Nancy Wells Hamilton has never been one to back away from a challenge.
After starting her career as a paralegal, she decided to tackle law school. Just two months shy of graduation, her daughter Ellie arrived earlier than expected. Nancy took a leave of absence and returned to finish years later. She has since built a national litigation practice focused on First Amendment law, intellectual property, and complex commercial litigation. She has represented high-profile clients including Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, CNN, and The Tribune Company – just to name a few – in courtrooms across the country.
Nancy’s track record of obtaining results for her clients attests to her tenacity, resourcefulness, and absolute dedication to helping her clients find a way to succeed.
Determination has been a hallmark of Nancy’s career from the start. Early on she learned that “perseverance wins the race.” “That’s kind of the way I am,” she said with a laugh. “Even if I keep bumping into walls, I’ll work at a problem until I find a solution.”
In her practice, Nancy puts that persistence to work for her clients. She is aggressive in defending her clients’ interests in court because she understands how much is at stake, especially in the area of First Amendment law, where her clients are often journalists and media personalities.
“I’m passionate about the First Amendment, and my clients are passionate about the work they do,” she said. “In high-profile media cases, the client’s reputation is on the line, so it can be very personal for them.”
At the same time, many of her clients, though used to being in the spotlight, are not used to being in court and can be intimidated by the process.
“You have to be a true counselor and hold their hand, so to speak, helping them work through the case and the issues involved,” she said.
“Nobody likes to get sued, but if you have to go to trial, it’s best to have someone representing you who’s been there before.”
– Nancy Hamilton
Though litigation is never pleasant, Nancy’s clients can take comfort in the depth of knowledge that she and her team bring to every case. Jackson Walker’s Media Law group has more than 100 years of experience representing media clients and has developed a national reputation as a leader in First Amendment law.
“We’ve been very successful because we do things the right way,” Nancy said. “We don’t settle for less, and we demand excellence from everyone on our team. We get to know the case, the client, and the court inside out, and we leave no stone unturned.”
Her commitment to thorough preparation – in terms of trial strategy, researching the law, and preparing witnesses – is a defining feature of Nancy’s approach to litigation. Preparing every case from the beginning as if it is going to trial dramatically improves the client’s ability to succeed – at trial or in settling the case. That includes use of focus groups early on to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the case from the prospective juror’s perspective, as well as extensive use of graphics and video at hearings, in mediation and of course at trial.
“The whole point is to out-prepare the other side,” Nancy said. “You have to anticipate how they are going to approach the case and what their strengths and weaknesses are, as well as your own.”
In one of her most memorable cases, Nancy was part of a Jackson Walker team that defended Oprah Winfrey against product disparagement and defamation claims brought against her by two Texas cattlemen under Texas’ so-called ‘veggie libel’ law. In the high-profile trial before an Amarillo jury, the team successfully argued that the talk show host, her production company, and her guest had a First Amendment right to express their opinions and honestly held beliefs.
Victories such as these demonstrate Nancy’s commitment to careful preparation and savvy strategy; however, success as a trial lawyer also demands a certain degree of creativity, which is another quality Nancy brings to her practice.
“You have to be curious and creative, but at the same time very thorough and diligent – those almost seem to be at opposite ends, but it’s a combination that works,” she said.
When she’s not trying cases, Nancy makes a point of keeping up with the latest in business and politics as well as developments in First Amendment law. She also frequently writes and gives presentations on trial tactics and media law matters to ensure that her clients are well equipped to deal with new challenges that may arise.
For high-profile media clients like Nancy’s, however, litigation is always a looming prospect, and as the saying goes, the best offense is a great defense – and that is exactly what Nancy provides.
“We are out to win,” she said. “It’s not that we’re not willing to look at different options, but there’s a lot at stake for our clients, and we’re not afraid to go into the courthouse. Nobody likes to get sued, but if you have to go to trial, it’s best to have someone representing you who’s been there before.”