Goulston & Storrs partner Wendy White on the power of ‘E3’

by | Nov 15, 2016

Wendelin (Wendy) White

Twenty-eight years ago, Unitarian Universalist minister Robert Fulghum authored the best-selling book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, a collection of essays with common-sense life rules like, “be kind” and “share with others.” While some may find the prose to be saccharine, the book’s underlying messages still ring true.

Wendelin (Wendy) White says she too embraces the idea of living life, both professionally and personally, by guiding principles. White, who recently joined Goulston & Storrs, Washington, D.C., as director in the firm’s real estate group and chair of the D.C. real estate transactions group, abides by three principles: excellence, engagement and empathy. “E3,” she calls it. And it’s one of the attractions Goulston & Storrs held for her: principled leadership and E3.

“I like measuring daily decisions and behavior against core principles,” White says. “It helps provide a moral compass. First, in everything you do, do it in as excellent a way as it can be done. That’s a high standard, and I hold out that standard not only for myself but for my group as well–in work product, in client service, and in how we treat each other, our firm citizenship. Second, don’t simply be an observer–be engaged: with your colleagues, your clients, your community and your family. Engagement enriches your life.  Third, be empathetic. Empathy is a critical component of effective client service, mentorship, leadership, friendship, and especially parenting!”

White says her twin daughters, who recently turned 26, attended a preschool that had a different but equally valuable set of “life rules” that students were expected to follow: respect, responsibility, honesty and kindness. Any time a child misbehaved, the teacher would pull him or her aside and ask, “Was that respectful? Was it responsible? Was it honest? Was it kind?”

“Even today,” she says, “my daughters and I still talk about these life rules as guiding principles when we chat about decisions they are making. They still work.”

Supporting women in the workplace

In her 35 years of practicing law, White says she’s experienced some of the challenges facing women in the legal profession, and has always embraced opportunities to help promote women. “I am definitely a believer in Madeleine Albright’s proclamation that ’there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.’

“Coming out of law school, I interviewed with the managing partner of a law firm in Miami,” she says. “He asked me if I was interested in coming to the firm to find a husband or to practice law. I laughed and I told him I hoped to get married one day and wasn’t sure where I’d find my husband, but I was interviewing there to practice law.

“He then asked if I was a feminist. How do you respond to that? I said to him, ‘Why don’t you ask me a question about any particular issue and I’ll tell you how I feel. You can then tell me if you think I’m a feminist.’ At that point he slammed his hand down on the desk and said, ‘I just don’t want any [expletive] flag waving, placard carrying feminists around here!’”

She didn’t get an offer.  But the firm, she says, no longer exists.

If feminism means helping other women succeed in the legal profession, then White is certainly a feminist.

“I’m a passionate proponent of women supporting women,” she says. “For example, when adverse counsel in a transaction is a woman, I immediately try to bond with her and support her, because if we work well together and the transaction goes smoothly, we make each other look good to our clients. We help each other, as well as our respective clients, succeed.”

With respect to Goulston & Storrs, the firm has a lot of women lawyers and women leaders. In the firm’s D.C. office alone, Wendy joins fellow directors Allison Prince, who is the office managing director; Lee Carter, co-chair of the firm’s multifamily industry group; Maureen Dwyer, a former firm Executive Committee member and, along with Wendy, a past president of Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) DC Chapter; and Christine Roddy, a Bisnow 2015 Top 40 Lawyers Under 40 honoree; as well as Anne Adams, a distinguished architectural historian with 40 years of industry experience.

Goulston is the just the third law firm White has called home over the years. She spent more than 30 years of her career at Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge and then Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, which was formed 11 years ago when Shaw Pittman merged with Pillsbury Winthrop. Following the merger she joined the firm’s Management Committee–a role that partially resulted from, but also reinforced, those guiding principles.

“One path to leadership is making relationships with people and always trying to understand where they are coming from,” she says. “Empathy is critical.”

In other lateral news:

Renee Howard has joined Davis Wright Tremaine, Seattle, as a partner in the health care practice. She was previously at Perkins Coie.

DLA Piper has recruited Brandee Fernandez to join its East Palo Alto and Larissa Park to join its Boston office. Both women are partners. Previously at Cooley, Fernandez focuses her practice on domestic and international mergers and acquisitions. Park, who previously practiced at WilmerHale, joins the intellectual property and technology group.

Lisa Davis has joined DuBois Bryant & Campbell in Austin as a partner. She is a member of the firm’s corporate and securities, health and life sciences, and litigation practices. Davis was previously at Quarles & Brady.

Faegre Baker Daniels has recruited Nora Tauke Schweighart from Kirkland & Ellis. A partner in the finance and restructuring group, Schweighart is based in Faegre’s Chicago office.

Cheryl Shaw has been hired by Freeman Mathis & Gary, Atlanta, as a partner. A member of the construction law and general liability practice groups, Shaw was previously at Carlock Copeland & Stair.

Greenberg Traurig’s East Palo Alto office has hired Maria Sendra as a shareholder. Previously at Dentons, Sendra is a member of the corporate and securities practice.

Wendy Venoit has left McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter to join Hinckley Allen & Snyder, Boston, as a partner. Venoit is part of the firm’s construction and public contracts group.

Jackson Lewis has hired Laura McKnight as a principal in its Minneapolis office. Previously at Bassford Remele, McKnight practices employment law.

Nadia Karkar has joined the San Francisco office of Kirkland & Ellis from Weil Gotshal & Manges. She is a member of the firm’s corporate practice.

Nossaman has hired Linda Larson as a partner in its environmental and land use practice. Previously at Marten Law, Larson is resident in the firm’s Seattle office.

O’Melveny & Myers has recruited Einat Meisel to head its Israel practice. Previously at GKH Law Offices, Meisel is based in the firm’s Menlo Park           office.

Jennifer Cheng has joined the New York office of Reed Smith as a partner in the corporate and transactional advisory group. She was previously at Paul Hastings.

Aviation lawyer Lisa Harig has joined Stinson Leonard Street, Washington, D.C., as a partner in the transportation practice group. Harig previously worked at McBreen & Kopko.

Wendel, Rosen, Black & Dean has recruited Monica Dell’Osso to join the firm’s trusts and estates practice group, resident in the Oakland office. She was previously at Burnham Brown, where she led the trust and estate planning group.

Rakhee Patel has joined Winstead as a shareholder in its Dallas office. A restructuring and bankruptcy lawyer, Patel was previously at Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton.

Winston & Strawn has hired Lynn Tanner as a partner in the firm’s New York office. A member of the corporate group, Tanner previously practiced at Schulte Roth & Zabel.