Attorney at Law Magazine Phoenix spoke with Jennifer Griesemer Gadow about her time on the University of California at Berkeley gymnastics team for the Athletes in Law 2020 issue.
Today, she focuses exclusively on family law matters as one of two partners at Fromm Smith & Gadow P.C. She has worked with the same firm for her entire 24 year career.
AALM: Tell us about some individual and team highlights or awards from your years in gymnastics.
JGG: I competed all four years of college. I was a beam specialist and was generally placed first in the line up to generate a solid start on a nerve-racking event. I enjoyed the performance of floor the most. As a team, Cal began to rise in the national rankings while I was there and now Cal is one of the top 10 gymnastics programs in the country.
I was named a NACGC Scholastic All-American in 1991.
AALM: What lessons did you learn from gymnastics that you apply to your practice today?
JGG: A theme in gymnastics is that all of the hard work goes into practice and the meet is simply the fun part. This applies in my practice as the all of the preparation and background work is the hard part and mediating or litigating a resolution is the fun part.
AALM: What are some of the most important lessons your coach taught you?
JGG: As a gymnast you are taught to be very tough and strong but look graceful. In family law, the same applies. You must be tough and strong to advocate for your clients but at the same time provide compassion to the parties and professionalism and kindness to all involved due to the unique nature of family law.
AALM: What are three reasons you like being part of a team sport? What are three reasons you like being an attorney?
JGG: College gymnastics is unique in that it is a team sport, but each participant competes individually. It is an incredible blend of being an individual athlete who is “on your own” when you are on the competition floor but at the same time, a part of a team that needs support and cohesiveness. This is exactly the same as being in a law firm. I am an individual attorney who is responsible for a case. But I am a part of a larger firm that need support and cohesiveness.
AALM: Relate competing in gymnastics to competing as a lawyer?
JGG: In law, I receive the same rush of adrenaline prior to a hearing as I did prior to competition. I always enjoyed performing in front of people and I receive the same enjoyment in speaking in a courtroom or at a seminar.
AALM: Who do you wish was watching you perform at every game or match?
JGG: My parents traveled to several of my college meets to watch me perform. It meant the world to me to have their support. As a young lawyer, my father would also come to watch me in the courtroom. He was as proud then as he was when I competed in gymnastics.
AALM: What did you do to calm your butterflies before a meet? What do you do to calm butterflies before trial?
JGG: As a young gymnast competing in the Junior Olympics, I had the opportunity work with sports psychologists. They helped me understand that the butterfly feeling in my stomach prior to a meet was not nerves, but in fact, the desire to show off all of the hard work I put into the gym before competition. I use those same techniques prior to going into court or mediation. That butterfly feeling is not nervousness, it is excitement for what is to come.
AALM: Do you think attitude was a factor in winning in a sport as much as it is in practicing law?
JGG: Gymnastics is known as 90% mental and 10% physical. As a family law attorney, the percentages are reversed. 10% of the practice of law is the “book knowledge” while 90% is the way you treat others and the compassion you show for what people are going through.
AALM: How did competing at the NCAA level in athletics make you a better attorney?
JGG: College gymnastics taught me time management, organization, and how to focus on what is important. I had to juggle the academic challenges of Berkeley along with daily training and weekly travel for competitions during season. All of these lessons have made me a better attorney. I remain organized and able to juggle several things at once while focusing on what is truly important.
Other Sports She Played: None, I found my passion in gymnastics
Food She Ate before a Big Competition: Pasta with the team, gummy bears and yogurt-covered raisins
How She Celebrated After a Meet: Eat frozen yogurt!