“I pride myself on not judging people based on their mistakes, and on having client-focused representations. Attorneys are licensed as attorneys and counselors at law. I take both parts seriously,” says Holly Gieszl, founder of The Gieszl Firm in Phoenix.
The firm’s practice areas are criminal defense, often but not always, cases involving mental health, competency and other medical issues; administrative law with a focus on health professionals and regulatory issues affecting health care entities; and civil rights cases involving prisoner and jail inmate health issues.
Gieszl credits much of her non-judgmental approach to experiences in her family life. “Perhaps part of this approach comes from being a mother with responsibility for children across their lifetime, which inevitably involves good and bad times. Whatever its origin, respectful representation is the hallmark of my approach with criminal clients. This generally means frequent jail or prison visits and legal calls and keeping the client informed every step of the way,” she says.
Prior to becoming an attorney, she worked as a health care executive for 10 years, an experience that eventually directed her interests toward her current career path. Gieszl says, “I saw the health sector become one of the most regulated and litigious in the global economy. Practicing law seemed to fl ow naturally and somewhat seamlessly from my years in health care administration.”
That experience allows Gieszl to couple a client-focused philosophy with practical industry experience and knowledge. Her experience in the trenches in health care helps her be much more effective when representing health care entities and professionals. She knows the industry and understands how legal problems develop, fester and mushroom, and how to prevent them. Gieszl knows how to work within that industry and the expansive state and federal regulatory framework to efficiently find effective solutions.
She finds the interaction with her clients the most rewarding element of being an attorney. While she came from a corporate background, once she began the practice of law, her focus was immediately on people, not large companies. “Earlier this year, I was co-counsel for a physician accused by nine female patients of sexual misconduct,” Gieszl says. “After a six-week trial, he was acquitted on all charges. That kind of experience is why I have on my desk a quote from Proverbs 18:17: ‘The first to present his case seems right, until another comes forward and examines him.’”
Her loyalty to her clients has been reciprocated. One of the first clients on the administrative law side of her practice is a valued client after 20 years. She represents physician practices that she initially represented more than a decade ago.
At home she spent years as a sports mom cheering on four kids in multiple sports. “If it involved kicking, hitting, throwing, or shooting a ball, my kids did it – plus running and swimming and skiing. Today, we have a Navy SEAL officer, a tech company executive, a soon-to-be social worker, and an epidemiologist. My husband and I remain involved in our kids’ lives, although they are spread across the country,” she says. She and her family also enjoy art and travel.
A few years ago, Gieszl became a member of the Maricopa Human Rights Committee, which is created by statute to advise the Arizona Department of Health Services. “Our society faces an enormous challenge to destigmatize mental illness and reduce the burden it creates on our justice system and our economy,” she says. She also teaches for the International Law Institute, most recently at the African Centre for Legal Excellence, in Kampala, Uganda.
Owning her own firm gives Gieszl the flexibility to devote time to serving her family, her community and her clients. “I value and respect my relationship with clients, and it shows in the representation that I provide,” she says. “Many of my clients face potentially devastating personal or professional problems – from criminal charges to potential loss of a professional license or financial ruin. To be able to help clients overcome or mitigate their problems is a source of great fulfillment.”