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Lawyer Limelight: Jamie Wine

Photo by Greg Endries
Photo by Greg Endries.

The world’s largest financial and accounting firms can thank Latham’s “unassigned system” – allowing young associates to take on matters across different departments – for bringing them Jamie Wine, who explored different practices before focusing on securities and accounting litigation. Wine also credits her mentors, including fellow Lawdragon 500 member Miles Ruthberg, and a support system that has allowed ascent to the top of her practice while raising a family. (She is married with two young children.) The 1995 Harvard Law School graduate excelled in Latham’s Los Angeles office before relocating to New York and has served in a number of firm leadership roles, including a stint on its executive committee.

Earlier this year, the National Organization for Women named Wine a “Women of Power & Influence Awards” honoree. NOW President Sonia Ossorio said that Wine “personifies what it means to be an inspiration to women who break the glass ceiling and advance to the highest levels in the workplace and in their field.”

Lawdragon: Congratulations on the NOW honor. It puts you with quite a distinguished group of honorees. Can you share what your reaction was after being notified?

Jamie Wine: I felt very humbled, honored and eager to show my appreciation both to NOW and all of the wonderful people who have supported me throughout my career. The National Organization for Women works tirelessly to achieve a level playing field for women so they are able to fulfill their potential. I have benefited from that in my own career so the recognition was particularly meaningful to me. Prior recipients of the award include exemplary women in business, law and politics, including SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White, activist Gloria Steinem, and designer Nicole Miller. Like these inspirational women, I hope that I can show younger professional women that they can fulfill their potential and achieve their goals, whatever they are.

LD: Can you talk about the types of cases that are keeping you busy these days? It seems like yours is the type of practice with matters still tied to the financial crisis – will this continue for some time? What about going forward – are there trends you are seeing that will shape the nature of your practice in the future?

JW: For the last seven years, my practice has been dominated by litigation stemming from the financial crisis, most notably my representation of Deutsche Bank in a number of RMBS [residential mortgage-backed securities] matters and of Ernst & Young in its Lehman-related litigation. While that work is ongoing, the activity in these matters is certainly not as fast and furious as it was a few years ago.

I am fortunate that my practice is varied and I continue to handle a number of matters not strictly tied to the financial crisis. For example, I tried a securities case in federal court earlier this year for one of the large consulting firms. I represent a number of corporate issuers in securities and accounting-related matters, with one very large case headed to trial in January. And I continue to represent the major accounting firms on a variety of litigation and regulatory matters. As for trends, as long as the regulators remain interested in accounting issues and assuming no major shifts in the federal securities laws, my practice will continue to be vibrant.

LD: When did you know you wanted to have this type of practice?

JW: I always knew I had an interest in litigation, but I had no idea I would specialize in securities law and accounting issues. I had no background in these areas coming out of college and law school. I majored in political science and English, and had little business background. It is funny to think back now, but when I started my practice, I didn’t even know what an IPO was. And on my first accounting firm case, I had to ask someone what “workpapers” were. I credit my interest in securities and accounting to the unassigned system at Latham, which allows junior associates to take on matters in any department of their choosing. This provided me the opportunity to explore various areas of the law before settling on a specific expertise. Who knew that the corporate transactions I worked on not only would teach me about IPOs, but end up being so relevant to the securities litigation practice that I ultimately developed? I also credit my colleagues because, in addition to being intellectually stimulated and challenged by my practice, I am privileged to work day in and day out with mentors, friends and supporters who make the practice of law so enjoyable.

LD: Did you have any reservations about joining a large firm like Latham as law school was wrapping up? As good as its reputation was and is, big law firms generally did not have a great reputation as places for women to work and evolve into leaders. Firms still have this problem but I’m guessing it was harder then.

JW: I had reservations about joining such a large law firm, though it was much smaller then than it is now, but at the time my concern was whether I would get good opportunities and experiences as a young associate. For better or worse, I was not too focused on women’s issues then. I was fortunate to grow up and be educated in environments where the idea that I could not do something or could not do it as well because I was female literally never entered my mind. When I got to Latham, just like every other large law firm at that time, I saw that there were in fact imbalances, particularly in leadership, and this became very important to me. I have always been surrounded at Latham by wonderful colleagues who supported me in my development as an attorney. But at the same time, it was not until I was a young partner that the first woman was elected to Latham’s Executive Committee. I ultimately became the third. I am proud that during my twenty years at the firm, I have seen the firm evolve and become a leader and innovator on women’s issues.

LD: Can you identify some of the mentors or mentoring processes that helped you stay at the firm and succeed?

JW: Two come to mind. First, our former chairman, Bob Dell, who ran the firm throughout my entire career, until he retired at the end of last year. Bob’s philosophy was that if you empower younger lawyers they will rise to the challenge. He consciously sought out younger lawyers who he believed would make good leaders, and started to groom them early on by giving them management responsibilities at a young age. I was fortunate to have Bob as one of my supporters and held a number of management positions that exposed me to the various practices and geographies that comprise our firm, and ultimately gained the experience I needed to serve on our Executive Committee.

Second, my primary mentor throughout my career, Miles Ruthberg. Miles has mentored me both in my practice and in firm leadership, himself having held a number of management positions, including a tenure on our Executive Committee. From day one he has seen me not as a female attorney, but simply as a hard-working and talented professional who has something meaningful to contribute. He is a great friend, a fabulous lawyer, and someone for whom I have the utmost respect.

LD: When you give advice to young attorneys or students interested in a law practice and having a family, do you find yourself giving some of the same advice to both women and men, or is some of it different?

JW: In many ways, the advice I give is the same to male and female attorneys. Work hard, exercise good judgment, provide the highest level of client service, and still find time to have a fulfilling personal life. But while I believe men are more focused today on balancing the demands of work with their personal lives, I think women continue to struggle with this more acutely. My advice to younger female attorneys is to continue striving towards their professional goals in addition to personal fulfillment, even if they cannot see right now how they can make it all work. But part of making it work is being OK with the reality of what that means – for me, it is that I cannot have a career like mine and be home every night with my kids. We ourselves, as women, have to be ok with breaking from what are still firmly-held cultural norms.

LD: As someone who has done it, are there a few really key pieces of advice that you dole out in almost every conversation on this topic?

JW: Be flexible, understanding and have a sense of humor about it all. And surround yourself with a spouse, kids and friends who are that way, too. Between my client practice and management responsibilities at my firm, I have been living an untraditional – and often chaotic! – life where I work long hours, sometimes at odd hours, and also fly off someplace different most weeks. I couldn’t do it without everyone in my support system. And a lot of laughter.

LD: What was the reasoning or motivation behind your move from the Los Angeles office to New York? Do you miss LA and do you find yourself defending it to New Yorkers, or were you happy to leave it behind?

JW: It’s hard to pin me down on a favorite city. I was born and raised in Boston and still very fond of it (go Patriots!), I wouldn’t change anything about my many years in LA which were perfect for that time in my life, and I love the culture and excitement of New York and raising my kids here. My move was motivated by a combination of factors – most of my clients were headquartered on the East Coast and much of my work was here, and I felt that there were additional professional opportunities in New York. Latham at that time also wanted to deepen its litigation presence in New York. And on a personal level, with only one child who was then 11-months old, I felt that if I ever were to move back to the East Coast, I should do it before my kids were in school. So over a very short period of time my husband and I discussed it and decided to make the move. It was the best decision we ever made professionally and for our family, and we have never looked back.

LD:  How do you relax? What do you do when away from the practice of law?

JW: Well, I have two young kids – a ten-year-old daughter and an eight-year-old son. So while through my work life I hope they are learning about the value of hard work, reaching your potential, and loving what you do, in my “free” time I like to just hang out and goof around with them, attend their school and sports activities, and be that proud mom who in a few years they will be embarrassed by. I also love to run, ski, travel and enjoy good food and drinks with great friends.

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