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June 2017 Bar Bulletin
By James Williams
This story is about Perkins Coie partner Nancy Williams and explains why she is the 2017 KCBA Outstanding Lawyer Award recipient. Williams’ path has followed more of a crooked line than a straight one. Her decisions at different forks in the road have been shaped by a mix of pragmatism, a willingness to take risks, and the determination to throw herself 100 percent into whatever challenge or opportunity came her way.
Williams grew up in Kansas City, Missouri; one of five girls. Her father was an engineer and her mother a teacher, and they quietly encouraged all of their daughters to pursue their dreams. Though Williams left home with a strong sense that she could do whatever she wanted, there were no lawyers in her family, and it would be some years later that she dreamt of becoming a lawyer.
Williams went to college in the 1960s in the early stages of the Vietnam War, where she studied journalism, hoping to work for a newspaper. Although she had job offers from several Chicago papers, President Kennedy had recently established an exciting new agency called the Peace Corps. When Williams and her former husband got the opportunity to work in urban development in Colombia, they jumped at it.
When that commitment ended, Williams’ husband went to law school while she worked in an editorial job for the university. She liked her job, but as she typed her husband’s papers and occasionally sat in on a class, she found herself drawn into the legal discussions and debates, and a seed was planted. When they later divorced, Williams knew what she wanted. So, she gave up her job in government (against the advice of her father and others), took the LSAT, and applied to and entered the University of Michigan Law School.
After law school, Williams joined Perkins Coie and found just what she was looking for: interesting work, great clients, and a fun, supportive and smart group of colleagues. The Labor and Employment Practice Group was growing. She enjoyed the opportunities to work with different partners and to slowly develop her own style, drawing upon the diverse styles of a great group of mentors.
Since joining Perkins Coie, Williams has counseled and represented employers in the areas of labor and employment law for nearly 35 years. Her areas of experience include litigation, equal employment opportunity, discipline and discharge, and a wide variety of other employment issues. For the past several years, she has been named a Senior Statesman by Chambers USA in recognition of her practice transition and long-term dedication to clients.
Williams served as managing partner of the firm’s Seattle office and as chair of the Labor and Employment practice. She has been an active contributor and leader in civic, cultural and professional organizations, including the American Bar Association and Washington State Bar Association. She served as a trustee for the King County Bar Association and is currently an active participant in its Labor and Employment Law Section.
Pro bono work and volunteerism are mainstays of Williams’ career. Her recent pro bono involvement includes Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for Children cases and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration matters. She is also a former board member of the Seattle Repertory Theatre.
Her professional recognitions include:
- Listed in Chambers USA, “America’s Leading Labor and Employment Lawyers,” ranked Senior Statesman, 2012 to present;
- Listed in “The Best Lawyers in America” 1995 to present in employment law – management; and litigation – labor & employment;
- Listed in Super Lawyers® magazine — Washington Super Lawyers®, 2003 to present; and
- Peer review rated AV® in Martindale-Hubbell.*
For Williams’ Perkins Coie colleagues, she represents the best of what one would want in a partner: a capable lawyer respected by clients, colleagues and adversaries alike; a loyal team player who always puts the interests of others first; a clear and direct communicator with a strong moral compass; a trusted colleague and mentor to staff and associates, who is generous with her time and practical in her advice; a principled leader who holds herself and others accountable to the same set of high standards; and a trusted keeper of the firm culture.
*AV®, BV® and CV® are registered certification marks of Reed Elsevier Properties Inc., used in accordance with the Martindale-Hubbell certification procedures, standards and policies.