Sharon M. Woods, of Barris, Sott, Denn & Driker, applies
scientific thinking to her business litigation practice
INTERVIEW CONDUCTED AND EDITED BY ROSS PFUND
Q: We don’t see a lot of biology majors
who become lawyers. How did you end
up taking that particular path?
A: Actually, my major is in biology
and I also have a teaching minor in
mathematics [from the University of
Detroit]. People that have gone through in
science seem to gravitate to the law just
because of the organization of thought
that’s required in the science curriculum.
You’ll find that a lot of engineers also
gravitate to the law after they finish
an engineering degree. It seems like a
Q: Was it an easy transition for you?
A: For me, a good thing about law school
was that you don’t have labs! When you
go through science, you take a three-hour
course but then you have six hours of lab
Q: What was it that first got you
interested in the law?
A: I think, for so many people of my era,
when Perry Mason was on television,
watching him whet your appetite for it.
Q: We do hear that from a lot of lawyers.
A: Although I’m still waiting for the witness
to jump up in the witness box and yell, “I
lied!” That hasn’t happened yet. [Laughs]
Used to happen regularly on his show!
Q: You graduated from law school in
1971. How was that experience?
A: My husband had graduated with an
engineering degree, and we both went
through law school at the same time at
U of D. There were very few women, as
you would expect, in the class. There were
probably four. It was much more formal
than it is today. The fellows wore suits and
ties and starched white shirts. The girls
wore suits and people used to have to
stand to answer questions.
Q: What was it like being one of just a
few women in the class?
A: I didn’t notice any difference. I went
through undergrad, as you know, in science
and math. In those two majors, most of the
classes had very few women in them as well.
Q: Business litigation seems to
encompass a wide variety of activities. Is
there one thing that you enjoy above the
A: I do a lot of bet-the-company, high-visibility litigation, where there’s hundreds
of thousands of documents that are
involved in the dispute. They have to be
gathered, analyzed, put into some kind of
cogent story. That’s the thing I concentrate
on the most now.
But those types of cases can involve
all different kinds of subject matters.
I’ve been involved with nuclear power
plant construction, regular power plant
construction, franchising disputes, class
action disputes involving consumer issues