Focus on yourself — don’t worry about what others are doing — The legal profession, and many other industries, tend to attract Type A and competitive personalities. It is very easy to constantly compare yourself against others to see how you “measure up.” I have learned that will do nothing more than drive you crazy. Rather, focus on yourself and compare your growth against your past performance to make sure that you are improving.
As a part of my series about “5 things I wish someone told me when I first became an attorney” I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrea Marconi, Business Litigation Attorney at Fennemore.
Andrea Marconi is an experienced litigator in our business litigation legal services group. Her broad spectrum of work encompasses many areas, including complex commercial litigation, franchise litigation and banking issues such as payment processing, credit card processing and ACH transactions. In addition, Andrea has experience with entities throughout the healthcare industry, including representing health insurers and medical billing companies in numerous matters such as coverage issues, regulatory and compliance matters, and defense of bad faith claims. Routinely arbitrating and contesting cases in state and federal courts around the country, she also has extensive experience litigating a wide array of real estate contract disputes, insurance coverage and indemnity matters, restrictive covenants, and trade secret litigation.
Although she did not come from a family of attorneys, Andrea knew early on her calling was to be an attorney. She has always loved analyzing problems, persuading others as to her opinion on the facts and arguing with her father — and often winning — at the kitchen table. As a business litigation attorney, she now advises a diverse group of clients, including individuals, small and mid-sized businesses, and Fortune 500 companies.
She litigates disputes from start to finish — and often resolves these cases before they need to be addressed in the courthouse. She continues to study the art and science of disagreements, and how to best solve them, which is often conducive to long-term relationships with her clients. She frequently takes the role of outside general counsel, looking at ways of avoiding ambiguity that could lead to costly disputes in the future. While not afraid to fight when necessary, Andrea’s approach throughout her career as a business litigation attorney has been to learn her clients’ business inside and out, understanding critical issues and proactively handling any problems in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
When not litigating, Andrea is probably volunteering in the community. Her passion for animal welfare is showcased in her efforts as the chair of the Arizona Humane Society’s board of directors, and her enthusiasm for hoops is evidenced by her seat on the Phoenix Suns Charities 88 Big Gorilla board of directors. Her two sons are her pride and joy, and her weekends are spent at their numerous basketball and soccer events.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. What is the “backstory” that brought you to this particular career path in Law?
Unlike many others I know in the legal profession, I did not come from a family of attorneys. But I knew early on this was my professional calling. I have always loved analyzing problems and developing effective solutions for them. I also greatly enjoy the art of persuasion. For that, I can thank my father who gave me my start in intellectual debates while growing up at the kitchen table where I honed my skills. Those nightly dinner debates were great practice for the judges and juries I now have to persuade!
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your law career?
2020 was a difficult and trying year on so many levels. For the legal profession, which continues to be pretty “old school” in many ways, it has been particularly interesting watching the industry adapt. Gone are the in-person mediations, depositions, and hearings in court and with them the ability to get a close-up view and feel of how others in the room are responding to what you are saying. But I am proud (and a bit surprised) at how our profession has adapted to this new world. Virtual depositions, mediations, hearings, and even trials abound, and lawyers and courts are working together well to navigate this new world order. It has also been very humanizing to see people in their “natural habitats” on virtual platforms with numerous funny bloopers each week of young children jumping into the video frame, a judge’s cat hop onto his lap during a hearing, and dogs barking in the background — always at the most inopportune time. These are the little things that have made me laugh this year and remind me that we’re all in this together.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
As a business litigator, I have spent my career helping clients resolve disputes and problems that have arisen in their businesses — problems often that could have been avoided or mitigated if better protections were in place upfront. These could be more clearly drafted contracts (or having written contracts in the first place), stronger company policies and enforcement of them, and better documentation. With the benefit of my 20/20 hindsight view gained through litigating issues, I have begun shifting part of my practice to focus on helping businesses develop stronger contracts and policies and implement risk mitigation strategies. It is so rewarding to help my business clients “get their legal houses in order” so that they can hopefully avoid future legal disputes or, if disputes arise, they are in a stronger position to resolve the dispute quickly and cost-effectively.
What are some of the most interesting cases you have been involved in? Without sharing anything confidential can you share any stories?
The most interesting part of my career has been employing the broad strategies used in litigation to a wide variety of industries. In each case, I not only need to be the legal expert, but I also have to become an expert about the inner-workings of my clients’ businesses and the industries in which they work. My cases have taken me on some amazing intellectual journeys during my career to learn about, for example, the intricacies of pharmaceutical pricing, engineering and construction, credit card and EFT processing, numerous forms of new technology, and medical and insurance issues. One day I can be seen poring over engineering drawings of a piece of construction at the heart of a case, the next day I could be learning about a specific medical condition with the help of a physician, and the next day I could be learning about the regulatory world of financial payment processing or even how a new restaurant developed its unique brand so that I can protect that brand in an infringement suit. It is this diversity and constant learning that keeps me coming back for more.
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
The people in history who inspire me the most are those who realize, it’s not about them — it’s about using their unique gifts to help others, build bridges, and make this world a better place. Often these are somewhat quiet and unassuming, but strong leaders, who stand up for what they believe in, but also recognize the need to speak up in a way that isn’t divisive and can help encourage others to listen. One inspiring person who immediately comes to mind for me is the late Justice Sandra Day O’Connor from my home state of Arizona. Justice O’Connor worked diligently throughout her entire career to always do what she believed was the right thing for the people she served, whether in the Arizona legislature or later as a state court judge and then Supreme Court Justice. I admire her ability to being a majority builder where possible but to also take a stand on the tough issues. I also greatly admire her work after retirement to advocate for educating America’s youth on how they can be involved in civics and government, which is so important for the next generation.
What advice would you give to a young person considering a career in law?
Always be prepared and focus on the details — strive to be the most knowledgeable in the room about the facts and legal issues of your case. I quickly learned in my career that the antidote to youth and inexperience when I was coming up through the ranks (and even still sometimes today), is being the most prepared in the room. Preparedness is the great equalizer and will help you succeed even against others who may have more experience, but often use that experience as a crutch and do not prepare as thoroughly as they should.
If you had the ability to make three reforms in our judicial/legal system, which three would you start with? Why?
As a civil practitioner, I will focus on possible reforms in the civil justice system.
(1) — Create more business or commercial courts
Some states, including Arizona where I primarily practice, have established commercial or business courts that focus on resolving business disputes. I have seen firsthand how helpful it is for businesses to have a dedicated court with judges who have substantial experience with and only focus on business law matters. These courts also can provide for specialized case management and discovery procedures that are aimed at quickly, justly, and cost-effectively resolving business disputes so that business and their owners can reduce legal spend and get back to what they do best — growing their businesses.
(2) — Enhance proportionality in discovery
Discovery is generally one of the most expensive parts of litigation. With most civil lawsuits settling before trial, discovery is now often the largest cost barrier to meeting the legal system’s goals of resolving disputes in the most speedy, just, and cost-effective manner. Parties often incur tens if not sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars gathering, reviewing, and evaluating documents for production in litigation. Costs have increased in recent years due in large part to parties’ increasing use and storage of electronic data and e-mails, and the sometimes vexatious use of open-ended requests for electronic discovery that are often nothing more than a fishing expedition. Many states and the federal judiciary have already begun enforcing rules to require appropriate limitations on discovery and introducing the concept of proportionality to discovery. But such reforms are not the same across the country. More work is needed to ensure that litigants have reasonable and appropriate access to relevant information needed for their cases, but also to curb abuses of the discovery system that drive up costs unnecessarily.
(3) — Increase access to the legal system for unrepresented individuals and small businesses.
Simple changes, including allowing e-filing of all legal documents and courts providing greater access to “do-it-yourself” forms for small claims and other legal matters, such as filing for divorce or requesting custody of children, would go a long way to increasing access to justice in civil matters. We need to work harder in the legal system to give people the legal information they need, when they need it, and in a format they can use.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Some of my greatest joy comes from using my platform and the network I have built to create awareness and advocate for non-profits and other causes dear to my heart. I have a particular passion for animal welfare and presently serve as Chair of the Board of Directors for the Arizona Humane Society. AHS takes in more than 17,000 sick, injured and abused homeless pets each year, and focuses on providing proactive solutions to decrease pet overpopulation like spay/neuter initiatives and providing pet owners in need of help with resources to keep their beloved pets in their home. I also am devoted to helping women, children, and families in need through my work over the years with Phoenix Suns Charities 88 and now working with a group of dynamic women to launch a new charitable foundation — KNOW Cares. KNOW Cares is a non-profit focused on empowering, educating, and raising funds for women and youth worldwide. KNOW Cares provides emergency relief funds for businesswomen, leadership development, and mentorship opportunities as well as provide grants to aspiring female entrepreneurs. My other attempt to bring goodness to the world is my greatest joy — my two boys, who I strive every day to raise to be compassionate, knowledgeable, and active contributors to their community.
I know this is not an easy job. What drives you?
My clients drive me. Whether I’m working with a small business, a Fortune 500 company and any sized business in between, my client’s stories and their commitment to growing their businesses means a great deal to me. With each client and new matter, I strive to remove the stress and risk of legal issues from my client’s plate and make it my mission to fix. Resolving their disputes and legal issues so that my clients can get back to what they do best is what drives me.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.
Talk less — listen more
Perry Mason, Ally McBeal, Harvey Spector, Ben Matlock, and every other fictional lawyer on TV tells us that the key to being a stellar lawyer is in the talk. But, I quickly learned that it’s really all about listening first and often. The more you listen to what your client, the judge, and even the opposing lawyer are really saying and how they are saying it, gives great insight that you can use to prepare the best strategy for your position.
(2) Know your audience
This is critical in the law and all industries. Listening and learning about what your audience cares about, their goals and challenges, and their background and beliefs will help craft a message that resonates. I have used this skill repeatedly in negotiations where I have been able to propose solutions or terms during a settlement meeting that wouldn’t have been apparent without knowing my audience and what would truly speak to them.
(3) Focus on yourself — don’t worry about what others are doing
The legal profession, and many other industries, tend to attract Type A and competitive personalities. It is very easy to constantly compare yourself against others to see how you “measure up.” I have learned that will do nothing more than drive you crazy. Rather, focus on yourself and compare your growth against your past performance to make sure that you are improving.
(4) It’s all about writing
Again, all of those TV lawyers I mentioned show that being a lawyer is about being great on your feet. But, I have really learned that, although oral advocacy is important, communicating clearly and effectively in writing is the most critical part of my practice, and business in general. Whether I am drafting a legal brief, a summary for a client, or an email — it is imperative to concisely and clearly communicate in writing.
(5) There isn’t always a clear answer to every case.
Those legal TV shows also spread the myth that cases are about “right vs. wrong” and that there is always a clear and right answer. I have learned that generally nothing could be further from the truth. Many legal issues and disputes are complex and I often find the answer somewhere in various shades of gray rather than black and white. Embracing the uncertainty has allowed me to critically assess disputes from all angles and use that gray area to craft creative and new ways to resolve problems that sometimes even create new precedent for the future.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
Barack Obama — I am keen to learn more about how he was able to create a broad-based coalition of supporters spanning across different groups who had never before unified and to do so with a message of hope that transcended people’s differences and resonated with such a wide audience. I think that we could learn something from this ability for use in business and the world in general.
Cynthia Marshall, Dallas Mavericks CEO — Although I am not a Mavericks fan (this Phoenician is a long-time Suns fan through thick and thin), I am a basketball enthusiast at heart and would love to hear about her transition to the NBA from corporate America and AT&T.