The walls of Amy Stipe's office are filled with very different things.
There's a gold gavel lauding her past service as chair of the Oklahoma Bar Association's Mineral Law Section, hung not far from her latest family portrait. A certificate naming Stipe among Oklahoma's top young lawyers contrasts with a photo of last summer's beach vacation. And her framed law school diploma parallels a Christmas crafts project, where Stipe painted the soles of her kids' feet white to represent snowmen.
A shareholder and member of the board at Gable Gotwals law firm in downtown Oklahoma City, Stipe doubles as a mother of three young children, including a nursing 10-month-old.
“Ours is a very family-friendly firm,” said Stipe, who had three children in five years. “If it weren't, I couldn't have this position.”
From her 15th-floor offices at Leadership Square, Stipe, 40, sat down with The Oklahoman to talk about her life — as an attorney and mom. This is an edited transcript:
Q: Tell us about your roots.
A: I grew up in Oklahoma City. My parents married as teenagers and split up soon after I was born. My mom has always done front-office work in the medical field. My dad works in public relations for city governments — for years in San Diego and now he's in Virginia. My mom remarried once briefly and had my sister, who's seven years younger. Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my maternal grandparents, including camping and fishing at Grand Lake. Summers, I spent with my dad in California.
Q: What were the highlights of your school years?
A: In middle school, I was a pep club officer and homecoming queen candidate. In high school, I found I loved to write and was editor of the school newspaper. I also worked a lot to help pay for things I needed, like car insurance, gas and clothes. My first job was at age 15, as a dishwasher at Crocket's Smokehouse. I also worked as a cashier at Buy for Less, and at Foley's Department Store.
Q: And college?
A: I'm Sooner-born and Sooner-bred, but followed a boyfriend to OSU for my first two years. After we broke up, I transferred to OU — where I earned a bachelor's in psychology and then my law degree. Law was attractive to me because I wanted to use my writing skills.
Q: How did you meet your husband?
A: We met the first day of law school. He told me later he purposely sat by me so we'd be next to one another when the seating chart was made. We were friends for six months before we started dating, and got engaged when we passed our bar exams. Because we're both lawyers, we can bounce ideas off each other and understand each other's demands, though we're on opposite sides of the law — and politics. He represents plaintiffs; I'm in corporate defense. He's a Democrat; I'm Republican. I think I'm the first Stipe who's a Republican. When I'm at family dinners in McAlester, I just keep quiet at the table. But really, Jack and I are closely aligned on so many issues. At home, we have a true partnership. If I cook, he'll do the dishes or vice versa. If I do the baby's bottles, he'll do the boys' lunches. We make it a point to have a date night once a week, thanks to my mom who loves watching our kids.
Q: So your entire professional career has been with Gable Gotwals? Tell us about that.
A: That's right. I clerked at two other firms, but have worked here since my last year of law school. The firm was founded in Tulsa in the '60s, and I joined them in '98, three years after they opened an office here. Today, we have 77 attorneys. But when I started, there were only six in Oklahoma City. So I got to grow with this office, grow up in it and help it grow. The first five years I concentrated in minerals law. But now, my work is more diverse, concentrating in civil litigation involving class actions, business torts, oil and gas, insurance bad faith and complex contracts. I've had a tremendous mentor in Sid Dunagan, who's practiced law for 45 years. To say he's taught me everything I know is an understatement. Having been appointed to the board in January, I feel like I'm a mix of the old and new. I have a long, proven history with this law firm, yet I'm somewhat young, a mother and a representative advocate for a good segment of our attorneys.
Q: Did you plan to have a big family?
A: No. I envisioned one child, and my husband and I traveling the world. Then I fell in love with my kids. It was a surprise to me that I wanted three.
Q: What's your key to work-life balance?
A: My key to having it all — or trying to — is not to do it alone. I am lucky to have a great support network at home: My wonderful husband, my mom and a terrific nanny who's been with us five years. I also work for a firm of great lawyers who understand when I need to attend a pre-K Easter party in the middle of the afternoon or go to a well-baby checkup. They know I'm dedicated to my job and that I'll get all my work done. It just might be at 10 o'clock at night at my kitchen table in Old Navy flip-flops and my hair piled on my head. There are times when I'm on a conference call, with a baby on my hip while making breakfast for my kindergartner. But it's worth it. I'm raising three beautiful children and providing a good service to my clients. Both are very satisfying to me.