Leadership in Law 2013: Judy L. Woods

Partner, Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff LLP, Indianapolis Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law

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judy-woods02-15col.jpg (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Judy L. Woods is an exemplary attorney, legal scholar, community leader and mentor. She is one of the state’s top commercial and business litigators, focusing on complex commercial and “bet the company” litigation. For 20 years, she has been published regularly in numerous law journals, and she is the author of three volumes of Indiana Practice and Procedure. As a member and chair of the Advisory Committee on Litigation to the Presbyterian Church (USA), Judy advises church officials at the national level about constitutional and other litigation matters in federal and state courts. Her work in the banking and accounting fields often put her in settings in which she was the only woman in the room. By being one of the best, Judy has quietly opened doors for women and patiently held them open for those who have come after her.

If you could take a sabbatical from the law for a year to work your fantasy job, what job would you choose?
I would go on an archeological dig in Africa or the near East. Before law school I did graduate work in and taught anthropology.

What civic cause is the most important to you?
Supporting the arts. We need more than sports and business to be a world-class community. We need music, opera, theater, literature, dance and visual arts. The arts humanize us and challenge us to be better and go farther.

What do you find scary?
Growing intolerance and illiteracy in the world as a result of over reliance on the Internet and social media and increasing political polarization. An educated citizenry is necessary to maintain the rule of law.

What class in law school did you find the most difficult?
Business mergers and acquisitions, because I was doing M & A work for a large bank at the time and looked at everything from a very practical, client’s point of view, not the lawyer’s perspective.

In life or law, what bugs you?
Persistent prejudice and lack of diversity. We still have a long way to go in law and life before there is gender equality.

Numerous TV shows center around lawyers and their practices. Are any of them close to realistic?
“Law and Order,” “The Good Wife,” etc. all have some elements of truth, but none of them captures the amount of behind-the-scenes work that goes into being a good lawyer – reading the law, reviewing the documents, editing and re-editing drafts. One of my mentors, Judge James Kirsch, taught me that being a good lawyer is 90 percent preparation and 10 percent presentation.

If a drink or sandwich were to be named after you, what would it be called and what would be in it?
The sandwich would be thick and have a lot of layers because that is my life – lots of layers of different experiences. I would cut it into precise triangles to represent my attention to detail and call it the “Martha.”


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  1. Lori, you must really love wedding cake stories like this one ... happy enuf ending for you?

  2. This new language about a warning has not been discussed at previous meetings. It's not available online. Since it must be made public knowledge before the vote, does anyone know exactly what it says? Further, this proposal was held up for 5 weeks because members Carol and Lucy insisted that all terms used be defined. So now, definitions are unnecessary and have not been inserted? Beyond these requirements, what is the logic behind giving one free pass to discriminators? Is that how laws work - break it once and that's ok? Just don't do it again? Three members of Carmel's council have done just about everything they can think of to prohibit an anti-discrimination ordinance in Carmel, much to Brainard's consternation, I'm told. These three 'want to be so careful' that they have failed to do what at least 13 other communities, including Martinsville, have already done. It's not being careful. It's standing in the way of what 60% of Carmel residents want. It's hurting CArmel in thT businesses have refused to locate because the council has not gotten with the program. And now they want to give discriminatory one free shot to do so. Unacceptable. Once three members leave the council because they lost their races, the Carmel council will have unanimous approval of the ordinance as originally drafted, not with a one free shot to discriminate freebie. That happens in January 2016. Why give a freebie when all we have to do is wait 3 months and get an ordinance with teeth from Day 1? If nothing else, can you please get s copy from Carmel and post it so we can see what else has changed in the proposal?

  3. Here is an interesting 2012 law review article for any who wish to dive deeper into this subject matter: Excerpt: "Judicial interpretation of the ADA has extended public entity liability to licensing agencies in the licensure and certification of attorneys.49 State bar examiners have the authority to conduct fitness investigations for the purpose of determining whether an applicant is a direct threat to the public.50 A “direct threat” is defined as “a significant risk to the health or safety of others that cannot be eliminated by a modification of policies, practices or procedures, or by the provision of auxiliary aids or services as provided by § 35.139.”51 However, bar examiners may not utilize generalizations or stereotypes about the applicant’s disability in concluding that an applicant is a direct threat.52"

  4. We have been on the waiting list since 2009, i was notified almost 4 months ago that we were going to start receiving payments and we still have received nothing. Every time I call I'm told I just have to wait it's in the lawyers hands. Is everyone else still waiting?

  5. I hope you dont mind but to answer my question. What amendment does this case pretain to?