Meet Network Member: Malissa Wilson

Jun 24, 2019 | News & Updates

Malissa Wilson

How do you describe your practice?

My practice can best be described as multifaceted. I handle everything from toxic tort to personal injury cases. I have also created a niche for myself in the area of labor and employment law.

What differentiates you as a trial attorney?

I would have to say my diverse professional background, coupled with my life experiences. I attended a historically black university in Texas for undergrad and an Ivy League university in New York for graduate school. I then moved to Mississippi to attend law school – one that admitted its first black student in 1962. These varying environments helped to shape my view of the world and myself. I learned to develop real friendships with people of diverse upbringings and economic status. This gives me a great advantage as a trial attorney. I am able to create an authentic connection with a diverse pool of jurors.

I believe my diverse work experience also helps me to handle cases from different angles. My background in journalism sharpened my investigatory skills and taught me to tell my client’s story in a compelling manner. My role as a former in-house counsel gives me insight into my client’s business needs beyond the legal matter at hand. And, my time as a public sector attorney gives me the ability to immediately identify and address matters that may impact the greater public or have political implications within my work.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have experienced these roles and bring them to Forman Watkins & Krutz, LLP.

Could you describe one of your most challenging cases and how you worked your way through it?

It was the recent trial of a products liability case in a non-favorable venue where chances for a defense verdict were virtually nonexistent. The venue was known to be a “judicial hell-hole.” We were also against a well-known and seasoned trial attorney who had won multiple big verdicts out of that jurisdiction. The plaintiff was a sympathetic elderly couple who lost everything in a fire. Our team, along with our client, understood the odds.

The plaintiffs alleged that the battery inside our client’s scooter spontaneously exploded, causing the destructive fire of plaintiff’s mobile home. The scooter was unplugged to the battery charger and, in fact, and the scooter and the battery charger were in separate rooms at the time of the fire. With these facts, we simply told a truthful and compelling story. We studied our jury. We took calculated and thoughtful risks. And, we walked away with a defense verdict.

What types of clients do you typically work with?

My clients vary. I consider my work to be very interesting precisely because my clients and matters differ. For instance, my clients range from small business owners being sued for the first time to publicly-trade corporations.

How do you describe your ideal clients?

My ideal client is one who understands defending a case is a team effort and is open to some rational risk-taking. Someone who trusts my ability to protect his or her interests and to obtain favorable conclusions to matters. My ideal client will be able to immediately sense how seriously I take his or her trust in my abilities.

What is your client service philosophy?

My client service philosophy is my life’s philosophy and quite universal: “treat others as you would like to be treated.” I have always managed to put myself in the position of others. I operate like the attorney I would like to have. It may seem basic, but it is precisely this simplicity which makes it a strong ethos to cultivate with every engagement.

I simply do good work. I respect my clients, their time, and their money.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I am a huge fan of sci-fi. My favorite sci-fi show is the Twilight Zone and am looking forward to an upcoming 3-day marathon. Strangely, however, people seem more surprised that I’ve never seen the sci-fi series, Game of Thrones.

How do you stay connected to trends and changes in the legal industry?

I read a lot of books, articles, resource materials and blogs about a variety of litigation trends, strategies and techniques. I’m a huge fan of the litigation books authored by D. Shane Read. Coming off the heels of two recent jury trials, I’m currently fascinated by jury behavior and research exploring the bias, thought processes and attention span of jurors.

How do you define a good trial attorney?

I think having a genuine personality is half the battle. I am convinced people are highly capable of detecting inauthentic interactions. A good trial attorney understands the power of authenticity and, for good measure, is a great storyteller.

What non-legal accomplishments are you most proud of?

I am very proud of my role as a mom to my son.

Professionally speaking, when I was in college, I was working as an intern with a daily newspaper in Houston, Texas. We had a storm event come through town that spawned several tornados. With no electricity, down trees and road closures, I managed to get to work only to find most of my colleagues were not there. It was a right place/right time opportunity. I was given the chance to cover the story. As an intern, I was pleasantly surprised to share the byline with a senior reporter on the front page, above the fold, the next day. The entire assignment was challenging, and I was proud of my contribution.

Are there any non-legal issues you are passionate about?

Yes, mentoring. I believe in the power of mentoring because I am a product of good mentors. While I had great parents, who were also educators, I did not have anyone in my family who was either an attorney or journalist. I was blessed to have people planted in my life who shared my interests.

My college professor encouraged me to apply to Columbia University. A judge I encountered during an interview encouraged me to make a career change and go to law school. To date, I pay it forward by mentoring others. I mentor elementary, college and law school students. Mentoring is always effective because you connect with an individual at a time when they are malleable and in need of encouragement. Something as simple as taking a high schooler to court with you can be impactful. I don’t believe mentoring is handholding; it is about providing heartfelt guidance.

It brings me pride and great joy to see my mentees grow in their career and I hope they too will pay it forward.

About Forman Watkins

What do you consider are Forman’s differentiators?

Easy answer: the people. Our office is comprised of an encouraging group of creative folks. The concept of teamwork is second nature. And people genuinely want you to succeed. I immediately picked up on that when I interviewed. The culture is unique.

Our beautiful office space is also a plus. It is a creative, airy and welcoming environment where you can think and thrive. I get to work in a beautiful physical space with really good people.

Describe Forman’s culture.

We all hear war stories about dog-eat-dog mindsets at some defense firms. That is not the case at Forman Watkins. We all see ourselves as links in the same chain committed to helping each other make the firm an overall success.

About The Network

How have you maximized your involvement with The Network?

I’m new to the Network, but it didn’t allow that to stop me from accepting the offer to lead a roundtable discussion on labor and employment trends at the New York program in 2018. I plan to return to New York this year and I am definitely making plans to attend the inaugural Women’s Summit.

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5602 Marquesas Circle, Suite 205; Sarasota, FL 34233 | 914.332.4400

"TRIAL.COM", "The Network", and "The Lawyers' Knowledge Network" are registered service marks of The Network of Trial Law Firms, Inc.
© 2019 - The Network of Trial Law Firms, Inc.