Editor’s note: This issue originally appeared in the January issue of DS News.
From breaking through the glass ceiling to fighting for the rights of their clients, these formidable women lawyers have made their mark in the industry. In the second of this three-part series, we spotlight the accomplishments of these women in law.
Frenkel Lambert Weiss Weisman & Gordon, LLP - Partner-Managing Attorney - Mortgage Default
Number of years practicing law: 24
As Partner and Managing Attorney of Frenkel Lambert Weiss Weisman & Gordon, Lisa Gordon is responsible for the daily operation of the mortgage default practice at the firm. As Gordon describes it, this business unit is high volume and labor intense, making it imperative that the firm operates as efficiently as possible. To achieve this, Frenkel Lambert continuously makes significant investments in infrastructure and technology. Client demands, coupled with ever-changing regulatory requirements and case law, force Gordon to continually reassess the firm’s operations in order to maximize efficiency. She works with her staff daily to ensure they're prepared for any knew changes that come their way. “From the lawyers to the paralegals to the support staff that helps make my office run smoothly and efficiently, everyone cares about the level of service we provide to our clients.” Whether it be formulating a litigation strategy or developing a procedural process, my staff works together as a team to ensure the best possible outcome,” Gordon said. She has practiced in the mortgage default arena for more than 20 years and has found that each year brings new challenges. “Recent statutory changes over the last two years will hopefully bring a new crop of decisions interpreting these new provisions and providing guidance to practitioners. Staying abreast of all relevant decisions and developing solid legal strategies to account for such rulings will be imperative,” Gordon said.
Mackie Wolf Zientz & Mann, P.C. - Director of Compliance - Creditors’ Rights
Number of years practicing law: 26
Almost every company these days is a technology company, whether they realize it or not. As Mackie Wolf Zientz & Mann, PC began expanding its practice area beyond Texas into Arkansas and Tennessee; they looked to Rosanna Henry to lead their Compliance Department and CaseAware platform. Henry had been a practicing lawyer in Arkansas for 26 years, managing cases through foreclosure, bankruptcy, litigation, and REO/eviction. She was the architect of her firm’s CaseAware platform before accepting the challenge of charting a compliance and technology course for Mackie Wolf as Director of Compliance in 2013. Henry’s comprehensive industry experience and knowledge has aided the firm in remaining in front of challenging regulations and trends. She also recently achieved Tier 4 CaseAware Administrative status. An important aspect of her years’ experience is the ability to mentor the firm’s attorneys and team members as part of a compliance-driven firm. Henry achieved industry success by drawing on the guidance of many influential mentors. Her father was a Navy senior chief, veteran, and her first boss at a family company that taught her the importance of policy, procedures, and quality control. Her mother encouraged her to never stop learning and exemplified to her a tireless work ethic. “It just never crossed my mind that as a woman I was not capable of achieving a successful legal career. I knew my hard work and focus would get me there,” she said.
MARY ANN HESS
Folks Hess Kass, PLLC - Managing Member - Foreclosure, Collection, Mortgage Deficiency, Default Services Litigation
Number of years practicing law: 25
Mary Ann Hess, Managing Member of Folks Hess Kass, PLLC, was first exposed to the legal realm when she worked for the Maricopa County, Arizona, Superior Court as a Case Transfer Coordinator and subsequently as a legal secretary at the largest law firm in Arizona. It was these years spent honing her skills, as well as her natural disposition as a detail-oriented individual, that made her excited to take the next step and practice law herself. Hess helps her team meet the challenges of the legal landscape through diligent training. “I have worked closely with our firm’s attorneys over the years to make certain that they participate in as many seminars relevant to our legal practice as possible. In addition, we conduct ongoing and aggressive in-firm training with our attorneys and staff to remain current not only on the law related to our practice but of the complex compliance and reporting requirements of our firm’s clients related to topics, including protecting confidential client information, reporting consumer complaints, and other client compliance requirements,” Hess said. Hess prides herself on having been able to help many litigants over the years on a pro bono basis as a court-appointed settlement judge, working to resolve their disputes on a mutually beneficial basis and often under very difficult circumstances when they could not afford costly litigation.
Tromberg Law Group, P.A. - Managing Attorney - Real Estate, Foreclosure
Number of years practicing law: 14
The ever-evolving complexity of the law and its players make the legal field a challenging landscape to navigate. These challenges can be even more daunting as a female attorney. “Unlike many men, when I walk into a courtroom, I am tasked with the test of proving that I belong. Many have an automatic misconceived perception that female attorneys lack the ability to zealously litigate,” said Yacenda Hudson, Managing Attorney of Tromberg Law Group, P.A. “Despite the challenges, my success comes from tackling and overcoming stereotypes, working hard to ensure that I have a chair at the leadership table, and earning the respect of my professional colleagues, as well as helping other women attain success.” Working her way up the ladder has been one of Hudson’s greatest career accomplishments. During her tenure at Tromberg, she has moved from Junior Associate to Managing Attorney over contested files, trial, and complex litigation. “I am proud to hold such a leadership title, as the industry is still slow to progress in recognizing and promoting minorities,” Hudson said. According to Hudson, it has been evident over the last few years that legal counsel has played a major role in the mortgage industry. “As counsel to lenders and servicers, legal professionals must remain updated regarding all laws and regulations that impact the mortgage industry,” Hudson explained.
LYNN M. JANEWAY
Janeway Law Firm, P.C. - President, Managing and Majority Shareholder - Mortgage Default
Number of years practicing law: 33
Lynn M. Janeway built a solid foundation for her more than 30-year career by first receiving her undergraduate degree in business administration and marketing from the University of Illinois. She then attended the university’s College of Law, primarily hoping to add skills that would assist her in someday owning her own business. Instead, she discovered a true affinity for the law. Janeway parlayed this passion into the founding of her own firm in 2004, which remains a career highlight. “Opening my firm allowed me to teach and instill in my attorneys and employees the desire to go the extra mile in service to our clients,” Janeway said. Owning and managing a firm that serves the mortgage industry has allowed Janeway to work on solving not only legal issues that arise but also the operational challenges that exist in this detailed and volume-based business. “Creative problem-solving is the skill I find most useful, as it is equally valuable in its application to specific files and to overall operations. I want to find not just a solution but the best solution,” Janeway said. She believes that legal professionals can help clients meet their compliance objectives by reviewing the processes and recommending state-specific adjustments when necessary to decrease potential liability. “I draw inspiration from my clients,” Janeway said. The servicing industry attracts some of the most talented and dedicated people.”
CYNTHIA KERN WOOLVERTON
Millsap & Singer, LLC - VP - Bankruptcy
Number of years practicing law: 20
In her 20 years practicing law, Cynthia Kern Woolverton has been on every rung of the ladder. Today, she uses her experience to enrich the practice of Millsap & Singer, LLC. Woolverton’s decision to get into this stream was the result of being fascinated by the fact that there are two sides to every story. “Oftentimes, the winning side is the one with the more persuasive argument,” she said. “I grew up in a house with four brothers, and while arguing came naturally, persuasion was a skill perfected over the years.” Bankruptcy law, however, is Woolverton’s preferred area of focus. She sees her role as being a conduit between the judges and the firm’s clients. “Helping our judges understand the unique challenges that lenders and servicers face every day allows them to make more educated decisions on the issues at hand and provides a friendlier environment for our clients,” she said. A firm believer in mentoring, Woolverton enjoys teaching what she has learned in her two decades of practicing law and is proud to see the growing number of women in leadership positions. “These women are opening up opportunities for younger generations,” Woolverton said. Speaking on the role of financial services firms today, Woolverton said that they should “move routine matters through the system more efficiently to allow lenders and servicers to provide more assistance and attention to non-routine matters.”
Laurito & Laurito, LLC - Managing Member - Creditors’ Rights, Civil Litigation, Strategic Component Services
Number of years practicing law: 16
“There is a special relationship built between attorneys and their clients, whether the client is an individual or a large corporation,” said Erin Laurito of Laurito & Laurito, LLC, who has been practicing for 16 years. Laurito helps her clients navigate regulatory and compliance challenges and finds the most enriching part of her job to be solving problems. “There is nothing more satisfying to me than being part of a team of amazing people who use their individual strengths to find a solution for our clients that reduces their anxiety or reaches their desired goal,” Laurito said. Laurito got her love of problem-solving from her father, also an attorney, and though she attributes her desire to first practice law to him, her passion for the field deepened as she matured. Laurito recalled, “At first, I was captured by watching my dad leave for work each day, spending time as a child at his office, and listening to him solve problems. In college, I became very interested in business management and entrepreneurship, and a law firm lent itself to those passions, and still does.”
VANESSA A. LEO
Shapiro, Pendergast & Hasty, LLP - Senior Counsel/Founder of National Personal Property Default Department
Number of years practicing law: 8
“I have always felt that the law chose me,” shared Vanessa A. Leo. “For a school assignment in the first grade, I drew a picture of myself in a courtroom with a suit and a briefcase. In the near decade, I’ve spent as an attorney, helping my clients has never felt like work, but rather a reward.” Being an attorney places Leo in the unique position to help individuals and organizations with their legal difficulties and help further the public good. Advocates like Leo are priceless in today’s climate where the enactment of new legislation, combined with a rise in unconventional residential products, means all mortgage professionals must be prepared in the areas of compliance and risk modeling. Leo’s clients have come to rely on her ability to navigate the law and never back down from a good fight. “In a formal written opinion, a judge admitted that he misarticulated the law and that, had it not been for my zealous advocacy, the client’s legal rights would have been foreclosed upon,” Leo said. “I am reminded every day to be that zealous advocate and to continue to develop my legal skills, read new cases and legislation that impact the client’s industry, and most importantly act with commitment and dedication to the interests of the client.” Leo’s firm also employs a growth strategy that includes improving adaptability with cross-training, communication, education, and being inclusive and innovative.