before her left brain,” Perlin said. “She always brought a different and refreshing perspective in class. “A lot of lawyers are quite full of themselves,” he noted. “Amianna is not like that. She’s in a class with the thoughtful, sensitive, introspective lawyers — the really good lawyers who don’t necessarily make headlines.” For example, there were no reporters to record the day that Stovall strapped on a hardhat, goggles and a gas mask and clambered up the steep side of a chemical plant’s giant, odoriferous “purge” tower in Lake Charles, La. “We were already 50 to 75 feet off the ground, on a platform surrounding the tower,” Stovall recollected. “There were six other attorneys on hand — all men.” The plant safety director was guiding the delegation of Dechert lawyers on a tour, in anticipation of a lawsuit that never actually materialized. When the safety director started up the ladder from the platform — 60 more feet to the very top — Stovall left her less agile colleagues clinging to the platform rails and trying not to look down. The only problem, as Stovall saw it: “They don’t make hardhats in petite sizes, so the thing was a little cockeyed on my head.” Her colleagues at Dechert were not the only ones to have appreciated Stovall’s above-and-beyond enthusiasm, and to be sorry to see her move on. There is Elliot Cohen, too, a partner at Jenkins & Gilchrist-Parker Chapin. Cohen mentored Stovall during her first associate position, from law school graduation until 1997. “I tried to use her whenever I could,” said Cohen of Stovall. “You could rely on her. When she told you something, she was absolutely sure of it — and she could back it up with research. “She had a quiet confidence,” he added. “And that made me confident.” By her own measure, Stovall was not always so confident. Although she was a solo ballerina with a regular paycheck — Amianna Pytel was the name at the time — reality settled in. “I knew I could have a dance career for 10 years — if I wasn’t injured,” said Stovall. “I realized I just didn’t love it enough [dancing] to eat only apples — not only because you have to be super-thin, but also because there’s not a lot of money.” During what she calls her “girl interrupted” period, along came her future husband — Count Stovall, the television and stage actor. “He was directing a video on the problems of homelessness in the city, and he had a concept about using dancers,” Stovall explained. “He wound up hiring me for $50 for a part. Plus, he asked me for a date.” Mr. Stovall failed to show up promptly for that first date. “The first criticism Amianna gave me was about time,” Mr. Stovall recollected. “She wasn’t even a lawyer yet. “She told me, ‘If you’re not going to be on time, you’ll have to let me know because my time is important to me — it’s the one thing I can’t get back.’ “ Neubert attended the Stovalls’ wedding in 1995, and watched her former student’s life change again. Eight months ago came yet another change: enter the Stovalls’ daughter, Cianna. At Dechert, Ms. Stovall was the first associate to ask for — and receive — a parental accommodation. Since Mondays are “dark” days in the theatre, and her husband could provide primary child care, she chose that day to work from home. Ms. Stovall has the same arrangement today at Dreier & Baritz. “I actually get more done at home,” she said. “It’s right back to my dancing days — and the discipline. I pretend there’s no laundry, and that I don’t have to do any of the hundreds of things I could do around the house.” As for the rest of the week, “If I’m going to be away from Cianna for 12 hours a day,” Ms. Stovall said, “it had better be for something I love.”

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