Issue: October, 2007
Author: Mary Angell
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Inward, Outward, Upward! Woodhouse is at the Helm of the Wyoming State Bar
Gay Woodhouse has a theme for her term as president of the Wyoming State Bar: “Inward, outward and upward.”
First, she intends to look inward to the Bar by increasing the level of services it offers its members.
“We have a lot of sections: government lawyer sections, administrative law sections; tax sections,” she told the Wyoming Lawyer recently. “The people who formed those sections knew how helpful they could be for people in the same area of law to share information and network, but we have not been providing the Bar support it needs.”
Woodhouse hopes to increase activity within the various sections and improve communication using tools like free conference calls through the Bar.
The “outward” piece of her objective is to improve the public image of lawyers.
“I want to encourage and assist members to interact with schools and let people understand and be part of a trial system, understand how a trial works,” she said.
“I want to try to raise the public’s level of awareness about what lawyers do in our communities,” she added. “There are a lot of lawyers who serve on community boards ---maybe more than any other professionals—and I want to make sure that is recognized and encouraged.”
Many Wyoming lawyers work with organizations such as the local animal shelter or Meals on Wheels, Woodhouse said. She herself has served on the board of directors of Southeast Wyoming Mental Health, Attention Home, Cheyenne Rotary, and Pathfinder, which provides drug and alcohol addiction counseling. She has supported Attention Home, a crisis shelter for youth, and Safe Harbor, an advocacy center for child abuse victims. She was an organizer of the Wyoming’s Silent Witness-Zero Domestic Violence by 2010 initiative and has supported other organizations that address domestic violence. Currently, Woodhouse helps people in 12-step recovery programs.
The biggest challenge facing attorneys today continues to be their negative public image, the belief that lawyers are shysters or jerks, she said. The profession is still the butt of insulting jokes.
“The truth of the matter is that most people, while they may tell lawyer jokes, they all like their own lawyer,” Woodhouse said. “Somehow I would love to be able to parley that into the belief that all lawyers in general really want to help people. The biggest challenge for all of us is to get the general public to understand that, by and large, we do what we do because we want to be of service to people.”
She hopes to launch a citizen survey this year to discover the average person’s opinion of lawyers.
Finally, Woodhouse hopes that during her term as Bar president, she can help Wyoming lawyers look upward, or be inspired to improve in their profession.
“It is my goal to increase the services we provide our members and get them more involved in Bar activities. Doing so will bring the entire Bar up to a higher level,” she said. “We’ve already seen some dedicated people and terrific leadership. Next year at this time, I would love to be better off than we are now.”
She plans to conduct the Bar’s first women lawyers’ retreat.
“I came from the generation that believed we should just act like guys, fit in like guys and not complain,” she said. “Fortunately, things have changed.”
Woodhouse wants the retreat to be an opportunity for female attorneys of all age groups to connect. She wants it to include some dynamic speakers---perhaps a veteran female colleague or two who can tell of their experiences breaking into what once was a male-dominated profession---and a session with a juror consultant to help attendees discover what they can do to increase their effectiveness in court.
“I was a little bit reticent to do something focused on women because I’m not doing anything focused solely on men, but I’ve received so much positive support from the members of the Executive Committee,” she said. “I’m hoping to take some of the lessons we learn there to the 2008 Annual Meeting and provide a program that will help both genders to work together and appreciate each other more.”
Woodhouse’s illustrious career is well known in Wyoming’s legal community. A graduate of the University of Wyoming and the UW School of Law, she is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney (1990-1995) and Wyoming Attorney General (1998-2001) with 28 years of experience in the legal profession. She established her private practice in 2001.
Lesser known is her passion for exercise.
“It’s important to me for my head as much as for my body,” she said. “I get up early---about 4:00 in the morning---to exercise.”
Woodhouse enjoys running, biking and in-line speed skating. When her two boys were little, two-hour skating practices were common. She doesn’t do that much skating anymore, but she still makes it out on the Greenway occasionally. Her average bike ride is about 26 miles; her average run between seven and ten miles. (She prefers to run because it’s easier for her dog to keep up with her.)
She’s also a supporter of the National Rifle Association and advocate of Americans’ second amendment rights.
“What scares me is the momentum that seems to be surmounting against second amendment rights in the country,” she said. “I don’t believe that is what our country is founded on.”
Woodhouse’s spiritual life is also very important to her. She recently joined the Catholic Church, with Justice William Hill serving as her confirmation sponsor.
Woodhouse and her husband Randy live on 20 acres of land outside of Cheyenne. They have two sons: Dustin, 21, a Laramie County Community College student and diesel mechanic at Wyoming Machinery, and Houston, 19, who also attends LCCC and works at Sierra Trading Post.
“When we had our first son, my husband got laid off from Union Pacific and throughout our lives, he’s stayed home with the kids,” she said. “He really has made my life, frankly. It’s really an important part of why I am what I am—that I am anything.”
Woodhouse jokes that their children didn’t attend a Montessori preschool. Instead, they went through the Randy Woodhouse “Survive if You Can Daycare.”
“Our kids learned not from being protected, but from knowing that things have consequences,” she said.
Mary Angell is a freelance writer from Cheyenne, Wyoming, and a regular contributor to the Wyoming Lawyer.
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