By ALAN J. ORTBALS
Jennifer Miller-Louw had not planned to be an attorney. Born and raised in Scott City, Mo., she was a senior in the pre-med program at Saint Louis University when she attended a lecture with a friend who was in pre-law. What she heard caused her to change course.
The speaker was an attorney who specialized in medical malpractice law. Miller-Louw had worked in hospitals throughout her undergraduate career at SLU and the thought of combining her medical knowledge with a study of the law intrigued her.
After graduating from SLU, she entered law school at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
“I think SIUC provides such a practical legal education and they also produce great litigators,” Miller-Louw said.
And SIUC has a focus on health law, which was Miller-Louw’s primary interest. While there she worked on the university’s Journal of Legal Medicine which has a national reputation in the area of health law. The Journal is a joint effort between the school of law and the school of medicine.
While at SIUC Miller-Louw had the opportunity to intern with the law firm of Sandberg Phoenix & Von Gontard and was offered a job upon graduation. While she also handles other types of business litigation, her primary focus is on health law and defending health-care providers against medical malpractice claims. She said she believes her medical background gives her an advantage in understanding the complex world of modern-day medicine and the types of problems and issues that providers deal with. She has clients as far north as Springfield, Ill., as well as in Missouri.
Miller-Louw said that she enjoys practicing law at SPvG’s Carbondale office because it combines the benefits of being in a small office with the advantages of working for a large firm.
“Sandberg Phoenix provides for the advancement of their attorneys,” Miller-Louw said. “They’ve never turned me down when I’ve asked for something that I’ve needed to advance my legal career, whether it’s legal education, support or opportunities to get great experience early. For example, I second chaired a medical malpractice trial during my first year of practice and that helped me tremendously for working up my own cases down the line.”
Another thing that helped, she said, was being able to learn from her colleagues. When she transferred to SPvG’s Carbondale office, all the attorneys in that office were women. That gave her the opportunity, she said, to learn from other successful women attorneys, including how they try to provide a balance between their families and delivering top-notch client service.
She also met her husband at SIUC and they share an interest in fitness and exercise.
“In a busy profession it’s often the first thing that goes,” Miller-Louw said. “But, we make it a priority. It’s part of our life; it helps with stress, and it gives us energy for our professions and to chase our 3-year-old son!”