Madison solo stays focused on Goliaths

POSTED: Friday, November 29th, 2013 at 9:18 am

BY: Mary Beth Matzek


Photo of Attorney Amy F. Scarr

Amy Scarr (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

Amy Scarr’s need for justice dates back to childhood.

“It may have been growing up in the South and witnessing racial discrimination or experiencing it myself as one of the few Jewish people where we lived,” said Scarr, who now spends her days fighting for people who have faced discrimination, harassment or abuse by government officials or have been injured through the negligent conduct of others. “My parents really instilled in me the values of justice.”

The owner of Amy F. Scarr SC, a solo practice in downtown Madison, said she relishes the opportunity to represent the Davids against the Goliaths of the world.

“I really have a strong dislike of the abuse of authority whether it’s by a person in government or an employer to an employee,” Scarr said. “I feel compelled to help the person affected get justice.”

Discrimination and harassment cases can be challenging to prove, she said.

“Whoever is facing the suit, whether it’s an employer or an official of some sort, tends to be on the defensive,” Scarr said, “so I need to work really hard to gather all the evidence and show them we have a good case.”

Most cases settle before reaching trial, she said, but the pre-trial discovery phrase is essential to gather information and show the other side “the strength of your case.”

She relies on her clients to help build each case.

“They are the ones with the information and they might not always understand how that information can help them or the importance of the information they may have,” Scarr said. “I go over and over the case again to make sure I have what I need to make a compelling case.”

In her 20-plus years of practicing law, Scarr has successfully taken on and won cases against corporations, insurance companies and government agencies.

“I just don’t give up,” she said. “I want what’s best for my clients and work hard for them so they can receive the justice they deserve.”

Wisconsin Law Journal: What advice would you give a lawyer just starting out?
Amy Scarr: For someone in a solo practice, believe in yourself. You have to get up every day and know you can do it. I guess that would apply to all lawyers since law is a challenging profession. You need to be attentive to detail, but also see the big picture.

WLJ: As a solo practitioner, who do you bounce ideas off of?
Scarr: Attorneys are very generous with their time and helping out others looking for advice. There’s a great camaraderie among the plaintiffs’ bar and I’m not afraid to pick up the phone and call another attorney, and I hope they feel the same about me.

WLJ: What was the last book you read?
Scarr: ‘The Elegance of the Hedgehog’ by Muriel Barbery. It was an excellent book.

WLJ: Is there an app you can live without?
Scarr: All of them. I don’t have a smartphone yet. I am trying to hold out as long as possible.

WLJ: What activity could you spend hours doing outside of work?
Scarr: The No. 1 activity is golf. I love golf and am a real student of the game. I also enjoy playing Texas Hold’em Poker.

WLJ: Do you play any instruments?
Scarr: I recently took up the trumpet again. I played it in middle school and then last May I bought one. I’ve been practicing every day since and am really enjoying it.

WLJ: If you could live anywhere, would it be?
Scarr: Right here in Madison.