Lisa Riggs Featured in Tulsa Lawyer Magazine
Lisa Riggs was featured in the February edition of Tulsa Lawyer Magazine. Full text of the piece below:
Lisa Riggs: Leading with Bold Influence and Compassionate Advocacy
By Mike Turpen
Leadership is something those of us in the legal profession practice every day. We lead our clients through their issues, using our expertise to help solve their problems. We lead our communities by participating in volunteer work, fundraising for local nonprofit organizations, and serving on civic boards. We lead our colleagues through our activities with the Tulsa County Bar Association. And many of us lead our businesses by serving in executive roles at our organizations.
But what sets apart the truly exceptional leaders? In considering this question, let us go back to the term’s definition. Merriam-Webster defines a leader as “a person who has commanding authority or influence.” Think about that for a second. By definition, a leader cannot be timid, unassertive, or indecisive. Instead, they must have a bold, remarkable, and COMMANDING authority or influence.
At Riggs Abney, there is a woman who exemplifies what it means to be a leader. Her dedication to her clients, her community, and our profession is an extraordinary demonstration of her commanding leadership. And as the first woman to be named president of the firm, she also blazed a trail for other women leaders in law across not only Tulsa but the entire state.
As a young woman in Sand Springs, Lisa Riggs was originally inspired to become a lawyer after reading Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
After earning her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Master of Arts in Sociology from the University of Oklahoma, Lisa went on to graduate from the prestigious Georgetown University Law Center in Washington D.C. She began her career as a litigator and partner of a firm there, where she served as a Court Mediator, served on the Board of the District of Columbia Trial Lawyers Association and was and remains a member of the American Trial Lawyers Association, now American Association for Justice. Although she had a successful career in D.C., Lisa decided to move back to Tulsa for the opportunity to practice law with her mentor and father, David Riggs, and to be near her large family. She will tell you now that working alongside and interacting with her father every day is the best treat in the world.
Lisa continued to build her successful civil litigation practice at Riggs Abney, representing clients with catastrophic injuries resulting from accidents, medical mistakes, and pharmaceutical products. She is a skilled trial lawyer and has always thrived on taking the challenges of her clients and finding ways to solve their problems.
But that passion for problem-solving and consistent leadership example is not limited to the courtroom.
Seeing too many neglected, abused, and homeless pets in the Sand Springs area, Lisa formally organized the Sandite Team for Animal Rescue in 2011. This nonprofit organization has worked with the Sand Springs animal shelter to foster, obtain veterinary care, transport, and ultimately find forever homes for hundreds of dogs and cats since its inception. After almost a decade, Lisa still serves as president of the board for this organization that is near to her heart.
While she has always volunteered in some capacity throughout her life, Lisa’s love of nature and passion for outdoor travel motivated her to leave her signature on this planet through wildlife preservation efforts. She began volunteering her time to organize the Wild Brew Beer Tasting event in Tulsa, originally to benefit The Nature Conservancy. The event is now a fundraiser for another organization Lisa is passionate about, The Sutton Avian Research Center. She also served on the Board of Land Legacy whose mission is to conserve, enhance and restore urban and rural land to benefit our environment.
Lisa has served on the board of directors for the Sand Springs Education Foundation, Sand Springs School Board, Friends of the Fairgrounds, American Heritage Bank Community Volunteer Board, Sand Springs American Downtown, and Legal Aid Society of Oklahoma Endowment Committee. She participated in Inns of Court and Leadership Sand Springs. Lisa currently serves as the board chair of the Sand Springs Museum Association and regularly participates in food distribution events with Lawyers Fighting Hunger.
In 2014, Lisa Riggs was named the president of Riggs Abney and served in that capacity for three years. Her deep passion for her practice, her commanding influence in the Tulsa community, and her positive impact as a manager in our firm for several years prior made her the perfect leader. As president of our firm, Lisa always led by example – with courage, compassion, integrity, and empathy. Because of Lisa’s extraordinary leadership, Riggs Abney flourished, prospered and grew with additional practice areas and expertise.
In 2017, Lisa stepped away from that role to focus more on her passion for trial work and helping her clients. But Lisa remains the moral compass of our firm and genuinely believes that every client she serves is an honor. She has achieved multi-million-dollar settlements for several clients during her 25 years at our firm. One of the more interesting highlights of her career was successfully representing Garth Brooks in the trial against an Oklahoma City hospital that failed to live up to their responsibilities after the country artist made a memorial donation in honor of his mother.
Lisa serves as a board member for the Oklahoma Association for Justice, which she promptly joined in 1996 after her transition back to Tulsa. She credits the organization for helping her navigate the challenges of being a litigator reestablishing her career in Oklahoma and believes the mentorship and information sharing within the Association is vital to its members’ abilities to better serve their clients and preserve our system of justice for all.
She has been recognized for her leadership as a recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Association for Justice Rex Travis Listserv Award, and as a member of the Sandite Hall of Fame. She is rated AV Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell in Legal Ability and Ethical Standards and was one of Oklahoma Magazine’s Top 25 Women Lawyers in 2012 and 2015.
Every leader has others they have learned from along the way.
When I think about the strong, talented and courageous leaders in my life, I think of my mother, Marge Turpen-Shahan. She raised my brothers and I on the philosophy that each of us only has so much God-given energy. And every morning when we wake up, it is up to us to decide how to use it. My mother’s leadership lessons still guide me daily. My wife Susan is another. I affectionately say she is the 32-year CEO of the Turpen household and is the only one who can make sure the Turpen Train runs on time. But beyond that, Susan has had a bold influence on hundreds of young people through her years as a high school educator and through her volunteering roles in the community.
For Lisa, she will tell you the commanding influences in her life include her mother, who served as her Girl Scouts leader and sets the standard of calm, compassion, humor, and love in their large family; her father, who shares her love of the law and her fervor for travel, adventure and the natural world; and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was a pioneer for women in the profession.
But Lisa herself is a pioneer of the profession in our state. I often say that the most important thing that has happened for women in our civilization is for men to have daughters. It helps us appreciate leaders like Lisa Riggs who break barriers and build bridges for other women to come.
To me, what makes Lisa a truly exceptional, bold leader in law is her approachability, her hunger for the challenges in her profession, and her selfless dedication to advocating for others.
A commanding influence, indeed.