“I would say hard work is where success begins. I’m not saying I’m old-school, but the way I was raised meant my parents instilled the value of hard work to get ahead,” said Mellow, the first female partner at Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard in St. Louis.
She also cites her husband’s flexible work schedule and technology for enabling her to build a trailblazing litigation practice focusing on products liability, catastrophic injuries, medical malpractice and medical-device litigation and insurance defense.
“Now you just need a smartphone. You used to need those physical files, fax machines and dictation, but now you can stay home and still be a part of things. I didn’t have that flexibility before computers,” she said. Mellow said she enjoys her job because every day is different.
“I enjoy talking to folks in the healthcare field. I enjoy the people I meet, the experts I hire and the physicians I defend,” she said.
Mellow’s practice includes defending multi-party cases involving claims of products liability and failure to warn brought by plaintiffs who alleged their use of talcum powder caused ovarian cancer. She noted that the cases have led to a developing body of law on jurisdiction and venue arising from defense allegations that forum-shopping, out-of-state plaintiffs are suing out-of-state corporations in St. Louis.
“It’s about leveling the playing field since I’m a defense lawyer. The business community wants to see fairness, and it violates their due process to be sued in these jurisdictions,” she said.
Mellow is a member of The Network of Trial Law Firms, The International Association of Defense Counsel, The 2014 International Association of Defense Counsel Trial Academy Faculty, The Trucking Industry Defense Association, The Defense Research Institute and The National Association of Railroad Trial Counsel. She also has been a long-time member of the Ladue Chapel Church and is active in the greeting-committee group.
Mellow, who earned her law degree in 1982 from Washington University, advises newer attorneys to learn as much as they can about the mechanics of a private law firm and business origination.
“Great lawyers may not have the skill set to originate business but with training they can do better. Talk about finders, minders and grinders – you need all to make a firm work. You can’t just rely on other partners,” she said.
“Many people say facts win cases, but having a good company story is also important if you can convey it to the jury. You argue that you have a good product and it’s well-designed.”