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Storytelling in Litigation: A Conversation with Janelle P. Murnane

Janelle Murnane joined Hinckley Allen in October 2019 as a member of the Litigation group. She is experienced in commercial civil litigation and investigations, including securities, construction, employment, business litigation, and white collar criminal defense. Before joining Hinckley Allen, Janelle clerked for the Honorable Mae D’Agostino in the Northern District of New York, where she assisted in all stages of civil and criminal cases.

Here, she tells us about what drew her to litigation, what she loves most about her work, and who her female role models are both in and outside of the office.

HA: Tell us about how you came into litigation.

JM: What drew me to litigation is the fact that we are storytellers. As litigators, it is our job to figure out what the facts are, and paint a picture to the judge or jury that tells a persuasive story. My practice consists of a wide variety of litigation: from general commercial civil litigation, to internal and government investigations, and white-collar criminal defense. I also do a fair amount of labor and employment work with Lisa Zaccardelli out of the Hartford office. I really enjoy the variety of working with all different lawyers and practice areas within the litigation group.

Being a litigator has taught me a lot. At times, we’re investigators. We have to research the underlying facts and law. But at our core, litigators are advocates – it is our job to take the facts and eloquently, persuasively, and succinctly turn it into a defense or case.

HA: Can you share any details about one of the most interesting cases you’ve worked on?

JM: I’m currently working on a Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower case with a large team of partners and associates out of the Boston and Albany offices, including Michael Connolly, Chris Fenlon, and Jim Tuxbury. We represent the plaintiff, who was terminated from his position at a large energy company in retaliation for his whistleblowing about securities laws violations. The case has several defendants and a lot of moving parts. It is also a part of what is known as a “multidistrict litigation” (MDL) based in the Southern District of New York, which refers to a special federal legal procedure that is designed to speed the process of handling complex cases. The case is exciting because this is a big company with a lot of players, and our work has required a lot of fact-finding and investigating. Also, it combines employment law and securities law issues, which are two areas of the law that I am particularly interested in.

HA: Can you tell us about some of your female role models?

JM: My grandmother has been a huge role model my whole life. She came to America from Italy as a young woman with my grandfather. When my grandfather had a disabling accident and was no longer able to work, my grandmother raised four kids by day and worked in a factory by night. She still wakes up at 4 A.M. every morning, makes the most delicious homemade Italian food, and takes care of my grandfather. She taught me the value of hard work and being a strong woman.

One of my professional role models is Judge D’Agostino, a U.S. District Judge here in the Northern District of New York. She was formerly a medical malpractice litigator, and she really was a pioneer for women in the legal industry in upstate New York. I worked for her for a year when I moved upstate. Clerking for Judge D’Agostino was an amazing experience. Judge D’Agostino works incredibly hard and she’s extremely smart. As a judge, she knows exactly how to run the courtroom—I really admire her for that.

Here at Hinckley Allen, Lisa Zaccardelli is someone I really look up to. She is driven and focused, and a pretty impressive litigator. I’ve learned a lot from being on client calls and in meetings with Lisa.

HA: What are your thoughts on how law firms can empower female attorneys, both personally and professionally?

JM: I think the legal world as a whole has a problem with retaining female talent, and so much of that comes down to a lack of flexibility. The COVID-19 pandemic has proven that as lawyers, we are able to work remotely, make our own hours, and still be successful. Both male and female lawyers can appreciate a firm that understands that work is a big deal but isn’t necessarily your entire life. I think Hinckley Allen has been a shining example of a firm getting this right during the pandemic.

As someone who recently went through the hiring process, it was important to me to feel that I could stay in the same place for a very long time and—that I would be given professional opportunities to grow. It was wonderful for me to see so many women thriving at Hinckley Allen, and I think that’s because the firm supports us having families and lives outside of the office. I had the opportunity to interview with a number of women at the firm, and it was immediately clear to me that this would be a great place for me.

Since practicing here, that has all rung true – this firm prioritizes both work and life outside of work. It gives me the opportunity to do everything I want – to work hard but still have time to enjoy the beautiful Adirondacks where I live, by skiing, hiking, and even just sipping a locally-brewed craft beer.