Would-be fashion designer practices law instead
Debra McCormick of McCormick & Bryan in Edmond loves making a difference in clients' lives.
Debra McCormick's children tease her that she's the original “Legally Blonde,” the movie heroine/sorority girl who enrolls at Harvard Law School to win back her ex-boyfriend and discovers how her knowledge of the law can help others.
There are indeed parallels between the fictional story and McCormick's real life. A sorority girl herself and would-be fashion designer, McCormick, like Elle, loves practicing law “because it can make a difference in people's lives. I like helping the underdog,” she said, “somebody who normally wouldn't otherwise get help.”
As for the comparison to Elle, she doesn't mind it. “It makes people underestimate me, and that can be a big help sometimes,” McCormick said.
A former clerk with state and federal courts, McCormick opened a firm seven years ago with several lawyers who have evolved today into the firm of McCormick & Bryan. The firm employs nine — including seven attorneys, four of whom are partners — and handles a wide variety of issues including tax, real estate, wills and estate, employment, oil and gas, appellate practice and Indian law.
McCormick also serves as an administrative law judge with the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, hearing cases semiweekly involving the SoonerCare Medicaid program, which covers largely women and children.
“I'm privileged to work with colleagues who are smart, dedicated and honest, all the things in lawyers you want to find,” McCormick said. “They're a lot of fun to work with,” she said, “and I've got their support to practice the very best law I can.”
From her offices at 2529 S Kelly in Edmond, McCormick, 57, recently sat down with The Oklahoman to talk about her professional and personal life. This is an edited transcript:
Q: Can you tell us about your roots?
A: I grew up in Independence, Mo., a suburb of Kansas City. My father worked as a salesman at Sears and later sold insurance, medical supplies, any number of things to make a living and feed a hungry family. My mother stayed home with me and my siblings.
There are six of us (I'm the third-oldest), and they helped put us all through college; five of us went on to earn advanced degrees. I have one brother who's a physician.
Our mother taught us to be all we could be; the word “can't” didn't exist. And our father taught us to treat people with the same respect, whether they were a janitor or CEO. My hometown was Americana at its best. We rode our bikes, and everybody knew everybody else in the neighborhood — where people lived in the same houses their whole lives.
Today, my brothers, sisters and I are spread out — from Missouri, Edmond and Dallas to New York, Maine and D.C. But we keep in touch. Our parents raised us to be each other's best friends, which I've tried to instill in my five children.
Q: What were the highlights of your school days in high school and college?
A: In high school, I was a fairly good student, cheerleader and basketball sweetheart. I was nominated for the latter by Rick Sutcliffe, a then unknown high school basketball player who went on to win the Cy Young Award in baseball. I attended on scholarship William Woods in Fulton, Mo., from which I graduated in three years.
While in college, I pledged Chi Omega and aspired to be a fashion designer. The problem was I could dream up the designs, but couldn't draw a straight line — so I couldn't put my designs down on paper. That was before everything became computerized.