The April issues of Super Lawyers Magazine featured several high profile cultural issues in the United States and how some of the top attorneys in the country are approaching each situation. From immigration to #MeToo, these lawyers showcased the skill and dedication necessary to be the top 5 percent and 2.5 percent of attorneys in a region. Read each issue to see the stories of success, perseverance and integrity from attorneys in Texas, Colorado, New Jersey, San Diego and South Carolina.
Sujata Ajmera, a partner at Strasburger & Price in Austin, Texas, can end up putting in a full day’s work within an hour. Sometimes, she fields as many as 10 phone calls per hour from anxious clients in need of immigration law help.
Ajmera needs to remind herself, “This is their life.” But it doesn’t slow her resolve or dedication to providing clients the best possible representation.
In fact, she sees her family’s story when talking with clients.
“My parents didn’t have a tough immigration plight, but they have an immigrant story. I felt like I was helping people like my dad or my mom. I still feel that way,” she said.
Born in South Bend, Indiana, Ajmera is the daughter of Indian nationals: a retired professor of electrical engineering and an IT specialist with a doctorate in physics, who met in graduate school at North Carolina State University in the 1970s. When her father, Pratul, received a job offer with the Department of Engineering at Notre Dame, he relocated to the Midwest with his wife, Meena, and their son, Sameer. Sujata was born soon after. While at Notre Dame, the Ajmeras were able to obtain permanent visas.
“It was a very quick process back then,” says Ajmera. “They were debating whether to stay in the United States or go to Canada. They had options. To do it today, especially as an Indian national-when there are overwhelming numbers applying for a limited amount of employment-based visas-even with a Ph.D., it’s taking 12 to 13 years.”
With changes to immigration law still pending, Ajmera’s work has gotten a little more stressful. But keeping her clients in mind makes things a little less exhausting. In the end, there’s a goal and the possibility of that person saying, “you helped change my life.”
In the 2018 issue of Colorado Super Lawyers Magazine, we caught up with a group of attorneys who began practicing law in the 1960s and asked about their experiences. Discussing the good and bad of those years, nine Colorado attorneys recalled the ways the profession has changed over time.
In addition, we talked with Tina Habas, of Keating Wagner Polidori Free in Denver, about her time as a former defense attorney and how it informs her work now as a plaintiff’s attorney. Gaining experience on the defense side, as a judge and now on the plaintiff’s ide makes her civil defense’s worst nightmare.
Christine Amalfe‘s energy seems like as super power, even to her daughter.
Amalfe, of Gibbons‘ Newark office, is a nationally renowned employment attorney whose career was fast-tracked because of her intelligence and seemingly unending supply of energy.
She made partner at Gibbons just eight years after law school and now chairs the firm’s employment and labor law department. Gibbons is the only firm she’s ever worked for, since a summer associate job in 1984.
“I would say employment law found me instead of me finding employment law,” Amalfe says. “It was a great match for my skill set and interests. I always wanted to help women in the workplace, and being able to counsel corporate clients on sound policies and processes, as well as regarding the law, has been rewarding. I help my clients create positive workplaces for women.”
In the age of #MeToo, Amalfe has the skills and experience to both advance women’s rights and protect companies. While she believes she’s good at figuring out which claims are serious and which aren’t, better training would help.
“I always advocate for training so the employees and supervisors better understand what is and what is not sexual harassment and unlawful behavior,” she says. “While the claims aren’t new, the volume is. [In the wake of #MeToo], we have already seen an uptick in requests for policy updates, complaint hotlines and training from our corporate clients, which illustrates that corporate America is taking the movement seriously. And they should.”
Juanita Brooks knows what to do with a “dry patent case.”
In 2016, Brooks defended Fresenius Medical Care Holdings over charges it had infringed patents for a dialysis machine from archrival Baxter International, and she knew her biggest challenge was getting jurors to care. Two multibillion-dollar companies slugging it out over a tiny part of a complicated medical device? Hardly a riveting issue. So Brooks focused on fairness.
“It wasn’t covering technology that they actually developed,” says Brooks, a principal at Fish & Richardson, about the patent in question. “Our allegation was that the patents were not valid-that they shouldn’t have been issued in the first place.”
That’s just one of the cases Brooks has presented with a healthy taste of coaxing. Her pragmatic persuasiveness has encouraged jurors to decide complex cases in her favor in less than 40 minutes. In 2017, she was inducted into the California State Bar Litigation Section’s Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame, but that’s not a sign that she’s winding down. Brooks is full steam ahead. She has been lead counsel in 15 patent trials in just the last three years.
Not bad for someone who was discouraged from going to college in the first place. An Air Force brat, Brooks is the first in her family to graduate from high school, and she graduated college in three years while working two jobs. She applied and was accepted to Yale’s law school on the encouragement of a professor. Innately likable and open, she possesses none of the stuffiness one might expect from a Yale-educated lawyer, according to her co-counsel on the Fresenius’ case Tom Melsheimer. But that doesn’t mean she won’t go for the kill.
When Brent O.E. Clinkscale puts his mind to something, it gets done. A top business litigation attorney at Womble Bond Dickinson in Greenville, South Carolina, Clinkscale sets goals and they’re accomplished.
For example, take the future of the Phillis Wheatley Association. In 2012, the Greenville nonprofit was floundering. Its programs were languishing with little staff and funding. For decades, the organization was known for helping young people in underserved neighborhoods through summer and after-school programs. Clinkscale’s mother, Bobbie Jo Madison Clinkscale, had worked for more than 40 years as its financial director, and when Wheatley faced closure, Brent came through. He challenged the board, and its executive director, Darian Blue, and then led by example.
“He once raised $19,000 just by sending emails,” says Blue, who is also a pastor at Nicholtown Missionary Baptist Church. “Brent refused to let it die. He willed it with his strength.”
It’s just one instance in which Clinkscale, who focuses on federal court litigation and arbitration, dug in-not unlike when he was a three-sport athlete at Greenville’s J.L. Mann High School or, in the early ’80s, a 6-foot-4-inch quarterback at Duke.
Today, the Phillis Wheatley Association continues to serve more than 200 families with recreational, academic and arts programs. Next year, it will celebrate its centennial.
Through the years, his colleagues have been impressed by his drive and ability to inspire others.
“Great guy, great lawyer, great leader in the legal community. He is the kind of person that makes people feel bad about lawyer jokes,” said former Womble partner Mike Cashman.
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