Small Town Players Can Make a Big Difference

The stories of women attorneys in top jobs are inspiring to those of us just beginning our careers.  Reading the Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women List, reading about women who become managing partners of global law firms, and seeing another woman appointed to the Supreme Court... it shows the great potential for women in the legal profession.  

However, while those stories are really inspiring, they don't really speak to me personally.  I think it's pretty unlikely anyone will nominate me as a Supreme Court Justice, Skadden never called me for an interview (how rude), and I doubt Forbes will ever know I exist.  But that's okay.  I like my small pond.  

The stories that do speak to me, however, are those from ordinary attorneys who do extraordinary things.  Angela Ford, a Lexington, Kentucky attorney, went to undergrad at University of Louisville and graduated law school from Chase (Northern Kentucky University).  She previously worked in state government, and for a mid-size insurance defense firm.  (A resume to which I can relate!)  Ms. Ford, now a solo practitioner, took a huge gamble pursuing a risky case against three other attorneys who stole millions from their clients in the Fen-Phen class action settlement.  Two of those attorneys now sit in jail; the third was acquitted (his defense was "too drunk to know I was stealing").

Here is an excerpt from the Courier-Journal article on Ms. Ford:

Taking on powerful interests, virtually by herself, the Lexington practitioner helped expose one of the biggest legal scandals in U.S. history — the theft of tens of millions of dollars from Kentuckians injured by the diet drug fen-phen.

Her five-year fight culminated last month in the sentencing of disbarred lawyers William Gallion and Shirley Cunningham Jr. to long prison terms and a court order of $127million in restitution to her 423 clients, who previously were represented by those same lawyers.

Ford will get one-third of what is recovered; she's been paid about $7.5million so far, although part of that has gone to other lawyers who assisted her.

Fellow lawyers applaud Ford's perseverance in what many say was a long-shot challenge against targets that included a judge once named Kentucky's co-judge of the year.

What inspires me the most is knowing that, even though I didn't go to a top school, I definitely didn't get top grades, and I'm a wee little fish in a very small pond, I still have the opportunity to do extraordinary things in my legal career.  Ms. Ford didn't just get justice and compensation for the clients Gallion, Cunningham and Mills ripped off; she didn't just expose three thieves and pave the way for their prosecution; and she didn't just restore some of the dignity to our profession that the scandal took away.  She showed young female attorneys that we can fight injustice too, even if it comes in the form of powerful men within our own legal community.  Now that is inspiring.

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