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McCarthy rises above doubters

By: Jane Pribek//June 25, 2013//

McCarthy rises above doubters

By: Jane Pribek//June 25, 2013//

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mccarthyAs a teenager, Amelia McCarthy played basketball with the boys.

After a while, she said, they just started calling her “the chick who’s playing.”

McCarthy was accustomed to being judged based on talent, rather than gender. But that changed when she became a lawyer in the mid-1990s.

She was on a new court, and some people judged by different standards.

She said she occasionally heard “derogatory statements, or the suggestion that I wouldn’t be able to hack it.”

“I was stunned,” she said. “I’d heard that it happens, but I never thought it would happen to me or my generation. It was really weird to go from being accepted on an all-male basketball court, but I wasn’t in a conference room.”

That did not, however, prevent her from earning acceptance in courtrooms. In spring 2012, she garnered a $50 million verdict in Marathon County in Aqua Finance v. Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, an accounting malpractice case.

The National Law Journal ranked the case as having the 45th largest verdict overall and the second-largest professional negligence verdict in the country in 2012.

McCarthy tried the case with Paul Heaton and her law partner, Ralph Weber. They never left Wausau during the four-week trial.

“It makes it a lot easier when you really believe in the cause, and we did,” said McCarthy, who has tried more than 50 cases.

For the Aqua Finance case, McCarthy used Jim Johannes, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as an expert.

“She was truly outstanding at preparing me as a witness in the case,” Johannes said. “She knew the case inside and out. She was very good at putting together the whole story of the case, which I found very impressive.

“She was always prepared, and when she spoke, jurors listened.”

McCarthy became involved in Aqua Finance not long after returning from a 2 ½-year sabbatical with the Peace Corps in Africa. She worked in Ondangwa, Namibia, for Oonte Orphans and Vulnerable Children, which teaches children and families how to grow their own food.

“Right when I got back, they sent me a picture of a woman standing in front of a huge abundance of spinach,” McCarthy said. “She had the biggest smile on her face because it was hers that she’d grown.”

McCarthy could say the same about her legal career, even if there were those who doubted her in the beginning.

“It’s kind of amusing, actually, because then you get underestimated,” she said. “And that can be really fun to disprove. It’s like, ‘OK, game on.’”


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