What’s the best lesson you learned practicing law?
Winning AND losing are both parts of being a trial lawyer Sometimes you will win when you should lose and sometimes you will lose when you should win; the true lawyer learns to do both with equal grace and magnanimity. You learn far more when you lose than when you win. And sometimes when you lose a case, you win something far more important. So you cannot be afraid to lose.
What’s the biggest challenge women lawyers face and how have you surmounted that challenge?
On the plaintiff’s side, many individual clients, whose entire lives and futures are dependent on the outcome of their cases, and/or their referral attorneys, initially want and expect a man (i.e., the name partner) in court and at the helm or doing all the important parts of the trial. Likewise, there are still times when appearing in court that the judges (male and female) and opposing counsel assume that the male members of the trial team are in charge and are lead counsel. ( It took one judge an entire week to accept the fact that I was lead counsel in one trial). To surmount that challenge, I have learned to just focus on the work and let my passion, hard work, and creativity show the client and everyone else why I am an indispensable part of the team. If you stop taking it as a personal affront, you can actually use it to your advantage: With such low expectations and attentions diverted elsewhere, you can actually be a very effective secret weapon. Knock the chip off your own shoulder, don’t let your personal feelings get in the way of the important task at hand, and just do the work as efficiently and effectively as you can.
How would your peers describe your impact on the profession?
I would hope to be described as someone who passionately and relentlessly worked on cases as causes to promote significant changes where needed—whether it be in the desegregation and improved medical care of prisoners with AIDS, the installation of ADA protections for visually impaired patrons on trains, the safer design and manufacture of products, the duties of universities to protect students from known dangers posed by other students, the protection of sexual assault victims or battered women, the training and supervision of security guards in nightclubs, or other important causes that came from fascinating cases. I have always advocated for finding, formulating, and bringing our clients’ stories to life in the courtroom in unique and compelling ways. And I have tried to mentor women lawyers throughout the country to reach their highest potentials in trials, law firms, their own law firms, or in boardrooms and corporations. As I always tell them, this is the year of the women—and there is absolutely nothing that women cannot accomplish if we realize we are not alone.