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Lisa Orlando and Suellen Oswald practice employment defense at Littler Mendelson in Cleveland and have tackled cases together for nearly a decade. They achieved a 2010 defense verdict for the Cleveland Orchestra in a suit by a newspaper music critic.
[The critic] had been covering the orchestra for years, and at a point, his editor decided it was time for a change, so she moved him to another position. His claim … against our clients—individual officials and the governing body of the Cleveland Orchestra (known as the Musical Arts Association)—was that our clients had defamed him [because] they voiced their opinions to the newspaper about his reviews of the orchestra and the music director’s performance.
[Suellen] has a really good way of communicating her thoughts and her expectations to associates: why she wants to approach a case a certain way. So you feel like you’re getting an inside look at how her thought process works—she is a very thorough thinker [and] anticipates counterarguments. One of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned from her is: Always treat your client like your best resource. Because we were so connected [with our clients], we were a force to be reckoned with.
From Suellen, I learned that having clear expectations and maintaining a positive attitude, even when the going gets tough, can make all the difference, whether you win or lose at the end of the day.
We had an opposing counsel who was zealously committed to his client’s case, and it made for some challenging conversations. That was a good lesson that I learned from [Suellen]: You’ve got to keep your cool, stay positive, and it is important to keep the legal issues at the forefront in those tense situations. I’ve taken that with me. I always remember to stop, breathe, think: What would Suellen do in this situation?
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Just don’t ask her to play the piano for you
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