Different Drummer

Antitrust attorney Amy Manning’s got the beat

Published in 2010 Illinois Super Lawyers magazine

By Amy White on January 16, 2010


Her fingers have tickled ivories, thumped bongos and held onto microphones all over Chicago’s karaoke scene; but only one instrument has been Amy Manning’s passion since she was a child. “I started playing the drums in the fifth grade,” the McGuireWoods partner says. “I had an older male cousin who had this silver drum set and I idolized him. I thought it would be super cool to play.”

Her hobby intensified in high school. One problem: “When I got to high school, the other [male] drummers did not want a girl playing,” she says.

Undeterred, Manning joined The Marchmasters, the much-respected marching band at Valley High School in Iowa. By the time she graduated in 1985 as the first-ever girl on the band’s drum line, her peers’ attitudes had changed. “It was more, ‘Wow, this girl plays the drums!’” she says. “It was a great character-building experience. It really taught me to stick to it.”

When Manning hit the books for her undergraduate work in biology at Monmouth College and her law education at the University of Chicago Law School, the drumsticks came, too. “I never saw myself as a musician long-term, but it’s a really good outlet for people with demanding professions,” she says. “It’s using a very different part of your brain.”

She was the only girl in two bands. “The lawyer in me won’t say the [bands’] names because there are two other bands that use them,” she says. “I played the drums and sang. But not at the same time—I’m not Phil Collins.” These bands tended to cover The Cranberries, but her favorite? “Anything Rush,” she says. “I loved playing Rush.”

Originally on the path to medical school, Manning had her doubts in law school. “I’d call my mom and whine about how I was dying for a biology problem,” she says. “I craved black and white answers instead of shades of gray.”

Then she scored an internship on Capitol Hill, where she worked for Rep. Edward Roybal (D-Cal.) and joined a moot court team. “There were three rounds,” she explains, “the last of which I argued in front of Justice [Antonin] Scalia. As I was preparing I thought, ‘This is what I was meant to do.’”

In 1992, Manning joined Ross & Hardies, since merged into McGuireWoods, under the tutelage of mentor Richard Rappaport, who taught her antitrust law—a practice area in which, you guessed it, there aren’t many women, at least not in Chicago. “You might say this is a pattern in my life,” she says.

Her willingness to tread where few women go is a credit to her mother, a stay-at-home mom who eventually started her own business. “That experience taught me a lot about the things women can do,” she says.

It was with that thought in mind that she helped co-found the Chicago Women Antitrust Lawyers Network. “I thought we should in the very least all know each other,” she says.

Manning’s kit may be in storage but she still finds herself drumming on the steering wheel of her car or on her desk at home. Plus she breaks out the snare drum every so often and plays for her kids. “My 4-year-old daughter thinks it is really cool when I twirl my sticks. And my 7-year-old son told me last night—when I was ‘playing drums’ on the desk—that he decided he’s going to play the drums, too. My 9- year-old responded, ‘Nicholas, you should play guitar, I will play guitar, Mommy can play drums and we can have a band!’”

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