Listee Features — Law

MARY LIBBY PAYNE

Backed by a keen sense of justice, Mary Libby Payne set out to become a voice for the voiceless. She became a lawyer in 1955, and quickly worked her way up the chain. Over the years, she held positions like secretary with Guaranty Title Co., partner with Bickerstaff & Bickerstaff, associate of Henley, Jones, & Henley, Jackson, solo practitioner, executive director of the Mississippi Judiciary Commission, chief of drafting and research for the Mississippi House of Representatives, and assistant attorney general in the State Attorney General Office. Judge Payne broke into academia in 1975, when she became the founding dean and associate professor in the School of Law at Mississippi College. She decided that she liked using her experience to

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SHEILA HERMES MARSHALL

Coming from a family of lawyers, Sheila Hermes Marshall was exposed to the intricacies of the field at a very young age. She always found it fascinating, so she got a job as a secretary in a law firm. Ms. Marshall eventually realized she wanted more, however; she didn’t just want to assist lawyers, she wanted to be one. Although women didn’t frequently break that barrier at the time, she knew she had to try. Ms. Marshall proceeded to obtain a Bachelor of Arts from Saint John’s University in 1959 and an LLB from New York University in 1963. She was also admitted to practice before the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the United

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DIERDRE A. BURGMAN

Dierdre A. Burgman is a writer and an attorney with decades of extensive legal experience. She earned her B.A. in English from Valparaiso University, her J.D. from its School of Law in the 1970s, and her Master of Laws degree (LL.M.) from Yale Law School in 1985. Ms. Burgman was first admitted in Indiana, but a few years after her admission to practice in New York in 1982, she chose not to renew her Indiana license. She was also admitted to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second and Seventh Circuits, and the U.S. Supreme Court. After clerking for the chief judge of the Indiana Court of Appeals,

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PATRICIA JOYCE GRAY

Able to interact with anyone in a positive manner, Patricia Joyce Gray excelled as a legal association administrator. She came from a family who didn’t believe women should go to college, so she ventured into the workforce right out of high school. Ms. Gray did so well as a receptionist and clerk at Nationwide Finance that she caught the attention of her peers and higher-ups. The person who had formerly held her position, Loraine Dewart, was looking for someone to go into court with a judge and take shorthand notes. Ms. Gray was hired, and the rest is history. She began to learn more and more of the inner workings of the courtroom, enough so that she started moving up

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DENISE JEAN KNECHT

After approximately 10 years of experience in the business world, Denise Jean Knecht decided to go another route. She had noticed that it was much harder for women to succeed in the workforce, and she wanted to do something to change that. Ms. Knecht felt the best way to go about that was to become a lawyer, which would enable her to fight on the front lines. She proceeded to earn a JD from Cleveland Marshall College of Law and to become admitted to the Ohio Bar in 1981. Ms. Knecht opened her private law practice, Denise J Knecht Co LPA, that same year, and she’s been there ever since. She was notably the first person to have her name

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RENEE K. GUCCIARDO

Growing up, Renee Gucciardo always wanted to be a lawyer like her grandfather. She found the idea of helping people to be very fulfilling, and was awed by the impact her grandfather had on the others. There was no question in her mind that this was what she was meant to do. Ms. Gucciardo decided to pursue her passion at Michigan State University and at the Thomas M. Cooley School of Law, which propelled her to her first role, intern at the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, in 1991. She quickly garnered a reputation for her compassion and zeal, and was promoted to assistant prosecuting attorney at the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office in 1993. Ms. Gucciardo spent five years in the

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PAMELA J. KRUSE

Always interested in being in business for herself, Pamela J. Kruse is thrilled with the continued success of Village Bike Shops. She got into the niche because of her husband, who owned a couple of bike shops in town. When they married, they formed a partnership that brought her into the fold. Now, each of them runs and manages a couple of the stores under their umbrella. Ms. Kruse loves the excitement people have when they come in; physical fitness has always been a big part of her life and seeing that same passion reflected in others makes her happy. Looking to the future, she hopes to be remembered for her honesty and for putting her clients first. Prior to

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MARY VAIL

Coming from a family of attorneys, Mary Vail developed an interest in politics and public service at a young age. She didn’t want to pursue law for personal gain, however; she wanted to use it toward charitable or governmental service to help her community. To make her goals a reality, Ms. Vail obtained a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1971 and a JD from the University of the Pacific in 1974. That year, she also became admitted to practice in the state of California. With the conclusion of Ms. Vail’s academic journey came the start of her professional one. She joined Volunteers in Service to American Attorneys and the San Francisco

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DIANE M. GENOVA

A real people person, Diane Genova has found law to be the perfect field for her. She loves being able to work with such a diverse group of clients and colleagues, and appreciates the intellectual challenge law poses. Further, she likes being able to see tangible results from her work. One of her specialties is building high-functioning teams. Ms. Genova always takes the time to learn each person individually and to help those struggling. She considers herself part player, part coach, part cheerleader, and is proud of her role in training, developing, and mentoring a whole generation of young lawyers. Ms. Genova’s first position in the field was associate at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, followed by vice president, assistant

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B. CONSUELA STEPHENS

Although B. Consuela Stephens didn’t always intend to pursue religion or law professionally, she is so glad she did. She strongly believes that a motivated spirit can do just about anything, so she set off to make the world a better place. On the religious end of the spectrum, Dr. Stephens served as a pastor at Chenaniah Missionary Church from 1986 to 2004 and as a consultant from 2004 to the present. On the legal end of the spectrum, she worked with DLA Piper under a prominent insurance and reinsurance attorney. She started with the firm as a secretary, and was fortunate to have a boss who saw her potential. He took her everywhere he went, allowing her to learn

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