Not everyone has the professional admiration of the U.S. President, but such is the exceptionalism of Justice Leah Ward Sears. The fifty-nine-year-old partner at Schiff Hardin, LLP caught President Obama’s attention in part because of her distinctions as the first female chief justice of any state and the first woman to serve on the Georgia Supreme Court. She landed on Obama’s short list for his U.S. Supreme Court nominations in 2009 and 2011, and some speculate she could still end up serving on the nation’s highest court.
“I believe I was considered because I had shown that I had a solid understanding of the Constitution and laws of the United States and how they should be applied,” she says. “Above all, however, I know that I would never have been considered if it wasn’t clear that I had the ability to be impartial and free of prejudice and bias, as well as the ability to set aside personal preference when affecting authority.”
Even though her list of degrees, board memberships, and charitable contributions makes her CV read like a how-to for success (for example, she holds honorary degrees from seven colleges and universities), she maintains an air of humility. She says the driving force in her career is her value of marriage and families (she herself is married with two grown children), as well as her love of problem solving. “It’s an intellectual exercise, really, leveraging the ins and outs and the complexity of the law,” she says. Who knows? One day she might apply those problem-solving skills to our nation’s highest-profile cases.
Words of Wisdom