10. Amy Griggs, Regan Zambri & Long — Humanity in Trial: Is the Work-Life Balance a Myth?

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Amy Griggs is a tenacious catastrophic injury trial lawyer. Partner at Regan Zambri & Long – one of the top 1% of law firms in the county- Amy has earned over $30 Million in restitution for her clients, including multiple 8-figure cases. She has been awarded Personal Injury Plaintiff and Medical Malpractice Plaintiff for DC by Best Lawyers and speaks regularly at conferences and legal education seminars. Her success in the courtroom is directly tied to the emotional, human, connection she has with her clients. But with this success comes stress and emotional challenges.

Today we dispel the myth of the work-life balance and dig into better ways to structure time. Amy also shares the best ways to find community and how to deal with the emotional stress that is inherent in building strong trial cases.

What’s In This Episode?

  • Who is Amy Griggs?
  • How women can find community in the legal industry.
  • What drew Amy to medical malpractice?
  • How can personal struggles make for better lawyers?
  • How does Amy deal with the stress of the emotional involvement necessary to build a strong trial case?
  • How she found her voice as a leader in a male-dominated field.
  • What can children teach us about being a better trial lawyer?

Transcript

Amy Griggs

I take cases that I believe in. And so getting to know the families, getting to know who you’re fighting for, who you’re speaking for is really important to me.

Sonya Palmer

Allow your practice to be guided by your passions and where you feel most alive.

Amy Griggs

There are clients that I stay in touch with five, 10 years down the road. We celebrate the birth of grandchildren. We celebrate accomplishments that they have, and that is such a gift and that is important.

Sonya Palmer

According to a recent survey, only 19% of managing partners in us law firms are female. We would like to see that change. Hello and welcome to LawHer, the show where we celebrate the trailblazing attorneys and entrepreneurs who are changing the game for women in the legal fields, be inspired by their stories, learn from their mistakes and look forward to the future they’re helping build for the next generation of women in law. I am Sonya Palmer, your host and VP of operations at Rankings, the SEO agency of choice for personal injury lawyers. This is LawHer amy Griggs, partner at Regan Zambri & Long has over 15 years of experience as a tenacious trial lawyer. But it is her empathy and connection to clients and in the trial lawyer community that really set her apart. In today’s episode, we dispel the myth of the work-life balance and dig into better ways to structure time. Amy also shares the best ways to find community and how to deal with the emotional stress that is inherent in building strong trial cases. Let’s dive in,

Amy Griggs

I grew up in Ohio and lived there until I was in high school. And so returning from wherever. Life had taken me to Virginia and Colorado returning to Ohio was a natural fit. My father got his MBA at Ohio state also. So there was a family connection. And when I toured, I really, I, we went to a football game and there so sincere. I loved law school. I really enjoyed my time there. And I always knew I was going to go to law school. It was a hope and a dream. So going was very exciting to me. I would say I compared it to the Grinch, how the Grinch says his heart grew three sizes. I would say my brain grew three sizes in law school. You just learn so much. It’s such a. New way of thinking about everything and scrutinizing everything. So I enjoyed it. I think I found myself in a way in terms of confidence and the life path. So all of that made it a good experience. Of course, I also made lifelong friends, which was very important as well.

Sonya Palmer

Any mentors or support people in your life at the time that really made an impact.

Amy Griggs

Yes. There was a particular torts professor Morgan Shipman, who was historic for Ohio State law students who had him, everyone knew of the infamous Shipman-isms. If you lie with the pigs will like it. And if you sleep with dogs, you’ll get fleas. And all of these tidbits of life wisdom that he interspersed was really impactful. I also cannot talk about law school without talking about what happened in law school to my family. My, when I was in my first year of law school, my father was undergoing medical treatments and that medical treatments turned into a cause of action for medical negligence. And that was so central to my law school experience. That I always it’s intertwined that time of my life is so intertwined. And my torts professor Morgan Shipman helped me find our lawyers for the case. So he was impactful in my learning and development to become a practicing civil litigator, but he was also very impactful for my family.

Sonya Palmer

Yeah. It’s interesting how people will do that when you come across them in one direction and they end up influencing multiple. So those are the best people. And that obviously influenced your decision to do medical malpractice, any women in law school right now, is there anything you would say to them?

Amy Griggs

The advice that I would give to women in law school now is to find your voice and follow your passions. When I was thinking about where practice would take me, I was following what my heart told me it was most interesting and where my underlying skills came from. So I was always happy to be speaking and enjoy being in the front of the room. And I was happy talking to crowds and comfortable as a public speaker. And so that may trial work seemed like the right fit.

Sonya Palmer

Do you offer mentorship?

Amy Griggs

Mentorship is really important. I wouldn’t be where I was if I didn’t have wonderful mentors who guided my career. So I make a lot of efforts to mentor students, colleagues, friends, other lawyers who are younger than me, and make sure that I’m reaching back.

Sonya Palmer

How do you find community in the legal field, in the legal industry? What’s the best way to do that?

Amy Griggs

I think there is a strong community among all trial lawyers, but particularly for me, the most impactful community has been the women trial lawyers. I would not be where I am today. If I didn’t rely on the sisterhood of lawyers who are doing what we do. Approximately 27 to 30% of trial lawyers are women. And those numbers are even lower. When you look at partners and firms and lead trial counsel, and that’s significant because clients want to have women representing. And it gets hard to find people who are skilled in trial. So relying on the women trial lawyers has been hugely important for me in my career. I wouldn’t be where I was if I didn’t have my cheerleaders. And I don’t mean that in the rah-rah sense. Truly people who are there with me working through strategy and. Trial techniques and what’s the next best way to win for a client. That is what I consider to be important. And those are my cheerleaders.

Sonya Palmer

It’s 19% of female attorneys who are partners or in senior positions. And we open the show with that statistic because it is way too low

Amy Griggs

is.

Sonya Palmer

it’s too low. And what you’re saying is I’m, it’s definitely been a common theme among the female lawyers that I’ve had the. Opportunity to speak with is just how important that community is and what an impact it has.

Amy Griggs

And I don’t mean to diminish the importance of male colleagues and male friends in my advancement. They’ve been hugely important, but sometimes being able to look to the people who are in your same shoes as an underrepresented community. It’s very helpful because we have to strategize how we can advance where sometimes we are square pegs in round holes and people aren’t used to saying she, my lawyer they’re used to saying he, my lawyer.

Sonya Palmer

Yeah. You’ve worked at one of the top law firms in the country for 15 years. why medical malpractice.

Amy Griggs

Growing up, my mom was a nurse. And so I saw her working long hours. I saw the stress of her job and the devotion that she put to her practice of nursing. And it was very inspiring and interesting to me. She would talk about the patients and the care, and she was, she at some point had a peripheral role in a medical malpractice case. So we talked a bit about. And so I did have some interest and love of medicine on the side, but when I went to law school, what surpassed any of that was the development of the skills I enjoyed. And I knew I liked being in the courtroom. So when you look at the types of cases that a trial lawyer can handle for me, the nice intersection was doing medical malpractice. And obviously I had a family event that open the door and opened my eyes to what the importance of the trial lawyer is in a family’s life. And it just seems like a natural fit. During my second year in law school, I worked in a medical malpractice defense firm. So I had a lot of exposure early on to this practice area and it felt like the right place.

Sonya Palmer

So walk me through graduating law school and then becoming partner. What did that path look like?

Amy Griggs

that was a long path. So when I graduated, my first four years in practice were spent doing defense work where I defended doctors and hospitals. And I look at that time as really important, because as a defense lawyer, there were a lot more opportunities for trial work. I had more trial experience because I was a defense lawyer. I had more depositions under my belt because I had great mentors. So early on, I’m very thankful that my career stepping off. On good footing. And then when I came to this firm, they hired me away from a defense practice. They were opposing counsel. What I always wanted was a chance to feel like I was impacting people’s lives. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my career writing reports to insurance companies. And obviously I knew the importance of how these lawyers fit into a family’s life. And so I just felt like I would have more control over my career, more control over my caseload if I took on him plaintiff’s role and it has proven to be true now, the years have been. Hard and long. And there been ups and downs and times where I had real periods of growth and then maybe law would take a back seat to things in life, like having my son or getting married or family stress or whatever that might be. But so I would say the roads to partnership has been long and slow and you have to be calculated in and take advantage of the times of growth.

Sonya Palmer

Could you expand on that? The struggles that you faced and then how you got through them?

Amy Griggs

So I don’t like to dwell too much on the balance that’s required to be a parent and be a lawyer. I know that being a parent makes me a better lawyer. I’ve learned so much about families and the meaning of family from having. a child and being a mother myself. So it’s a gift, but to balance a family life with a busy trial practice that requires some maneuvering. We get a lot of messages externally about how we’re supposed to do that and what that’s supposed to look like and how you’re supposed to give your all to everything. And you just can never do it. You’re never going to find balance. That’s a myth. So the best I can do is prioritize which burner on the stove needs attention right now. And really when I’ve seen areas of opportunity, they have to double down is what I’ve learned. When there’s a big case or a big events coming up. I know that I need to work extra hard, that, and focus on that. Sometimes other things will take a back burner and that’s okay. And I try to let go of that guilt.

Sonya Palmer

I think that’s excellent. And I’ve been hearing that more recently a sort of a myth of a balance. And I think some people probably are capable of that, but instead, maybe learning or honing the ability to know where to put your time and energy. My family really needs me or I really need my family. Like I need time with my children, with my spouse. Or, Nope, I’m going to double down then, like you just said, I’m gonna put my head down. I’m gonna do really good work or I need to focus on myself. I need a vacation. Like I need to get away maybe instead of trying to figure out how to balance it’s like better time spent to learn how to know. Which one needs the attention. So I think that’s excellent. I think that’s excellent input. You have settled monumental eight figure cases over the last 15 years. Are there any that stand out? Anything you’re particularly proud of?

Amy Griggs

A lot of them stand out. To get to an end result that is impactful for our family, you become like family with your clients and doing the work that I do, whether it’s medical malpractice or a large catastrophic injury case. My job is to tell their story, to tell their story. I need to get to know them. I spend time in their homes. I eat meals with that. I flipped through the family photo albums and look at the frames photos on the shelves. And it’s such a privilege to be able to do that. And. So the value that I walk away with is that I’ve made lifetime relationships with the clients. And I find my passion is always helping children, cases of children. I, it’s that mama bear instinct truly does come out. I was on the phone the other day with a defense lawyer asking me about what do you think the value is on this case involving this seven year old who’s injured. And I went into fierce mode because. It triggers something in you. And as a human, as a mom, I take cases that I believe in. And so getting to know the families, getting to know who you’re fighting for, who you’re speaking for is really important to me. There are clients that I stay in touch with five, 10 years down the road. We celebrate the birth of grandchildren. We celebrate accomplishments that they have, and that is such a gift and that is important. And that’s why being a trial lawyer to me is very fulfilling. There’s one. Case that we worked on years ago involving a young girl. She was in first grade and she was running a race and a large metal trust sign, holding a banner that said, “congratulations, runners!” Fell over and crushed her foot. And she ended up an amputee and this young child, in a case you’re arguing. The value of prosthetic feet. That’s what the defense wants to talk about. Should she get a prosthetic for swimming or a prosthetic to allow her to wear high heels? It’s so insignificant compared to a life of a lifelong impact to a young child, but that woman has grown into such an inspiration and keeping following up with her story and with her family. So inspiring. She’s now competes in the U S Paralympics as an athlete, she’s an accomplished runner and you see how people can take what could be a really life-changing detriments and turn it into an opportunity, and that’s just a, really a remarkable thing to watch. And it’s a gift to tell those people’s stories and to get represent them. So that is why this work is fulfilling to me. I am happier as a plaintiff’s lawyer than I was as a defense lawyer.

Sonya Palmer

I imagine that having that experience and being able to see, and not just the initial injury on can make. I don’t want to say easier, but easier to digest as it’s happening, because like you just said, in order to be good at this, you have to go into their homes, you have to get to know the victims and then their families and everybody impacted. That’s very hard to do is there a way that you deal with things when it becomes too overwhelming or too stress?

Amy Griggs

Yeah. And that’s important to acknowledge that this work is very emotional. And if you’re an empathetic person, it’s, you have a tendency to want to take it home with you and ruminate and stress and feel the weight of what they’ve lost. And that’s, it’s particularly hard for me because I know what I’ve lived it I’ve been the family. And so it is important to balance and stay. In a way neutral and at arms length and make sure that I’m getting the proper self care habits in that I need in order to maintain sanity. Whether it’s time on my Peloton or time walking outside with my dog or playing with my child. It’s all of that makes me better at helping the families that I need to help.

Sonya Palmer

In addition to being a full-time trial lawyer, Amy is the convention chair for The Virginia Trial Lawyers Association.. She explains the impact that they have on the public and serving the community of trial lawyers.

Amy Griggs

Yeah. Sure. So the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association is dedicated to really educating the public about what a trial lawyer is. Sometimes we get Press hot take, people point to the hot coffee case they point to frivolous lawsuits, but that’s not who trial lawyers are. Trial lawyers are people, lawyers who are out there to serve the public, to fight for civil rights, to defend the right of people, to get redress in the courts and it’s an important role. So part of the Virginia trialers mission is to educate the public and to help serve our community. So our community of trial lawyers, something like helping with convention is each year we bring together a membership and it’s our education opportunity. And for me, I always think about, what’s missing from what’s available to train trial lawyers, which populations of our community are we not serving? And so as the chair, it was really important to me that we have strong diversity in the panel. I want to go to a conference and see a whole range of speakers from diversity of ideas, diversity of backgrounds, diversity of race, diversity of gender. I want everyone represented and everyone has a seat at the table and it was important to me to create a climate where everyone felt comfortable with. That was very important. Also, I made sure that we had programming on business development because I don’t think that business development is comes naturally to a lot of lawyers. It didn’t to me, and it’s really important. And so I made sure that we had programming on that to help offer ideas and opportunities to show people how, even if you’re in a firm with a marketing department, what you as an individual can be doing to bolster your practice and to make sure that you get known.

Sonya Palmer

I like, I love that you said ideas versus necessarily. advice to just offer up something they may not have thought about. I love creating a convention where everyone is welcome and learning from all different types of people and backgrounds. Was there a speaker that is really standing out?

Amy Griggs

So we were privileged to have a lot of nationally known speakers. I think John tomorrow is an attorney from New Jersey who does medical malpractice work and other injury work. And he is very savvy on the tech we can use. We had Deborah Chang. Who’s a fantastic. Trial lawyer from California and she was very inspiring. And then we have a lot of people on our statewide stage who are doing really important work. One of my, one of my lawyer, besties Les Bowers, and I, we did some research during the COVID years about how Virginia juries might react to the climate of a trial after COVID, have opinions changed after COVID have jurors, will they look at healthcare providers and ever be able to render a verdict against them in a post COVID climate? Les has continued to run with that and he spoke about the data. So we’ve started collecting the data about trials, post COVID because it’s really important to me to give lawyers the tools they need to enable them to do better work for their clients. And so we’ve started in Virginia. In Virginia you cannot look anywhere and find the statistics about how jury trials are going. You can’t go to the Supreme court website and find the stats on how many verdicts are going in favor of the plaintiff or the defense. It just, it isn’t collected. And the reason they typically point to is because each county clerk has so much control over what they collect and what they report and there’s just not a statewide system to collect this data. As you can imagine, it’s really important to know how trials are turning out and what the verdicts are looking like. So one of the projects that I helped start for the Trial Lawyers in Virginia isto start reporting on our own. And it’s just getting up and running, but to collect the data is important because we do lag behind and a lot of other jurisdictions and people might listen to this and think, how do you not have that available? That’s crazy because it’s so important for the public to know for our litigants to be able to analyze the risk in terms of What could I face if I looked at a jury in Fairfax county or Norfolk or Richmond, what are my odds at trial what’s happening? What’s the climate. And so that’s the kind of data that we’ve started to collect.

Sonya Palmer

I am an operations person. So in order to make good and wise business decisions, you have to have data to support that. So I definitely feel for you they’re like you it’s like you’re doing it blind

Amy Griggs

And people go off what they remember, oh in my experience, cases are settling in this range, but that’s not helpful.

Sonya Palmer

No.

Amy Griggs

That’s your bias segments. That’s your small awareness that doesn’t give your client the valuable, neutral feedback that they need.

Sonya Palmer

Community is everything. And Amy never misses an opportunity to create supportive networks. She recently spoke at the AAJ women trialers caucus leadership summit, and explains the kinds of resources the organization provides.

Amy Griggs

The women trial lawyers are tight knit group and that organization has made real efforts to promote the . Growth and development of women and its ranks. And so there’s a very active women’s trial lawyers caucus within the organization. And the programming is fantastic. I’m of the firm belief that diversity comes from recognizing people’s skill and talents and smarts and ability, and not just from choosing people to speak or be recognized because they’re a diverse population. And so an organization like AAJ gives women a community nationwide to have their peers available to support them and teach them and share wisdom. If you’re opening your own law firm, here are the resources you need. If you’re looking for developing a new practice area, you can learn from your colleagues in other states. And so it really opens such a great national network. One of the nice benefits of. One of the nice benefits of COVID I will say, has been the boom of the video conference and zoom. I embrace you. I’m happy on zoom. I’m comfortable on sale because zoom has opened the doors to meeting so many people that we would never have met. Otherwise, if people are happy to talk with you and get to know you in a way that you might not have ever had the opportunity, if you just happened to be at a networking event. More people you can get to know them. It’s meaningful. It’s developed strong pact.

Sonya Palmer

I completely agree. I think that is one of the positive outcomes of the pandemic is that it literally forced everyone online. And when we got here, it was like, oh, there’s way more people doing this than I thought. I have way more resources and opportunities to reach out to people, to promote myself. It was like a whole new, bigger world. And I think that a lot of people are seeing the benefits of that. And I do think that professionals like female lawyers are probably like, that’s one of the areas that’s really seeing that significantly. A male dominated field on that. Yeah. They can collectively come together online and now hopefully we can meet in person. So

Amy Griggs

yeah. exactly. And it’s not like one is a replacement for the other, but used to them. It’s so helpful. I can attend a conference like the one you mentioned for AAJ and I left and have had zoom calls with. friends All around the country and it enables us all to grow and strengthen our bonds and our practices and stay on top of what’s happening. It’s really important to me to approach my practice from an eye toward innovation. Innovation is an important concept to me. What can I be doing better? I read a lot. I try to learn a lot. There are new ideas out there. And so having access online to everything is very helpful.

Sonya Palmer

Yes. And especially, I think in an industry like the legal industry, where. You’re set in its ways. There’s a very specific way of doing things, very structured. So to have something like that, pivot requires innovation. Can you talk to us about finding your voice as a leader in a male dominated field?

Amy Griggs

It’s hard. It requires some truly strategic and focused action. So I would say I saw a turning point in my practice. Probably around 2019, where I had been approaching my work with the eye toward being the best lawyer I could be, but not necessarily the best marketer I realized in 2019 that it was time for me to step out into that spotlight and to embrace being in the spotlight. I work with fantastic colleagues with fantastic names partners, but it’s not my name in the firm. And for people to get to know me as an individual and as an individual attorney, they needed to get to know me and I wasn’t doing myself any favors by shying away from that spotlight. I realized I needed to take responsibility for that. And so I invested in myself, which I always encourage people to do. Investing in your own growth is extremely important. So I worked with coaches. I joined the mastermind. I got training on the areas that I was weaker at like marketing business development. And I saw a huge time of growth and change and development just by, like I said, flipping the switch to realize that it was going to be my moment. And I was going to take that moment and take advantage of opportunities that I might have shied away from before.

Sonya Palmer

Do you love what you do?

Amy Griggs

I absolutely love what I do. What I do is a gift. Being able to speak for other people is a gift. I am far more comfortable talking you about my clients, that about myself. It’s hard to talk about ourselves. I find comfort in sharing people’s stories. People are fascinating, whether it’s the people I represent or the defendants or the judge or the jurors I like to learn about people. And this profession enables us if you’re of that mindset that you’d like to learn about people, not everyone does, but it enables me to learn and to keep growing. And there’s always something new. There’s always a new technique or a new philosophy or a new way of approaching this work that keeps it fresh and interesting. So whether I’m reading a new book about trial skills or reading, just a book fiction book, it gives you new insights into life and people it’s. I just think that ability to grow and change and to have your life evolve is it gives a lot of life and it gives you a lot of freedom to, I can sit here today and my work life looks a certain way, but it might not in five or 10 years. I love that. There’s that opportunity.

Sonya Palmer

What are some of your favorite books?

Amy Griggs

I read a lot. Yeah
I can tell you. The last thing I finished was a really thick Stephen King book called 11 22 63. And the premise was what happens if you could prevent a historic event. And 11 22 63 is the day that JFK was assassinated. So I devoured that book and then we watched the mini series on Hulu, but I think we benefit from reading skilled storytelling. And if my job is to communicate with a jury or an insurance adjuster, defense lawyer, or whatever that may be, I do that better if I keep up with interesting fiction and that’s an older book, but I enjoyed it. So I’ve been trying to read a lot more fiction this year and, for work, there are always things that come out that are good. I love looking to other areas to bolster my law practice. So whether that’s behavioral economics, I’m a huge Freakonomics fan. That’s my economics degree coming in. I love behavioral health. I love to study why people make the decisions they make. Why do you make the choices that they make ? What are your preferences? What are your biases? That is so critical for someone in my line of work to be paying attention to that psychology. I subscribed to
And marketing too. I read Psychology Today. Every time the new issue comes out because it’s not what I do, it’s peripheral, but so important.

Sonya Palmer

Women are given constant external messaging to find the perfect balance between career and family. The pressure to give everything our all at all times is not only impossible, but detrimental to our health and wellbeing. As Amy points out this balance is a myth. Try to prioritize one area that needs immediate attention at a time and learn to let go of guilt as you learn where to place your time and energy. A big, thank you to Amy for sharing her story and unbelievable insights with us today. You have been listening to LawHer with me, Sonya Palmer. If you found this content insightful, inspiring, or just made you smile, please share this episode with a trailblazer in your life for more about Amy Griggs, check out our show notes, and while you’re there, please leave us a review or a five-star rating. It really goes a long way for others to discover the show. And I will see you next week on LawHer, where we’ll shed light on how another of the brightest and boldest women in the legal industry climbed to the top of her field.

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