By Vanessa Mizell
Monday, May 10, 2010; 28
Behind the Career
Position: Chief executive, American Association for Justice, a District-based membership organization of trial attorneys.
After serving as a lawyer herself, Lipsen found she had a passion for the civil justice system. She eventually decided to lead a legislative department for trial lawyers through which she spearheaded several key successful pieces of legislation. She now heads up the association, supporting lawyers' causes and those of the organization as a whole.
What work in your career are you most proud of and how did you accomplish it?
After the Sept. 11 attacks, policymakers were discussing what to do about the fact that the airlines were afraid to fly.
I felt that they couldn't just focus on the airlines as victims. They had to think about the victims as victims and help them rebuild their lives. Everyone during that time was very afraid and didn't know what would happen next.
As the head lobbyist at the time, I went to Congress, Republicans and Democrats to get them focused on the victims. I recommended that they pass a comprehensive compensation scheme for the victims of that horrible attack on our country. I was part of the group that convened a meeting with the trial lawyers whereby the entire executive committee at the trial lawyers organization decided to set up the scheme free of charge.
Congress was very interested. It passed in a week. It was the largest pro bono effort of its kind in the country. Our lawyers represented the 3,000 families that lost loved ones in that terrible moment. I'm really proud of the work. The families were able to rebuild their lives after such a horrible crisis.
These were not exactly easy cases. Some involved multiple family members or issues of fact. There's a lot more that went into it than just your average compensation scheme. Our lawyers put in thousands and thousands of hours for this work.
We still hear from the family members that we helped.
It's so incredibly rewarding. That's how you know you've made a difference. I remember one saying, "no one stood up for us except for you all" and "our loved one was in the 30th floor of the World Trade Center and everyone would've forgotten him if it wasn't for the work that you all did." It makes me extremely proud.See Monday's Washington Post Business pages for Lipsen's "New at the Top" profile. Send nominations for others to email@example.com