Q & A with Roberta D. Pichini, First Woman President of the IATL
Roberta "Bobbie" Pichini, Villanova Law Class of 1981 and partner at Feldman Shepherd Wohlgelernter Tanner Weinstock & Dodig LLP in Philadelphia, is the first woman president of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers (IATL), the prestigious invitation-only organization, limited to 500 lawyers, which is dedicated to the administration of justice and promoting the rule of law. She was also the first woman in Pennsylvania to be invited to join IATL.
For more than 25 years, Pichini has represented seriously injured babies, children and adults, litigating scores of medical malpractice cases, including obstetrical negligence resulting in brain-injured children, delay in diagnosis of cancer, emergency room errors, and patient abuse by therapists. She successfully prosecutes product liability actions and is especially proud of a suit against a major manufacturer of children's cribs which uncovered a defect that had caused the strangulation of many babies. Her diverse practice also includes representation of victims of catastrophic auto and boating accidents, including several victims of the Pier 34 collapse in Philadelphia.
Which VLS professor had the greatest impact on you?
I could not single out only one professor, because so many were committed to instilling in me the desire for a lifelong learning in the law. Their dedication, good humor, support and understanding were especially important to me as someone returning to an academic setting after ten years in the workforce.
What was most memorable about your time at VLS?
The law school shows, which were produced by VLS students, were extraordinary productions - they were creative and hilarious and, more importantly, built an enduring bond among us.
What was your original career goal/dream job?
My dream job was to be a trial lawyer in some capacity. To be a client advocate through litigation was the way I originally defined being a lawyer.
Who has been your most influential mentor?
Jerry Litvin was a mentor, role-model and teacher throughout my 23 years of practice with him. His gifts as a trial lawyer and his enormous integrity influenced every aspect of my own development. As a young woman entering trial work at a time when women in the courtroom were rare, his support and encouragement were invaluable. He provided opportunities for me that many other women were not afforded and that made all the difference.
What is the importance of mentors and colleague networking?
Professional organizations, like Inns of Court or Bar Associations, foster a variety of important opportunities for confidential and other exchanges to provide guidance, support, and advice on the challenges of practice, advancement, ethics and the balancing of personal and family needs. Without such support, it can be difficult or even impossible to maintain the practice in a way that is gratifying.
What cases have been most meaningful?
Those cases in which I believe I have made an important difference in the lives of severely-injured clients have been the most meaningful. Providing funds for permanently-injured clients to get the best care and rehabilitation possible, and to preserve and even enhance their opportunities to do as much for themselves as possible and to permit them to participate with their children and families has been profoundly gratifying.
What attracted you to litigation?
I was attracted to litigation by the strong belief that the law, at its core, seeks and promotes fairness and that litigation provides the best way to achieve a fair result for all parties.
What motivated you to assume leadership within the International Academy of Trial Lawyers?
From the time I was first invited to join the Academy, I was committed to its mission of promoting and advancing the rule of law and promoting a high standard in the profession. I was honored to be the first woman in Pennsylvania to be invited to become a member. I jumped in during my first year to serve on committees, including the admission committee, to help increase the diversity of membership while maintaining the Academy's high standards.
What was your reaction to the major accomplishment of being elected the first woman officer of the Academy and now the first woman president?
I was delighted. While it is always exciting to be a "first," I hope my term as president will serve to encourage my female colleagues to seek the highest leadership positions in this and other professional organizations.
What is the most important career lesson you have learned?
I have learned to expect change and to keep an open mind to all manners of new ways to approach the challenges of this career over the long-term.
One thing on your bucket list...
More international travel!