I’m incredibly thankful for the team approach!

A Conversation On Leadership & Life In The Law With Courtney Miller O’Mara

Attorney Courtney Miller O’Mara is a director in our Reno office, and her practice focuses on business litigation, creditors’ rights and bankruptcy litigation, and trusts and estates matters, including planning, administration, and litigation.

We recently had the pleasure of talking with Courtney about her hectic life in the legal profession, and lessons learned.

As Thanksgiving rapidly approaches, in this week’s “Attitude of Gratitude” leadership profile we turn the spotlight on attorney Courtney Miller O’Mara in our Reno office! What are you most thankful for – and how do you and your family plan on celebrating next week’s long Turkey-Day weekend?

I am most thankful for my family. While I am passionate about helping my clients solve their legal issues and I find the work we do here at Fennemore really interesting, there’s nothing like family! I am lucky to live in the same city as much of my family and this year my husband and children and I will gather with several generations of our loved ones to celebrate Thanksgiving. 

You’ve been described as our firm’s Wonder Woman! You have a vibrant practice; five children; a lawyer husband; and you’re active in the community – we’re so thankful for you! How do you make this all work? And what would you tell a 1L woman at USC’s Gould School of Law currently contemplating a career in the law?

I would tell that USC student to work hard, stay organized, and surround herself with a great team; you will achieve much more that way than by yourself! For me, I can hardly take all the credit at home or at the office. At home, my husband and I are both active with the demands of raising five children. But we don’t do it alone! We are in car pools with other parents, have a full-time au pair who lives with us, and we also get help from our moms and other local relatives. It’s the same idea at the office: I do not do this alone! We are so lucky at Fennemore to have great attorneys and staff members to help support the important work we do for our clients. When you hire Fennemore, you get the benefit of our deep bench. I’m incredibly thankful for the team approach!

Without naming your clients, are there any intriguing current matters that you’re working on in your practice?

I’m working on a number of probate and trust related matters with interesting twists such as fiduciaries-gone-bad and death-bed document changes. 

Who is your hero – or the person who has had the greatest impact on your life and career?

My husband and kids have had the greatest impact on my life, by far. They inspire me every day to be humble, to be patient, and to “work the problem one step at a time” instead of catastrophizing. Family life gives you a lot of opportunity to practice those things, and they are skills you need in many settings!

Professionally, the person who has had the most impact on my career is Allen Wilt, a former partner here, who was instrumental in teaching me the fundamentals of litigation and law practice and in patiently mentoring me through a change of firms, and to making it to the next level in my career. 

Talk about your biggest failure. What did you learn? And how did you pick up the pieces and move forward?

Everybody makes mistakes, including me. I think most of my failures have turned out to be smaller than I first feared. The important thing is to implement what I mentioned above: work the problem, one step at a time. If you deal with things directly, you can move forward from almost anything.

What’s the best – and worst – piece of career advice that you’ve ever received?

I have received lots of good career advice over the years, but most of the best advice was observed, not dictated. Do you know the maxim “more is caught than taught?”  That is as true in the law as elsewhere. So many of my current and former colleagues who have given their time and energy to train and mentor me showed me examples of how to practice law with integrity and skill, and I’m very thankful for their good example. I think that is why I still practice with many of the same people I started my career with.

But probably the best ever career advice I received was from my ethics professor at USC.  He told us “a lawyer is not a bus,” meaning that you do not have to accept every potential client.

The worst piece of career advice I ever received was from a local litigator, a male probably 40 years my senior. Upon learning that I was soon to be married, he pointed out that after marriage I would likely have babies and that “babies and litigation don’t go together!” I thanked him for the career advice and hung up. I then walked down the hall to laugh about it with Leslie Hart, who herself was already rocking life as a mom and litigator. That was more than 14 years ago and I did not let him dissuade me from becoming a mom or continuing with litigation.

What are you currently listening to (podcast or music); reading; and watching/streaming?

I’m listening to the Bible in a Year with Father Mike Schmitz podcast along with a group of my girlfriends from Notre Dame. We have a group text chain to discuss the episodes and remind each other not to give up! I am not exactly on pace to finish by the end of the year but I am still enjoying it, learning a lot, and will complete it even if it takes me in to 2023!

I’m reading … the ever-changing sports practice calendars for my children. Also the Very Hungry Caterpillar on repeat. Ha! 

I’m watching the latest season of the Crown.

Last, but not least, if you and your family were hosting Thanksgiving dinner at your home this year, name the three people – from any time in human history – who you’d invite.

Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and St. Pope John Paul II. 

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours – and many thanks to Courtney for her sage insights!

And if your Reno-based business is in need of a partner to help take your organization to the next level, please click here for more information: https://www.fennemorelaw.com/contact-us/reno/ .