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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. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

  2. Right on. Legalize it. We can take billions away from the drug cartels and help reduce violence in central America and more unwanted illegal immigration all in one fell swoop. cut taxes on the savings from needless incarcerations. On and stop eroding our fourth amendment freedom or whatever's left of it.

  3. "...a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."??? REALLY?!?! Any judge that cannot see a significant difference between a plant and an animal needs to find another line of work.

  4. Why do so many lawyers get away with lying in court, Jamie Yoak?

  5. Future generations will be amazed that we prosecuted people for possessing a harmless plant. The New York Times came out in favor of legalization in Saturday's edition of the newspaper.

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