Winning the Myerowitz moot court competition in 1985 during her 2L year was pivotal for Ava Lias-Booker ’86, now a partner at leading international law firm McGuireWoods LLP. “It was an amazing moment,” remembers the seasoned trial and appellate lawyer. “I just knew it was what I was cut out to do.”
Encouraged by then moot court trial team faculty adviser the Hon. Andre Davis ’78 (former senior judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit), Lias-Booker moved straight from law school to a large Baltimore firm at a time when few women and even fewer African American women were associates. She went on to become one of the first African American women partners at that firm, before joining McGuireWoods in 2004 as a partner in its Baltimore office.
“I always thank Judge Davis for helping to open my eyes to private law firm practice,” says Lias-Booker, who was named to Savoy’s Most Influential Women in Corporate America list in 2019, “he opened the door to something I never even thought was possible.”
These days, as well as representing businesses from a broad range of industries in complex commercial litigation, she also helps open doors of opportunity for those coming up behind her.
As chair of her firm’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee and a member of its Diversity Action Counsel, Lias-Booker works to ensure a path for the development of associates and new partners to increase diverse representation in the legal profession. As Lias-Booker says, “It is critical that we presume the competency of diverse lawyers, challenge them to be excellent, and position them for success.”
She has also stayed deeply connected with her alma mater. She is an emeritus member of the Board of Visitors where she served for many years. More recently, she signed on to be a guest lecturer in business law.
“Maryland Law was a trajectory changer for me,” says Lias-Booker, who credits a “full complement of mentors, sponsors and supporters” with enabling her early success. “Maryland continues to be a very special place.”