First Prize Winner
Donna Ballman is the award-winning author of The Writer's Guide to the Courtroom: Let's Quill All the Lawyers, a book geared toward informing novelists and screenwriters about the ins and outs of the civil justice system. Her new book, Stand Up For Yourself Without Getting Fired: Resolve Workplace Crises Before You Quit, Get Axed or Sue the Bastards, is available in your local bookstore, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kindle and Nook. She's been practicing employment law, including negotiating severance agreements and litigating discrimination, sexual harassment, noncompete agreements, and employment law issues in Florida since 1986. Her blog on employee-side employment law issues, Screw You Guys, I'm Going Home, was named one of the 2011 ABA Blawg 100 and the 2011 Lexis/Nexis Top 25 Labor and Employment Law Blogs.
She writes for AOL Jobs and The Huffington Post on employment law issues, and has been an invited guest blogger for Monster.com and Ask A Manager. She has over 5000 followers on Twitter as @EmployeeAtty. She has taught continuing legal education classes for lawyers and accountants through organizations such as the National Employment Lawyers Association, Sterling Education Services, Lorman Education Services, Alison Seminars, the Florida Association for Women Lawyers, and community organizations.
Ms. Ballman has published articles on employment law topics such as severance, non-compete agreements, discrimination, sexual harassment, and avoiding litigation. She's been interviewed by MSNBC, the Wall Street Journal, Lifetime Television Network, the Daily Business Review, and many other media outlets on employment law issues. She was featured on the Forbes Channel's "America's Most Influential Women" program on the topic of severance negotiations and non-compete agreements.
Donna worked for two law firms before founding her own employment law practice, Donna M. Ballman, P.A., where she's practiced since 1990.
Over the years, her cases have been anything but dull. The then-mayor of Miami once accused her of trying to turn Jose Marti Park into Martin Luther King Park after she forced them to elect their commission members using districts so they would have black representation. She once set a drug dealer's wife's deposition back to back with his mistress's in order to collect on a big judgment. He called the client begging them to call her off.
She once sued a mobster for sexual harassment. The client swears her husband got the Gambino family's permission before they filed the lawsuit, but Donna has no way to verify this.
Donna met her husband in politics, and became involved by volunteering to do election law. During the 1992 presidential election, she had an offer to work on one campaign. But the chair of the Dade County Democratic Party told her she had to meet Bill Clinton when he came in town, if for no other reason than that Clinton's wife went to Wellesley. When Donna met then-Governor Clinton, she turned to her husband and told him they'd just met the next President.
Donna represented Bill Clinton as his Florida General Counsel for his first presidential campaign. When he was sued personally, she defended him, although she says the case lasted about ten minutes. During the campaign, she got to spend a day riding around with Hillary Clinton. She introduced Hillary to Marjory Stoneman Douglas (also a Wellesley alum), and was present when Hillary met Janet Reno.
Her husband and she spent two nights at the White House when Marjory Stoneman Douglas received the Medal of Freedom. Donna had to help coordinate Marjory's trip there and back. While there she also got to sit with Marjory and watch the signing of the Brady Bill and talk to 101-year-old Marjory about bees.
Having the attitude that, if you have a minute with the most powerful man in the world, you ought to ask him for something, Donna convinced then-President Clinton to free the children that were in Guantanamo when it was being used as an immigration holding facility, after Lizbet Martinez, the little girl with the violin, brought the issue to the public eye. Donna knew the President was releasing them when she got a letter telling her so. He apparently hadn't told the State Department yet, so they were a bit surprised.
She has been named one of The Lawdragon 500 Leading Plaintiffs' Lawyers in America, 2007; was named in 2000 as a member of Leading Florida Attorneys, voted on by members of the Florida Bar; has been named a Top South Florida Attorney in 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 by South Florida Legal Guide; and is listed in Who's Who in American Law. Her husband and she were named one of "Fort Lauderdale's Finest Couples" by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for their work in the community. Ms. Ballman has been featured on Sky Radio Network on the Forbes "America's Most Influential Women" program, Lifetime Television Network's 1996 special, "Full Disclosure: Sexual Harassment," and Bulgarian TV Co-Op's program: "Women in America: Atlanta/Miami." She's been interviewed about her cases and as an expert on legal issues by numerous media, ranging from radio and television news to newspapers including the Wall Street Journal.
She has taught numerous seminars for legal and community organizations. She also has served on the Editorial Advisory Board for James Publishing, a legal publishing company.
Donna entered Wellesley College already planning to become a lawyer. She flew through in three and a half years, majoring in political science and philosophy and graduating with honors. She volunteered at Wellesley's radio station, WZLY, serving as a disk jockey and hosting a program titled, Let's Change the World where she interviewed representatives of all the major and minor presidential candidates. She figures she's probably still on an FBI watch list somewhere as a result of interviewing communists, socialists, independents and libertarians, along with the traditional parties.
Donna also served as co-president of the Law Club and sang in the Wellesley College Choir. She once sang at a concert at a Boston Pops concert with a Japanese chorus.
Between college and law school, Donna was inspired by the worst boss on the planet to write her first novel, a murder mystery. While it was utter drek, she knocked the boss off in the book instead of real life, thus saving herself years of imprisonment.
Donna moved to South Florida a week after she graduated college, purely for the weather. She never intended to stay, but got hooked on the climate and general wackiness. She took two years off between college and law school so that she could relieve her parents of the financial burden. Unfortunately, she couldn't apply to the University of Miami because they only accepted LSAT scores that were one year or less old. Donna had done so well her first try on the test, she refused to retake it. So when the new Dean of the University of Miami came to visit the firm where she was serving as a paralegal/librarian, the lawyers rushed him to see her.
When she explained to Dean Sowle that she wasn't allowed to apply, he asked where she'd gone to college and how she'd scored on her LSAT. Then he answered, "I'll tell you what. My wife went to Wellesley. She'd kill me if I didn't help. I'll put a letter in your file. You go ahead and apply and I'll make sure they accept your scores."
She not only got in, but received substantial scholarships. Dean Sowle's wife was Donna's first year torts professor. She told Donna that, if she saw a successful woman, there was about a 50/50 chance the woman had gone to a Seven Sister college. Donna has found that observation to hold true even today.
During law school, Donna served on the Editorial Board of the Entertainment and Sports Law Journal, and also served and wrote for the University of Miami Law Review. She hosted and produced a radio show called Law Beat and a television show called Legalvision. Among others, she interviewed Gus Boulis, who subsequently became a notorious murder victim. She continued to work as a paralegal and then a law clerk in order to put herself through law school.
Donna named her two daughters after powerful women - Madeline, 13, after Madeleine Albright and Amelia, 10, named after Amelia Earhart. She lives in Fort Lauderdale in horse country with her husband Ben, shih tzu Frankie, and cat Dean-O. Her husband made her stop flying planes and hot air balloons, scuba diving, and ballroom dancing after she became pregnant the first time, but she vows to never be a dull mom.