Partner Reflection: Nicole Wiitala

By Nicole Wiitala, Managing Partner for Legal Personnel | June 2024

I was in my third year of law school when I started working at Sanford Heisler Sharp. I’d had a few different legal positions at that point—but this place was different. There was a unique energy buzzing through the office that was apparent from the moment I walked through the door. Lawyers were excitedly raving about their cases and clients, engaging in spirited debate about strategy, and collaborating like I had never seen before. An exuberant shout sounded from one of the offices, announcing that a victory had just come through and prompting an office-wide celebration. Every single person at the Firm was living, sleeping, and breathing the work that we do. This, I realized, was passion—and these people were just like me.

By the end of my first day, I knew Sanford Heisler Sharp was the place I wanted to call my home. After working part-time during my final year of law school, I was hired as a full-time Litigation Fellow right out of law school before being promoted to Associate, then to Senior Litigation Counsel, then to Partner, and finally to Managing Partner for Legal Personnel. For the past nine years, this Firm has been the home (and my colleagues the family) that I hoped for on my very first day.

Sanford Heisler Sharp’s record speaks for itself—but this Firm is so much more than what you may see on paper. Every single person at this Firm is an aggressive litigator. We leave no stone unturned. We spare no expense. We strive for nothing less than perfection in everything we do. We are not afraid to take challenging cases and push—or even change—the law as much as we possibly can.

The credit for this goes to David Sanford, Jeremy Heisler, and Kevin Sharp, all of whom are absolutely meticulous in their hiring. We require impeccable academic credentials and a demonstrated interest in our type of work, of course, but those qualifications alone are not enough. We value unique backgrounds, skillsets, and—perhaps most importantly—that unique “something” that sets a person apart from and above the rest.

The result? We now have more than 60 lawyers who can go toe-to-toe with any law firm in the country. We dedicate substantial time and resources to training new attorneys to be exceptional and zealous advocates for our clients. While we may have our individual personalities and strengths, we all have a few things in common: we are passionate, competitive, empathetic, creative, and absolutely lethal in court.

There are many things I love about this work. One of my favorite things, however, is that we—and our amazing clients—can enact real and meaningful change across companies and even industries. I represented nine women who filed a class action against Dartmouth College. The Plaintiffs alleged that they and other women in the Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences were systematically discriminated against, sexually assaulted, sexually harassed, and subjected to a hostile work environment perpetuated by three tenured professors—and spanning more than a decade. The case was filed as a class action, which means that the Plaintiffs were bringing claims on behalf of themselves and other women who were similarly harmed. As a result, the Plaintiffs were not just litigating their own claims—they were seeking justice on behalf of every woman who was similarly harmed. In May 2020, the Court approved a historic settlement that included $14 million in monetary relief and programmatic relief (such as policy changes and initiatives to improve diversity) that was valued at an additional $1.5 million. Because this was a class action, more than 70 women received substantial compensation for the harm they suffered—and permanent policy changes and initiatives were put into place to prevent a similar situation from happening again. This settlement will go down as one of—if not the—largest settlements in history for a gender discrimination class action under Title IX.

I am proud to count myself as a member of the Sanford Heisler Sharp family. I am proud that I find inspiration every single day in my work: I am inspired by my colleagues. I am inspired by my brave clients.  And I am inspired by you. If you are reading this, it likely means that you—or someone you know—has been a victim of discrimination, sex abuse, or some other unlawful conduct in the workplace. It means that you are doing your research and investigating your options. It means that you are considering standing up for yourself—and others—even though you are going through one of the most difficult periods in your life. Please know that you are not alone: we are here to help, to talk, to listen, and to help you obtain justice.  It’s what we do—and love to do—every single day.

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