LEARN AS MUCH ABOUT PEOPLE AS YOU CAN BECAUSE THE LEGAL PROFESSION AT ITS CORE IS ABOUT PEOPLE.
A Conversation On Leadership With Attorney Emily Ward.
A working mom, and a litigator who likes to win in high-stakes cases for plaintiffs and defendants in federal and state courts across the country, attorney Emily Ward has created a practice and lifestyle that is uniquely her own.
We recently had the pleasure of talking with Emily about leadership lessons, and her life in the legal profession.
Congratulations on the new addition to your life – so exciting! Talk about this balance – or BLUR – that women face with high-profile careers like yours in the legal profession.
Yes, it’s difficult to balance both being a mom to two daughters and being an attorney in such an excellent firm like Fennemore. But through that difficulty, I’ve learned that openly acknowledging that you have a family to opposing counsel, clients, and other Fennemore attorneys has actually paid dividends. Not only do others then realize that you have other priorities, but most other people have a family of their own! Everyone likes to talk about their family, so use yours as a way to build a connection with someone else. As an example, I had to move a deposition an hour back so I could take my daughter to a doctor’s appointment for an ear infection. I informed my rather obstreperous opposing counsel about my situation, and he opened up about his kid’s ear troubles. It allowed us to find some common ground and work better together in the litigation.
Without naming clients, talk about your current work. Any trends that you’re seeing in regard to proceedings during our ongoing pandemic?
Zoom oral arguments in trial courts are here to stay. Although some may be weary at this new practice, I think it’s great because it allows you to physically show the judge your arguments, not just tell. I have created demonstratives (charts, diagrams, or photos) to assist in my argument to the court. For example, when you’re arguing about how a landlord’s parking lot “renovations” weren’t really that, but were in fact a change to accommodate a new tenant, the pictures themselves say 1,000 words. Having oral argument on a Zoom-type platform allows you to seamlessly show the pictures to the Court and creates a significantly more persuasive argument.
What would you tell your younger self – or a 1L in law school contemplating a career in the legal profession?
I’ve come to realize that a large part of the practice of litigation involves social psychology—how is the opposing side going to react to a move you make. For example, is the opposing side going to capitulate with a demand letter or are they bold enough that a demand letter should include a draft complaint that would be filed if the demand letter isn’t responded to? I’d tell my 1L self to learn as much about people as you can because the legal profession at its core is about people.
Who is your hero – or the person who has had the greatest impact on your career and life?
Tim Berg has had the biggest impact on my career. I’m so fortunate that he has taken me under his wing to teach me about appellate practice and litigating public policy issues in the state of Arizona. He’s brilliant and always challenges me to think of an issue in a different way in order to come up with the most persuasive argument.
Talk about your biggest failure. What did you learn? And how did you pick up the pieces and move forward?
During my federal clerkship, one of the outgoing law clerks told me my work wasn’t good enough. I was devastated, but determined to prove her wrong. I went into overdrive—arriving at the office at 5 a.m. and staying until 8 p.m. I put my heart and soul into my work, hoping that my effort would improve my work product. Luckily, it did. Even another judge emailed me to take a “hard look” at their proposed opinion he was writing to make sure it was accurate—an email which I made sure to show the outgoing law clerk.
What’s the best – and worst – piece of advice that you have ever been given?
The best advice I’ve been given is that you get more flies with honey than vinegar. Although pop culture shows attorneys pounding their fists on the table, the reality is that better result for clients almost always comes from working with the opposing side toward a mutually agreeable resolution—not against them.
The worst advice I’ve been given is to consider whether I wanted to “take a step back” when I got pregnant with my second daughter. Obviously being a working mom is difficult, but I’m good at my job—some might say very good—so I’m not going to give up on my career goals that easy. The day after I gave birth to my second daughter, I was emailing opposing counsel to get a settlement agreement wrapped up and I was even able to get the client an additional $15,000 from that email. For now, I can do both things and do them well.
In this pandemic age, what are you currently reading; listening to (music or podcasts); and watching/streaming?
I just finished watching Hacks on HBOMax. It’s a hilarious series starring Jean Smart about a Las Vegas comedian who reluctantly pairs up with a Gen Z comedy writer from LA to improve her act. I laughed out loud several times, so I’d definitely recommend it!
What gives you the greatest satisfaction about being attorney?
Using my creativity to solve a client’s problem. A lot of litigation is like a chess game—you need to think three moves ahead in order to get the best resolution for your client. When those moves that you came up with prove to be the winning result (and, candidly, I like to win), it is a great feeling for the client, which in turn, makes me feel valued.
What’s your go-to Karaoke song?
“Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen.
Okay, and last, but not least, you and your family are hosting a lavish dinner party. Name the three people – from any time in human history – who you would invite.
My husband — That sounds corny, but he always makes me laugh. Plus, I’d want him to meet Dave Chappelle and Bill Maher too, so we could talk about it!
Many thanks to Emily for her profound insights – and for positively impacting our clients!
And if your organization is in need of a business litigation team with extensive trial experience and a commitment to excellent advocacy, please visit: https://www.fennemorelaw.com/services/practices/business-litigation