This month’s spotlighted VADA member is Stan Wellman of Harman Claytor Corrigan and Wellman in Richmond. A Past President of VADA, Stan is a longtime member of our organization, whose advice and counsel have proved invaluable to the VADA’s success. To top it all off, he also is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever want to meet.
1. Where were you born?
Edwards Air Force Base, California.
2. Spouse? Children? Pets?
Married to Mary Lou Wellman for nearly 34 years. We’re the proud parents of three children – Matt/30, Sarah/26, and Sam/21 – and Rusty, a four year old Maltipoo. (We had a golden retriever for 16 years before that, which I feel it necessary to point out due to some sort of insecurity.)
3. What type of law do you practice?
A wide variety of civil litigation, including trucking and transportation, products and premises liability, construction and commercial disputes, insurance coverage, and myriad other matters that bring folks to the courthouse. I also regularly serve as a mediator and arbitrator.
4. How long have you been a member of VADA?
32 years. I made my first presentation at the VADA six months into my career at Browder Russell Morris & Butcher, before I was even qualified to be a member. (Back then you had to be two years at the bar before you could join the VADA.)
5. What was your favorite subject in school?
History, and almost literally nothing else.
6. What is your favorite book?
Far too many to list, but probably one of Ernest Hemingway’s, like The Sun Also Rises or A Farewell to Arms, or his collected short stories, which I read again over the holidays.
7. What was your first job?
Slurry seal crew for the County of Fairfax. We sprayed diesel on the manhole covers in the morning, killed several hours reading (and napping) while the slurry trucks resealed the roads, and then went back at day’s end to scrape the slurry off the covers. Much more down time than on.
8. If you could have dinner with any person [historical figure?], living or dead, who would it be?
I probably should say someone like Benjamin Franklin or Winston Churchill, but it would definitely be any one of the Beatles.
9. What’s the most challenging thing about practicing law?
The challenges have evolved over the years. At first it was just the grind of becoming competent, and hopefully better than that, and then it was juggling family and work obligations. But now it’s more about finding time to mentor young lawyers and, ultimately, transition quality work to the next generation. That and those @#$%! billing guidelines.
10. What is the last concert you attended?
The Avett Brothers at Red Rocks Amphitheatre outside Denver, Colorado. A magical experience, perhaps enhanced by the haze of marijuana smoke that seemed to fill the venue. A double rainbow appeared behind the stage as David Crosby, the opening act, walked off, and then a full moon rose behind the Avett Brothers as they performed. At least I think all that happened.
11. What have you enjoyed most about your time in VADA?
Without exaggeration, I was trained to be a civil litigator by the VADA. I’ve attended almost every annual meeting and spring meeting for 32 years and much of what I know I can attribute to the VADA. But more than that it has been the close personal relationships I’ve developed over the years with dozens of gifted civil litigators across Virginia.
12. When I am not at the office, I like to …
Spend time laughing with family and friends, at home and abroad; take the dog on long walks; hike the Blue Ridge; treat myself to Richmond’s amazing restaurant scene; visit some of Virginia’s 230 wineries; and read, read, read.
13. Do you have a favorite movie quote?
Actually three, all of which I regularly say (or think) in my law practice: (1) to opposing counsel, “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse,” (2) to judges, “What we have here is a failure to communicate,” and (3) to clients, “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.”
14. What is your favorite sports team?
I’m a lifelong Washington Redskins fan. My father had season tickets for 35 years and I’d go with him to about four games a year. There was one ten-year stretch where I never saw a loss, and then another ten-year stretch where I never saw a win.
15. Do you have a guilty pleasure?
Butter pecan ice cream.
16. If I wasn’t practicing law, I would be …
Teaching history at a small college, and I still may, some day.
17. Favorite travel spot?
Kiawah Island, South Carolina, where my family and I have gone at least once every year for 20 years. Heaven on Earth.
18. What advice would you give someone who just passed the bar?
Among many other things, find one or more mentors and meet with them regularly; ask questions (you don’t know everything, and never will); embrace mistakes (“I never lose; I either win or I learn.”); work hard; sweat the details; be humble; be on time; own your career; get active in your state and local bars (including the VADA!); and try hard to have a life outside the practice of law, which can easily become all-consuming.
19. What is your definition of success?
John Wooden, the legendary college basketball coach, said: “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” That sounds about right to me.
Email Amy Gilbody at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to recommend a member (or yourself) for a future "Member Spotlight."