Magazine Feature / People

Alumna’s legal career is full of firsts

When Sheila Hollis (JD ’73) was 6 she tagged along with her mom as she traveled around Denver buying and selling real estate.

Evidently little Hollis paid close attention to all the wheeling and dealing because it wasn’t long before she began regurgitating the lingo.

“Adults actually called me the ‘little lawyer,’” she says with a hearty laugh.

A career cemented before second grade.

Today Hollis is one of the country’s top energy attorneys in Washington, D.C., at Duane Morris LLP, one of the largest law firms in the U.S.

The trail behind her 34-year legal career is covered with awards, honors and firsts. She was the first woman to serve as president of the Energy Bar Association. She’s been named one of the 50 Key Women in Energy worldwide. She’s the first director and founder of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Enforcement. And she’s the first woman to serve on her firm’s executive committee. Plus, she founded the firm’s Washington, D.C., office and its energy practice.

Even George W. Bush owes her a debt of gratitude. Hollis recently successfully represented the District of Columbia in a key electric reliability case that literally kept the lights on in the White House.

“That was definitely one of my most gratifying cases,” Hollis says.

So what’s next? Hollis has just been tapped as chair of the board of editors for the American Bar Association’s journal, a publication that goes to 475,000 legal readers. She says she plans to spend more time on homeland security and infrastructure issues.

She says her fondest memory of DU was her first day of law school. “It was so exciting and thrilling to be at a school I admired,” she says.

When asked what advice she has for current Pioneers, she hesitates for about five seconds, then speaks:

“Don’t be afraid to think big, do great on your first job assignment, don’t be whiny — suck it up do what needs to be done. Oh, and drive carefully, show up on time and keep a good sense of humor.”


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