Marguerite S. Willis is a South Carolina Life Fellow and Co-Chair of Nexsen Pruet’s Antitrust and Unfair Competition practice. Ms. Willis joined the Fellows of the American Bar Foundation in April 2014.
What does being a Fellow mean to you?
Being a Fellow, in addition to a great honor, means two things to me. First, it is recognition that, over a career spanning some 40 years, I have achieved a modicum of success. Second, and more importantly, it means I have “miles to go before I sleep.” In other words, being a Fellow reminds me that I must continue my efforts to improve the condition of women in the practice of law.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in law, and if you hadn’t pursued a career in law, what would you have done?
In college, I was an English major and I intended to pursue a career in teaching literature, possibly on the college level. But in 1971, when I graduated from the University of Michigan, it was difficult to get into graduate English programs and the path to law school was beginning to “open up” for women. For many years, through two federal clerkships and partnership in a major law firm in Washington, D.C., I wrestled with the idea that I should return to graduate school. If I had not ultimately decided to “bloom where I was planted,” and continue to practice law, I would have been a professor of English literature.
What do you do in your free time?
I have relatively little free time, at least during the week since I commute, by car, almost three hours a day to my office in Columbia, South Carolina. When I have time, I am involved with programs that advance the social and economic condition of women. For example, over the years, I have spoken regularly on the topic of “women and financial independence.” I have made it my “extracurricular work” to improve the status of women and girls in South Carolina.
Anything else you’d like to share with us?
I would add just one additional fact. This past spring, I ran for the Democratic nomination for Governor. I crossed the state, visiting every county, hoping to spread the message of equal rights, equal pay and equal justice for all. As the months passed, my message simplified itself into one phrase: “love your neighbor.” Although I did not win, I came away more hopeful than disheartened. While we have problems here in South Carolina, as well as across this nation, many are small and can be” fixed” with just a little help from the government . . . or a neighbor.