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Home / Supplements and Special Sections / WJA 2018 / Litigation Practitioner: Joan M. Lockwood

Litigation Practitioner: Joan M. Lockwood

Gray, Ritter & Graham

Joan Lockwood was inspired to become a lawyer, the first in her family, when Ronald Reagan appointed Sandra Day O’Connor to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1981. At the time, she saw herself as a criminal-defense attorney.lockwood-joan

“I was 14 at the time, quite impressionable and really starting to explore what I wanted to do with my life. I think, in this day and age, people do tend to forget what a monumental moment that was for women, particularly those interested in a legal career,” Lockwood said.

“I also was inspired early on by the continuing civil-rights movement. A lot of my early studies in law school centered around constitutional law and equal rights, and I even wrote a law journal article focused on the growing concern over forced confessions – a concern that is still in the spotlight today,” she said.

“Mainly, I saw the practice of law as a way to help people who couldn’t stand up for themselves. Ultimately, I landed in civil litigation as my legal home, and I couldn’t be happier,” she added.

Lockwood’s practice at Gray, Ritter & Graham now includes automobile and trucking accidents, wrongful death and catastrophic injury, medical malpractice, commercial litigation and class action and premises liability. She graduated with honors from Boston College and earned her law degree, also with honors, from St. Louis University in 1993.

In 2011, Lockwood, with Steve Woodley and Tom Neill also of Gray, Ritter & Graham, helped to clarify the role of suicide in a wrongful-death case that arose from a medical-malpractice claim. The Missouri Supreme Court considered the issue of whether suicide should be considered an independent, intervening act, which breaks the causation between the negligent act and the death.

Lockwood said the best part of her job is having a positive impact on the lives of her clients and their families.

“I encounter people who are often in very difficult situations, and to be able to relieve some of the pressure on their lives is the greatest feeling in the world,” she said.

She credited Bob Ritter, a partner and one of her first mentors, as giving her the most influential career advice.

“He told me, if you want to be a successful lawyer, especially in our field, you have to be an expert at listening. This advice could not be more true,” Lockwood said. “Whether it is listening to your client and what they are experiencing or wanting to achieve, listening to what a witness is saying during a deposition or cross-examination, or listening to a judge and how they are viewing a case, a lawyer’s most important skill is the ability to listen.”