VIRGINIA BEACH, VA / October 11, 2022 / Virginia Beach attorney Shelley Swain Berry, a partner at Ruloff, Swain, Haddad, Morecock, Talbert & Woodward, ran into Jill Griffin, Best-Selling Author and global thought leader on women in leadership, over the summer, the conversation from which lead to a recent feature article published by Forbes contributor Melanie Fine, also an award-winning writer and educator.
Read the Forbes article yourself online at www.bit.ly/forbes-shelleyberry.
Berry, who specializes in complex car accident and medical malpractice cases, spoke with Griffin about her career and how she first became interested in practicing law. Despite watching her mother work for many years as a paralegal, Berry said she never had any interest in becoming a lawyer.
“I didn’t really have a great perception of attorneys. I always thought they were either cocky or just antisocial or just not very nice, in general,” she told Griffin. “And then actually when I was about 18, my mom said, ‘Shelley, you would be such a good attorney.’ And I was like, ‘No, definitely not.’”
Her opinion of lawyers changed, however, when at age 23 Berry was involved in a horrific car accident. A passenger in the car, Berry broke both her hips, her pelvis, and her tailbone.
“We got T-boned,” she said. “And so, I had to learn how to walk again. And after all of that happened, my mom came to me and she was like, ‘Shelly, you need a really good attorney. You have all these medical bills.’”
At the time, Berry was more worried about if she was going to walk again. So, while she focused on her recovery, her mother hired her an attorney. Berry was pleasantly surprised when the attorney turned out to be “really nice.”
“That was totally different than the other attorneys that I had been exposed to,” she said. “And I just started thinking about it and I was like, ‘Oh, maybe they’re not all that bad and maybe I could help somebody else that’s going through this.’”
Berry earned her Juris Doctorate from Regent University School of Law in Virginia Beach, Virginia in 2010. While attending Regent University, she was the recipient of the Dean’s Scholarship, Academic Merit Scholarship and served on the Council of Graduate Students.
As the survivor of a serious car accident herself, Berry has a unique perspective on what many of her clients are going through. She works hard not to add any more stress to her clients’ lives. As an attorney, she’s grown accustomed to being blind-sided when cases that seemed straight-forward on the surface suddenly turn upside down.
“You pretty much are having to put out fires and problem solve, all the time,” she said. “It’s about thinking quickly on your feet.”
At the end of the day, it’s about keeping the client happy, Berry said. They’ve been injured, and sometimes nothing’s going to make it right, especially if somebody died in an accident, and their family can never be made whole again.
“The way that I try to think about it is that if there’s already been something bad that has happened when they come to me, I try to make it as painless as possible and take some of that stress off of them, just dealing with everything else that comes along with it,” Berry told Forbes. “That’s really what I try to keep in mind. And it really doesn’t even feel like work most of the time. Sometimes you’ll have something crazy happen and you’re like, ‘Oh, no,’ but I enjoy it so much that it really doesn’t feel like work.”
Berry feels lucky to practice law at her firm. Her mother had worked as a paralegal at the firm years earlier, so the connection was already there.
“I’ve been really fortunate to be around a lot of well-seasoned attorneys that are a lot older than me and that have a lot more experience than I do,” she said. “And one thing that I feel like is important is to not really get caught up in office politics and to make everybody feel special. And I really try to do that with a lot of, even the other attorneys, but the support staff, just because everybody’s so important.”
Berry also does her best to achieve balance in her life, spending as much time as she can with her husband Todd and their four children.
“We’re really lucky to be able to travel with the kids a lot,” Berry said. “And I like to show them the world. I want to keep doing that. We’ve taken them to a lot of different places. I love the fact that you’re able to take your kids with you and show them the world, because you can read about the world all you want to, but to actually learn about it, you have to travel and see it for yourself.”
ABOUT RULOFF, SWAIN, HADDAD, MORECOCK, TALBERT & WOODWARD, P.C.
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Shelley Swain Berry
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SOURCE: Ruloff, Swain, Haddad, Morecock, Talbert & Woodward, P.C.