Women's Leadership InitiativeQ&A with Caroline Gentry

Caroline Gentry is a partner in the firm's Dayton office. Caroline practices in the areas of commercial litigation, employment litigation, class action defense and drone law. She is co-chair of the firm's Class Action Practice Group. She currently teaches at Sinclair Community College on the topic of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Standards, Regulations and Law, and is pursuing an associate’s degree in Sinclair’s UAS program.

Describe a pivotal moment that influenced your career path.

In 2011, Candi Taggart graciously arranged for me to be a panel speaker at a University of Cincinnati forum about class actions. I was asked to represent the defense view; a highly-regarded plaintiff’s attorney who I did not know, Paul DeMarco, represented the plaintiff’s view. Shortly after I began speaking, I was surprised by the very hostile questioning (some might say heckling) from the extremely pro-plaintiff audience. It was unpleasant but I tried to maintain my composure and a sense of humor. Afterward, Paul clapped me on the back and was very complimentary. Still, it was a rough day. I promptly wrote it off as a “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” experience and forgot about it.

About a month later, I received a phone call out of the blue from Dr. David Turner, president of a Cincinnati-based company called The Counseling Source (TCS). The State of Ohio had just passed a law that would result in the imminent and near-total loss of Medicaid funding to TCS. Without a preliminary injunction, TCS would have to shut its doors. With the able assistance of former associate Dan Miller, I quickly identified legal theories, drafted a class action complaint, submitted declarations from hundreds of patients and therapists who would be adversely affected, reviewed documents, deposed key witnesses, and handled the preliminary injunction hearing in Columbus federal court. Long story short, we wound up with a favorable settlement agreement (fun sidenote: Governor Kasich signed it with a purple pen!) and Dave was able to keep providing much-needed counseling services to elderly and disabled residents of nursing homes. Since then, he has doubled the size of TCS and used Porter Wright for all of his legal needs. He invites John Carney (his favorite lobbyist) and me to the TCS Christmas party every year, and wishes me happy anniversary on the first day of every month to commemorate our filing date of July 1, 2011.

What is the common thread between these two stories? Dave initially consulted with Paul DeMarco, who recommended that Dave call me. The moral of the story is to say yes to the opportunities that come your way, because they may turn out to be much more worthwhile than you ever could have imagined.

What is the most interesting thing about your job?

Coming up with persuasive and creative legal theories to solve clients’ legal problems. For me, the intellectual challenges are definitely the most interesting although not the most fun part of the job. The most fun, of course, is winning.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today

Not all life experiences are positive. Like everyone else, I have had my share of challenges, including raising a child with autism and trying to help close family members struggling with mental illness. These difficult experiences were hard to endure but changed me in a good way—they opened my heart and made me more compassionate and understanding of other people. That change, in turn, has helped me to be a better leader in my family, workplace and community.

Tell us about your favorite thing to do outside of work.

Spend time with my husband, children and puppies! Sadly, our son left last year for the University of Toledo—and our daughter will leave for Macalester College later this year—so at some point soon I will have to find some hobbies.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

Like most people, I muddle through. Some days are better than others. I try to take a 50,000 foot view and consider “balance” over a longer period of time. In the span of a month or two, have I met my obligations to everyone (including myself)? The answer is not always “yes” but I keep trying.