Author assisting state law firms

By John O'Brien | Nov 22, 2006

Copeland CHARLESTON - Sure, Deb Copeland has been described as a "dynamic speaker," but that's not the only reason she's made a name for herself among the state's law firms.

Copeland

CHARLESTON - Sure, Deb Copeland has been described as a "dynamic speaker," but that's not the only reason she's made a name for herself among the state's law firms.

All it takes is a quick look at one of her client's desks to see that.

"I get people going in the right direction, whether it be to work with teams of people or practices in law firms," says Copeland, a Charleston native, author of "Attitude Therapy" and accomplished businesswoman. "I teach them to go in and organize their desk for more successful practices. A person can be overwhelmed with all the work taken on by a young lawyer, and they need the organizational system to manage time effectively.

"Doing those time management things helps ward off stress."

And it's much more than just tidying up. Copeland also helps recent graduates exhibit a more professional demeanor and coaches witnesses on proper etiquette on the stand.

When attorney Anita Casey and some of her partners wanted to split from their firm in Pittsburgh to create their own in Morgantown and Charleston, she called Copeland to help with the transition.

Casey insists that Copeland was an essential part in forming MacCorkle, Lavender, Casey and Sweeney seven years ago.

"We are now 20 lawyers strong and doing very well in our practice," she said. "Over the years, we have continued to use Deb, on a periodic basis, to help us train and organize new staff members and attorneys."

Copeland already knew something about started a business. She created Work Smart Business Consultants in the early 1980s and says it "grew from a temp service with one employee to about 4,000 temps." The company has employees in seven states.

Along the way, she was named the state's Entrepreneur of the Year in 1992 by the Institute of American Entrepreneurs and was featured in the State Journal's 1995 "Who's Who in West Virginia Business."

So when Casey and her partners needed to build from the ground up, they knew whom to contact.

"Deb's assistance has been wonderful," she said. "She has an ability to approach everything in a positive way.

"Her energy and enthusiasm are contagious."

And those are reasons that she also maintains her status as a top-notch public speaker. She recently spoke to the state's largest firm, Jackson Kelly, in a firm-wide meeting.

Al Emch, the Chief Executive Officer at Jackson Kelly, said that listeners can learn a lot from her.

"Deb Copeland is a dynamic speaker. She offers a fresh perspective on how a person's attitude affects the way they relate to others," Emch said. "Her personal experiences demonstrate how important it is to maintain a good attitude, and offered valuable insights into how to do that."

Copeland isn't shy about sharing her personal experiences. In fact, it is through those that she learned much of what she preaches.

Her father left her family when she was young and became her mother's primary caretaker during her illness. Copeland, herself, has battled Lupus, strokes and a brain tumor.

The "Attitude Therapy" she writes about details how to handle setbacks. The book was recently released, and Copeland says she has held or will hold book signings in places like Hilton Head, S.C., Savannah, Ga., and New York.

"I had written the book along the way for probably 12 years to use as a textbook for my courses," Copeland said. "I had 400 pages and I was trying to get in the course outline, then I became ill. During the time I was ill, I started writing the course outline and adding personal tragedy in it.

"Each chapter is made up of my teaching and then an exercise to promote change in behavior to help people with everything that was taught in the story."

And she has had positive results when it's been applied to the legal world. She tells witnesses how to dress and speak with the different people in the courtroom.

She even teaches new lawyers how to act during a business lunch.

"It's one of those things where your lunch manners equal your business manners," she said. "It all goes hand-in-hand.

"Many times (the firms) will conduct an interview over lunch to see how sophisticated they are and how they will be able to handle the bigger clients."

She likened it to a class.

"If you want to get an 'A' in science class, then you have to study, do the classwork, do the homework and then come back and take the exam.

"In life, first you show up and mentally prepare, then you make the changes the employer wants you to make."

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