Christian & Small is pleased to announce that Partner Sharon D. Stuart has been named by the Birmingham Business Journal (BBJ) as one of its 2017 “Women to Watch,” which “recognizes excellence among talented businesswomen in Birmingham’s business world.”
More than 100 nominations were submitted this year for the annual award, which according to the BBJ was a record number and “speaks to the significant role women are playing in the Magic City’s business landscape.” Honorees were selected based on their “career accomplishments, potential for future leadership, and contributions to the economy and other factors.”
Stuart, along with her follow recipients, will be honored during the BBJ’s 2017 Women’s Summit at The Club on Friday, Sept. 22 – an event that will include speakers, breakout sessions, networking opportunities and more. To view the a photo gallery of this year’s honorees, click here.
The 2017 “Women to Watch” recipients were asked to complete a questionnaire, from which the BBJ selected quotes to feature in the print edition of its newspaper. The questions, with Stuart’s unabridged answers, can be found below:
Q. How did you choose the career you are in?
A. From the time I was a little girl, I always wanted to be a lawyer. It was a natural fit for me – I love to write, love debating, love public speaking, and love solving problems. My dad is a lawyer, and he was a great role model – I wanted to be like him. At one point I thought I would probably move to Washington and do governmental affairs work, but after clerking at a big firm one summer, I was totally hooked on litigation and wanted to be a trial lawyer.
Q. What has been the most defining moment of your career?
A. In my second or third year of practice, I tried a big case with my first mentor, Ed Elliott. We lost, badly. A famous Yale law professor came to the post-trial hearing to testify in our client’s behalf. Before the hearing, he pulled me aside and complemented me on the oral arguments I had presented to the trial court before and during the trial. He told me how much he liked the style of my presentation, how clear it was to follow, and how easy he found the transcript to read. This vote of confidence from a real “rock star” of the legal world made a big difference in my practice from that day on. It gave me assurance to continue developing my own style of presenting complicated legal arguments. But more importantly, it taught me that, even when you don’t win, you can take great satisfaction in knowing that you did your absolute best. And, the silver lining is that we won the case on appeal!
Q. How do you juggle the demands of daily life?
A. I try to set realistic short and long term goals, stay organized, prioritize what needs to get done in every given day, and sometimes say “no”. It helps me to calendar blocks of time in which to accomplish tasks and refuse to get distracted during those chunks of time. I’m also blessed to have surrounded myself with good help at work and at home to make my personal and professional life more efficient. A spouse who is truly a partner, a good nanny, and a good assistant are lifesavers. Finally, I make time to exercise, even though it means doing so early in the morning or late in the day. It keeps me sane.
Q. What are your goals for the next ten years?
A. To be a servant leader, to grow my book of business, and to play more golf.
Q. What lesson has a mentor taught you along the way?
A. My dad always said, “If you can’t be a lady and a lawyer, then be a lady.” I try to remember that good advice even when the stakes are high, tensions are mounting and tempers flare.
Q. Do you have any advice for millennials in the Magic City?
A. Help me understand you.
Q. How do you decide where to dedicate your extra time volunteering?
A. I volunteer where my passions lie – education, literacy, my faith, my alma mater.
Q. What makes you want to get out of bed every morning?
A. Family. First, my husband and kids (and even the dogs). Second, my work family, which has made it fun to come to work in the same office for the past 24 years.
Q. How long have you lived in Birmingham?
A. Except for a year in Dallas after law school, my entire life.
Q. What makes you stay in Birmingham?
A. It’s God’s country.
Q. What would you like to see happen next in Birmingham’s rejuvenation cycle?
A. I would like to see real change in the public school system in the city so that kids can get a quality education, graduate, and provide the workforce needed to draw business and industry to Birmingham and meaningfully grow our economy.
Q. What is your favorite restaurant in metro Birmingham?