Q: Did you have an idea what kind of
lawyer you wanted to be?
A: It was not until I saw that demonstration
in law school that I knew I wanted to be an
Q: What makes a good one?
A: Number one would be candor with the court.
If a lawyer’s not being truthful, or is not being
fully accurate in his or her representations to
the court, that’s going to hurt the argument.
So being credible with the court, and providing
the court with accurate representations of the
record, accurate representations of the law,
that’s the foundation.
The next most important thing is to be
very passionate and genuinely concerned
about the issues that you’re advocating for—
the court will sense if you’re not passionate
about it. You certainly can’t expect them to
be if you’re not.
Q: Is it hard to be passionate about every
A: No. Of course, there are some appeals
where it’s going to be a very new, exciting
area of the law. Even when that’s not the
case, simply being fully conversant with the
record, and understanding what’s happened
in the case, makes me a passionate advocate
for the client.
There are times then I really have to dig in
because the area might be unfamiliar. Then I
also rely upon and work with trial counsel to
understand the nuances of the area of law.
Q: What’s an example of an area that was
tougher for you to navigate?
A: Maritime law.
Q: And the easiest area for you?
A: Tort law and workers’ compensation. I’ve
handled over 75 workers’ compensation
appeals and a fair number of torts, whether
it’s Virginia medical malpractice or wrongful
death. Regardless of areas, there are just
cases that stick with you.
Q: Such as?
A: Taboada v. Daly Seven.
It’s a nightmarish narrative. Mr. and Mrs.
Taboada, they were driving into town, and in
the middle of the night, they stopped right
here in Roanoke, just a matter of miles from
my office, to stay in a hotel. The husband parks
the car in the parking lot, and goes in to check
into the hotel, but [after walking out] he is
shot in the parking lot by a random assailant.
He is lying in the parking lot, and his wife and
son get out of the car and try to run into the
hotel. The wife gets in, but the son is standing
outside, and the assailant comes up to him but
doesn’t hurt him. Instead, the assailant gets in
the car and drives off, and in the back seat is
their other child, an infant girl.
Believe it or not, everything turned out OK.
The car was recovered, the daughter was
safe and the husband survived.
We represented Mr. Taboada in a claim
against the hotel for failing to provide a safe
premises. The facts basically were that there
had been lots of criminal activity in that
parking lot, that the hotel knew about it, and
in fact, they even had a security guard whose
responsibility was to patrol the parking lot
during those hours, but they had terminated
that arrangement shortly before this attack.
It was a question about what kind of duty of
care a hotel owed to its guest. Or in Virginia,
they call it an innkeeper. We were successful
in that appeal, and I remember the Taboada
family coming to the [state] Supreme Court
and attending the oral arguments.
There was another case that I handled
just last year. I think it’s remarkable because
of its facts. It was a defamation case, and it
involved two different doctors. One accused
the other of euthanizing a patient. That got
pretty heated. The trial court dismissed the
defamation action, and we appealed that
and were successful.
Q: What’s the best part of your job?
A: I really like the analysis. Trial lawyers put
together all the facts, but appellate lawyers take
it all apart. I consider myself to be the medical
examiner of the law, because you’re dissecting
the case. Whether it’s to find legal error if you’re
the appellant; or to argue that there wasn’t
reversible error if you’re the appellee.
Q: You're a female managing partner—is
that an anomaly in Virginia law?
A: I think so. I’ve not done any kind of an
independent analysis of how many there are.
I know that in some smaller firms in Virginia,
there are absolutely a number of women
who are running their law offices, or serving
as managing partner. But I don’t think that
there are many of us in Virginia in a medium-to big-sized firm.
Q: What do you want to accomplish?
A: Basically, I’m trying not to screw anything
up. The firm is doing very well, and we have
been blessed with excellent management
before. We do try to make collective
decisions, so I do try not to run off and make
significant decisions that would benefit from
Q: Do you remember your first argument
before the Virginia Supreme Court?
A: I do. It was a discouraging moment
because the opposing party was actually
pro se. I got up and I argued, and the pro se
appellee had failed to properly file a brief.
So the Supreme Court had sent her a notice
saying, “You will not get oral argument.”
That’s the penalty.
I finished my argument, and then the
chief justice of the court says, “Well, where
is Mrs. Webb?” I’m thinking, “Well, she’s
not supposed to get an oral argument.” Up
in the audience pops Mrs. Webb. She says,
“Oh, here I am, your honor.”
He’s like, “Well, why don’t you just come
up here and tell us what you think?”
So she marched right up to the front, and
Q: What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve
learned along the way?
A: Well, I will tell you: I think that rebuttal
argument can be very dangerous.
When I was doing moot court in law
school, when you were the appellant,
sometimes you’d be just like, “Oh, I waive
oral argument. I don’t even need to respond
to that argument.”
I think there was some merit to that. But
I think that, for the appellant who feels that
the argument is going very well, you have to
be very careful, on rebuttal, that you don’t
open a can of worms.
Q: You’ve done that?
A: I can think of one case where that
happened. I’m the appellant, things have
gone well. I’m getting up for rebuttal, and I
feel like the case was lost, based upon the
way the questioning went on rebuttal. I felt
the case slip away, right at that moment.
Q: What can you do?
A: Not much. Because you’re at the end of your
time, you may only have a matter of seconds
left. Some judges will wait until rebuttal to get
into a meaty issue. Or sometimes, something
that the appellee has said will raise some new
issue. My best advice to others: Proceed with
caution during rebuttal.