“Landowners in eminent domain cases are always at a disadvantage. They don’t want to sell their property, they don’t want to be sued, they don’t want to be forced into the situation they find themselves in, but they have to deal with it anyway. What really drives me is being able to help take away some of the sting the landowner feels in a condemnation case by being able to protect their rights and ensure them just compensation. My whole life, I have always liked helping the underdog. It’s part of the way God made me and I’m just glad that blessing can be used to help protect landowners from infringements on their property rights,” says Jody Sodd McSpadden, partner with Dawson & Sodd LLP.
McSpadden has represented landowners in numerous condemnation proceedings, including complex takings for the Dallas Cowboys football stadium, water rights takings, pipelines, powerlines, roadways, and takings of convenience stores, restaurants and gas compressor sites.
All in the Balance
“Our firm is a family-focused business. My father and my brother are partners and my other three partners are like brothers to me. We try to create that atmosphere where we’re able to represent our clients successfully, have fun together and maintain a balance in our family life. We try to put an emphasis on keeping things balanced because we’re most successful at work and home when we’re balanced.”
McSpadden credits her father, partner Glenn Sodd, for providing invaluable knowledge and inspiration. “Being able to practice law with him has made representing landowners and protecting property rights even more rewarding and has also made me successful as an attorney and a parent,” she says.
McSpadden says leading a successful business career while maintaining an equally positive home life is all about priorities and balance. Juggling home and work can be a barrier for women who want to be trial attorneys, but who struggle with the balance of a busy career and raising a family.
“But it can be done,” she says. “Surrounding yourself with positive female role models, being diligent about the way you use your time and being focused on working hard are all key aspects to making it work.”
Success in Hard Work
“My basic philosophy is that what sets us apart from other attorneys is our preparation, hard work and desire to protect every single client’s property rights, regardless of how difficult and complex the case may be,” she says. “No case is without issues – the more complex the case is, the more fun it is to dig in and try to find a solution that helps the landowner. I try to put in as much preparation on the front end of a case as possible because the majority of the time, success is achieved by outworking your opponent. When you turn over every stone, that’s when you find those special little nuggets of information that many people will miss and you can turn that into something that’s huge on a unique legal principle or unique valuation principle. That’s when you truly feel rewarded and are able to represent your clients in a way that sets you apart from other firms. My ongoing question in a case is, ‘Have I done everything I can do to make sure this client is covered?’ And I don’t stop until I’m certain the answer to that question is yes.”
Outside the Courtroom
Jody Sodd McSpadden was selected to the Texas Rising Star list from 2005 to 2007 and for 2014 and 2015. She is a member of the Navarro County Bar Association, Dallas Bar Association, Dallas Women Lawyers Association, Texas Trial Lawyers Association, and State Bar of Texas. McSpadden was appointed by the mayor of Corsicana to the city of Corsicana’s Planning and Zoning Board, where she served for several years before resigning her position. She has also served as co-chairperson of the Navarro County Youth Exposition.
“Being community oriented and helping others is something both of my parents taught me and it’s something I want to pass on to my children as well,” says McSpadden.
She married Chris McSpadden in 1998 and she says he’s the backbone of her ability to maintain a busy law firm practice while also having quality family time. The couple and their four children – Will, Annie, Jake and Luke – enjoy spending time together at their ranch, The Refuge, where among other chores they manage a whitetail deer operation and raise beef cattle. When McSpadden needs a day off she enjoys helping Chris at their ranch and, most of all, being on a tractor with headphones in her ears and no worries but being sure she mows the places where Chris tells her to mow.
Blessed With a Drive
Working for landowners is something McSpadden has loved from the moment she began representing property owners in condemnation cases. “It’s a challenge every day. It’s something new every day. And every day, I’m putting my time and effort into helping folks who have been put into a nightmare of a situation. Knowing I’ve been able to use my skills to advocate for these people is something I can never be thankful enough for.”
Maintaining the proper balance between personal and professional life can be a challenge, but it is a challenge Jody Sodd McSpadden embraces. She says, “It’s often stressful, but I thrive in that stress. I really enjoy it. I try to take care of folks. I think God has blessed me with a specific drive and I enjoy being able to put it to good use,” she says.