Wendy Whitson

Attorney and managing director, Anderson, Zeigler, Disharoon, Gallagher & Gray , 50 Old Courthouse Square, Santa Rosa, 95404, 707-545-4910, www.azdgg.com 

Age: 50

Residence: Petaluma

Professional background: Practicing real estate attorney for 26 years; managing director of firm for past two years.

Education: BA with double major in legal studies and psychology, UC, Santa Cruz, 1984 (College Honors and Highest Honors in Major/Legal Studies); JD Hastings College of the Law 1987

Tell us about yourself and your company: The Anderson Zeigler firm traces its Sonoma County roots back over 100 years. We pride ourselves in being a true “full service” law firm and, with the exception of family and criminal law, we can fill virtually any legal need our clients might have. The firm has a uniquely collaborative practice in which we put seamless client service first … we find the best attorney in the office for the job without concerns about who procured the business. This has resulted in incredibly strong client relationships that last for decades.

Over the last few years, we have focused on making a healthy transition from the founding generation of attorneys to those who will guide and shape the firm going forward. By creating an environment in which senior members of the firm remain engaged to mentor the next generation yet leave room for new decisions and direction, the firm has positioned itself to remain a top-tier North Bay law firm for many years to come.

I feel so proud to have helped the firm make this transition through both my role as managing director and through my dynamic real estate law practice.

[caption id="attachment_75573" align="alignleft" width="162"] Wendy Whitson[/caption]

Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?:  Defining a vision for the future of the Firm and taking affirmative steps to achieve it.

What is the achievement you are most proud of?: Reaching a place in my life where I have a rewarding career, a great marriage, two happy, well- adjusted kids AND no regrets about what it took to get there.

 What is your biggest challenge today? Staying flexible in the face of constant change (work, family and the world). I don’t want to be so rigid or entrenched in my current experience that I miss new opportunities.

Words that best describe you: Energetic, caring, and intellectually curious.

As a successful female professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?: I faced two major obstacles. The first was finding a way to succeed in a male dominated profession without becoming a “man in a skirt”… i.e. to integrate my female perspective and skill set into my law practice rather than adopt an aggressiveness that was not consistent with my personality. It took many years of following my heart and a move to a firm that valued interpersonal skills over sheer force of personality to figure it out.

I now make full use of my intuition, sensitivity, insight and no-nonsense, mom-lays-down-the-law approach to my clients’ advantage. The second obstacle was figuring out how to keep my career moving forward without making my children pay the price. I was lucky enough to work at a firm that gave me the chance to prove that I could do it via a job share and part time position when my children were young.

It was not easy, however, and, since I was unwilling to make either my clients or my children suffer because of my desire to “have it all,” I was often the one who paid the biggest price … with late night work sessions after the kids were in bed and little or no down time. From my current position, I can say it was clearly worth it. ... I’m not sure what I would have said if you had asked me then!

How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?: I am hopeful that more women will have the opportunity to bridge the gap between career and parenting via creative job structures and support from employers. I believe as the number of women lawyers and law firm partners increases, these changes will come more easily.

Who was your most important mentor? And tell us a little bit about that person: My partner Peggy Elliott has been an incredible mentor, both personally and professionally. Peggy is one of the most highly skilled estate planning attorneys in the greater Bay Area. She works harder than anyone I know, is an attentive, loving mother and always has a positive attitude. Peggy has taught me the importance of building real, personal relationships with clients and to trust my instincts.

What advice would you give to a young woman entering your profession or the work world today?

That it is possible to have both a rewarding career and a family if you are willing to spend the early years sacrificing and working very hard … and that it is worth it.

Most admired businessperson outside your organization: Drake Sadler, co-founder Traditional Medicinals tea company of Sebastopol.

Current reading: The Language of Flowers, High Conflict Personalities in Legal Disputes, Flight Behavior and How to Be a Woman

Most want to meet: Caitlin Moran

Stress relievers: Reading, spa days with my girlfriends, laughing with my kids.

Favorite hobbies: Cross-country skiing, basketball, jewelry making, fabric crafts, playing the accordion.