As a trial lawyer with Jones Day, Stephanie Parker ’84 defends clients in high-stakes product liability and mass tort cases while co-leading the firm’s business and tort litigation practice group. Her skill and professionalism have attracted national media attention. Law360 profiled her as one of the nation’s top 15 female trial attorneys in 2012 and designated her a “product liability MVP” for the past four years.
Parker was honored as the law school’s 2016 Distinguished Alumna both for her stellar legal career and her stalwart support of VLS. She established the Ethel and Cecil Roberts Scholarship in honor of her grandparents in 2005 and led the VLS Board of Advisors from 2013 to 2015, encouraging alumni support and participation with the same formidable work ethic that has made her a top litigator. “I wanted to give back to the law school, which has given so much to me,” Parker said. “I received a wonderful education at Vanderbilt and was very prepared for my career.”
She also has sought to make women alumni leaders more visible and increase their giving. “Working with Stephanie is a pleasure,” Dean Chris Guthrie said. “She’s incredibly well-organized, extremely smart and very gracious.”
Parker has spent most of her legal career at Jones Day’s Atlanta office, which she joined after a two-year clerkship with Judge Wilbur D. Owens on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. A Georgia native, she earned her undergraduate degree in philosophy at Wesleyan College. At Vanderbilt, she developed a taste for trial work in her Trial Advocacy class and thrived in Moot Court. Her clerkship, she recalls, helped her understand the importance of storytelling skills and allowed her to observe how the best lawyers zeroed in on the issues they knew would resonate with the jury.
Parker wins over juries with a natural credibility and a gift for connecting with listeners. She looks for the human story at the center of every case. Former colleague Robert Klonoff, dean of Lewis & Clark Law School from 2007 to 2014, cites her “great ability to relate to people at all levels, which is part of her magic in connecting with juries.”
This magic has garnered Parker significant wins in cases ranging from a toxic tort suit against Georgia-Pacific Corp. over dioxin contamination to wrongful death suits against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. She leads the litigation for Reynolds Tobacco’s so-called “Engle progeny” cases in Florida, which involve more than 9,000 plaintiffs. By the end of 2015, Reynolds had closed out most of the 4,500 federal cases in this group. In one case, a wrongful death suit, she netted her client a crucial win at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
What Parker likes most about being a litigator is working with people, and she credits her success at trial in part to how much she enjoys the work. “If you don’t love what you’re doing, you’re not going to be as good at it,” she said.
This passion for legal work is something she shares with her husband, James C. Nobles Jr. ’83. At the Founders Circle Dinner in April, Parker recalled how they met as law students. “On our first date, we went to lunch at the Overcup Oak and talked about torts,” she said. “In law school, I had great opportunities, such as Moot Court, but I had to step forward and take the initiative. Young lawyers need to be smart and focused in terms of seeking out opportunities and assignments at their firms, and we need to make sure Vanderbilt students are well-prepared to do that.”