LEADERSHIP IN LAW 2019: Andrea Roberts Pierson

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Some of the most complex and high-stakes litigation in Indiana and the nation is in the hands of Andrea Roberts Pierson and fellow litigators at Faegre Baker Daniels. Pierson and her colleagues are defending medical devices in a mass tort action and recently resolved a separate multidistrict litigation. But she’s just as dedicated to service, having been past chairwoman of the Indianapolis chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and giving her time to many bar and professional organizations. 

pierson-lil2019-2col.jpgWhat are the critical attributes for a mass tort trial lawyer?

This kind of legal work is unique in scale, and it requires a team of dedicated, smart lawyers who are passionate about defending our clients and their products. A mass tort trial lawyer is only as good as the team supporting her, and I am lucky enough to work with a fantastic group of really talented lawyers and paralegals. When the time comes to try a large case, a trial lawyer must be able to communicate clearly about complex topics involving medicine, engineering and science. She must be able to think strategically about the evidence and information the jury will need to reach a decision. A good trial lawyer is efficient with the jury’s time, getting to the heart of the matter quickly. And a mass tort trial lawyer must have the ability to effectively lead the team of lawyers and paralegals who are supporting the trial team. Tenacity and humility are key, as well.  

What was your most memorable job before becoming an attorney?

Before I joined a private practice, I clerked for then-Chief Justice Randall Shepard. I am profoundly grateful for all that he taught me about good legal writing and how our courts work. However, my most memorable job before law school was working at the local Aldi in my hometown where I stocked shelves, drove a forklift loaded with pallets of groceries and worked as a cashier who opened and closed the store six days a week. The job involved a lot of physical work, and the employees also were required to memorize the prices of every grocery item in the store. It was hard, physical work that I badly needed to pay for law school, and I learned many valuable lessons about life, people and working hard physically to get to a professional goal.

What do you most enjoy doing when you’re not in the office?

Spending time with my fantastic husband Jeff and two kids, Sierra, age 7, and Theo, age 5. They are the most important people in my life. I couldn’t do what I do professionally without their support, and they remind me not to take myself too seriously. After that, spending time with friends, running, reading and gardening.

What’s been the most rewarding aspect of your practice?

First, working with a team of incredibly brilliant and compassionate lawyers. They challenge and inspire me. Second, working on complex cases involving life-changing medical products. To be part of the team of people who ensures access to the medical products and science that change patient lives is incredibly rewarding. 

Who is someone who inspired or mentored you, and what did you learn from them?

I’ve had so many terrific mentors, it’s hard to name just one! The foundation I have as a trial lawyer started with former Chief Judge of the Indiana Court of Appeals Sanford Brook and current Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik — my trial advocacy professors at Notre Dame. Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson is a key mentor and friend, as well. My former partner, Tom Stayton, taught me the value of perfecting my craft as a lawyer. But no one inspires me personally and professionally more than my parents, Richard and Peggy Roberts, and my husband, Jeff Pierson — three people who have taught me the profound impact of hard work, perseverance and kindness.  

What do you say to young women in traditionally male-dominated practice areas such as yours? 

Be persistent — this is a marathon, not a sprint. Ask for the opportunities you want, don’t wait for them to come to you. Build a network of women who inspire you and challenge you to be your best — peers, mentors, friends and clients. Female law graduates equal or outnumber male law graduates at most major universities today. The glass ceiling is breaking apart, and while there’s more to achieve, it’s only a matter of time until we shatter it completely. We’ve got this.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Do what you love and stay focused on perfecting your craft. When you do those two things, everything else will fall into place.  

If you could change one law, what would that be?

Any law that better restricts access to guns, such as adopting extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs) to allow family members and law enforcement to petition a court for temporary removal of firearms from people who may be in crisis and a danger to others; adding a requirement for background checks for private sales of firearms, and; increasing the age to own firearms. These are just a few examples, but we need to act nationally to seriously move the needle on gun violence.  

What’s something about you not many people know?

I hate unnecessary drama. Life is short — spend it on things that really matter.    

What’s your advice to a younger person who’s thinking about a legal career?

Do it! Law is a fantastic career that is full of opportunities to grow intellectually and make a difference in the world. It’s hard work, the path isn’t always straight or clear, but it’s well worth the investment.    

When did you first decide you would become a lawyer, and what motivated you?

When I was a high school student, I joined the debate and forensics teams and loved the experience. The judges at our tournaments were often lawyers, and I was always impressed by their patience, intelligence and willingness to invest in young people. I knew I wanted to be like them. At the same time, my dad was a mechanical engineer who designed products — mostly large printing presses — and my mom worked in dentistry and later for hospice. Engineering, medicine and caring for other people were all key parts of the fabric of my childhood. My work as a lawyer defending product manufacturers brings those influences together.  

What did you learn clerking for former Indiana Chief Justice Randall Shepard?

Justice is bigger than our laws. Justice is the fairness and equality our community affords to all people. It’s the way we treat people in our day-to-day lives. Justice is about what and who we value. Justice is equal parts equity and compassion.•  

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