Susan S. Brewer, Steptoe & Johnson's CEO, on Courtroom Style and Women's Progress in Law

In the upcoming July issue of Virginia Super Lawyers, we'll feature a story on Susan Brewer, CEO of Steptoe & Johnson. She's the first woman to lead a major West Virginia firm, and while we offer a look at that role in her story, below are a few more nuggets from her interview that didn't make it in.

Now that you're CEO, what is your caseload?
What I'm doing now is some professional liability defense where I will defend doctors, nurses, hospitals other health care providers in negligence cases as well as lawyers who have been sued for malpractice. That's really my specialty.

BrewerPortrait2 LOW.jpgWhat do you enjoy about this practice?
I enjoy working with other professionals, because the cases are always very interesting. Every case is different. I always learn from the cases, which I like because that helps me understand how to teach the case to the jury. When I have to learn the case myself and learn the issues I always have to remember how I did that so I can provide that same learning opportunity to the jury.

How many cases have you taken before a jury?
Over 100. I've had a very active litigation career.

What is your courtroom style?
I try to be the same kind of person whether I'm in the courtroom or someplace else. I'm not a complicated-enough person to have different personalities. I'm not. I think you just always have to be upfront with the jury and upfront with the judge on what the strengths and weaknesses are of your case. Do the best that you can with the facts that you have. So I guess have a sort of get-along style. I try to get along with everybody: Being a zealous advocate for my client, without leaving bodies lying in the path.

What do you think of the pace of women's progress in the legal community?
Women are making progress. It is perhaps slower than some would like, but I still think the progress is occurring. There are time periods where women have to put their career on hold, especially if they want to have children or need to stay home for a period of time. And that's true of some men.

It's true that law schools have been pretty much 50/50 men and women for a number of years now, so some would argue that they should be 50/50 in leadership roles but that just hasn't happened yet. But it's coming in a slow and deliberate process and that's OK because it's still going in the right direction.

--Adrienne Schofhauser