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Law360 Minority Powerbrokers Q&A: Wilson Turner's Vickie Turner

December 2014

Minority Powerbrokers Q&A: Wilson Turner's Vickie Turner

Law360, New York (December 04, 2014, 9:44 AM ET) -- 

Vickie E. Turner %>

Vickie E. Turner

Vickie E. Turner is a partner at Wilson Turner Kosmo LLP, located in San Diego, California. She has 32 years of experience in complex litigation matters filed against corporations, with emphasis in the areas of product liability, class actions, general business litigation and warranty. Turner has successfully defended manufacturers, distributors and retailers in complex product liability claims throughout California and in 12 other western states.

Turner has also represented various companies in the defense of tort and business disputes. Throughout her career, she has actively participated in lengthy mediations and arbitrations and has defended numerous class actions, including consumer class actions, unfair business practices and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Turner is the chairwoman of the National Bar Association Commercial Law Section and a member of the NBA Board of Governors. She has been named one of California's Top Women Litigators and one of San Diego's top product liability defense attorneys.

As a participant in Law360's Minority Powerbrokers Q&A series, Turner shared her perspective on five questions:

Q: How did you break the glass ceiling in the legal industry?

A: In short, I broke through the glass ceiling by building my own house in which every wall was reinforced with a learning experience. For 16 years, I worked in a large law firm and experienced mild cracks in the glass ceiling as the inclusion of diverse attorneys began to be identified as a significant advantage by corporate clients. However, it was not until I became part of a women-owned firm that I truly experienced a larger crack in the glass ceiling. As I created my own business development strategy, and successfully handled small matters while developing relationships which often led to larger matters, I saw the ceiling not disappear, but certainly retreat to a level where I can stand strong and tall operating in my own defined space.

Q: What are the challenges of being a lawyer of color at a senior level?

A: One of the largest challenges for me, working as a lawyer of color at a high level, is making sure that there are more young, diverse lawyers with determination and drive who follow me. Setting a good example and nurturing the pipeline are extremely important. It is easy to get caught up in the frenzy of sophisticated, fast-paced litigation. Achieving is great but paying it forward is what makes the effort worthwhile.

Q: Describe a time you encountered discrimination in your career and tell us how you handled it.

A: As a young associate, I defended a client in a number of cases. I obtained an excellent result in an arbitration proceeding. The relationship partner took me to meet the client who had talked to me many times by phone, but had never seen me. (This was before the age of the internet.) When we arrived, I was introduced and sensed almost immediately the client’s surprise when he saw me. He could not hide the shock on his face although the relationship partner seemed oblivious to the client’s reaction at the time. As I sat at the table for the remainder of the meeting, the client’s conversation and eyes were only directed to the partner. It came as no surprise when the next day the client called and asked for me to be removed from all of his files. Although, my firm never mentioned ethnicity as a reason, it was clearly the elephant in the room when I was politely reassigned to other clients. I would like to say that I did something dramatic or at least said something profound, but as a young associate, I understood I had to pick my fights wisely. This was a fight for another day when I was stronger, confident and more independent.

Q: What advice would you give to a lawyer of color?

A: Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. Develop a broad network of diverse people. Join specialty bar organizations like the National Bar Association, where you can learn leadership skills and be nurtured as you develop and hone your skills. Most of all, never be “invisible” in your law firm, because it substantially limits your options. If you are fortunate, you will have a long and productive career. It will be greatly enhanced by the people you meet and the organizations you have the honor of serving along the way.

Q: What advice would you give to a law firm looking to increase diversity in its partner ranks?

A: I encourage firms looking to increase diversity in the partner ranks to think “outside of the box.” Invest time and resources in diverse associates who are already in your law firms to make sure that they remain and continue to grow within your organization. Attend and support events where you are likely to meet diverse attorneys. The commitment to diversity must begin with the managing partner, extend to the executive committee, and be clear to the entire firm that it is a priority of the organization. Understand that diversity is important because it is the right thing to do, and diverse viewpoints can lead to better results. However, it also makes good business sense, and even the most reluctant of partners can usually appreciate the significance of this.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or Portfolio Media Inc., or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.

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