Retta Miller: Knowing What Matters

May 12, 2013 | Spotlight

It’s one thing to be a talented litigator. It takes a thorough knowledge of the law, a knack for strategic planning, and the ability to think on your feet. It’s an altogether different matter to understand the big picture that surrounds litigation – what it means, when to use it, and why it matters.

Great litigators have a keen ability to stay one step ahead of the opposition. Great business lawyers understand that their clients’ business goals come first.

Retta MillerBy both definitions, Retta Miller is an attorney who gets it. From the small details to the big picture, from the courtroom to the boardroom, she understands that success comes down to one thing: knowing what matters.

In trial or arbitration, that often means preparation: being ready for any possibility, planning a flexible strategy, and combing through every detail. That kind of preparation is especially crucial in complicated, bet-the-company cases, such as the two-and-a-half month trial that Retta tried in federal court as part of a five-person trial team. The final victory in that case – which was recognized by the National Law Journal as one of the top 10 defense verdicts of the year – was a reflection of the entire trial team’s relentless preparation and attention to detail.

As Retta says, “By being the best prepared lawyer in the room, you can present the facts and law in the manner that best benefits your client.”

This can be especially true in arbitration, an arena in which Retta has significant experience. “Arbitrations frequently involve limited discovery, which means the cross-examination is blind,” she says. “As a result, you have to continually anticipate your opponent’s next move. That is particularly challenging.”

In terms of serving clients, knowing what matters often comes down to understanding the client’s business. Having an overall view of the client’s particular goals, needs, and circumstances helps lawyers like Retta understand how best to pursue litigation matters.

“Litigation should not be an end itself, but rather a means of accomplishing a business goal,” Retta says. “Whether that is protecting the client’s assets, enforcing an agreement, minimizing a negative consequence, or pursuing some other goal – by truly understanding your client’s business and needs, you can respond to them more quickly and creatively.”

“Litigation should not be an end itself, but rather a means of accomplishing a business goal.”

— Retta Miller

And then there’s another level of what matters, one that goes beyond the practice of law. For Retta, that’s her avid involvement in the community through organizations that help women and girls reach their full potential. She has served as president of the Dallas Women’s Foundation and on the boards of the YWCA, the Family Place (a domestic violence shelter), and the Dallas affiliate of Komen for the Cure. She also served as the founding chair of the Dallas Women’s Business Conference – an event that is attended by approximately 2,000 women every year – and on the board of the Women’s Business Council Southwest. “These activities have allowed me to meet many extraordinary people who share my passion for improving the lives of women in the community,” Retta says.

Flawlessly preparing for trial. Achieving the client’s goals. Giving back to the community. For Retta, these are the things that matter, and success means never losing sight of them.

In This Story

Retta A. Miller
Partner, Dallas