Jerry Clements is described as "the real deal" - one of the only women running a top 100 law firm in the United States. 2

Jerry Clements is described as “the real deal” – one of the only women running a top 100 law firm in the United States.

Jerry Clements has been running the show at Locke Lord since spearheading the merger of Texas-based Locke Liddell & Sapp with century-old, Chicago-based Lord Bissell & Brook. The complicated deal, which included 10 domestic offices and one in London, was completed last October, with the firm’s nerve center in the Chase Tower

There are days when I wake up and wonder if I am dreaming,” says the 54-year-old Ms. Clements, who keeps offices in Dallas and Austin but travels constantly to the other posts. Colleagues, friends and even courtroom competitors say there’s no delusion. She’s the real deal.

“She’s amazing,” says Carl Leonard, director of the Hildebrandt Institute in California, who coaches law firm execs across the country and counts her as one of only four women at the helm of a top 100 law firm. “She’s so high-energy. The one thing I counsel her on is that this sometimes gets her in trouble because people around her can’t keep up with her.”

What does Ms. Clements think is her key to success?

She plays nice, but with a competitive edge.

“It’s always a challenge for any woman in a high-level management position to walk that fine line between being considered bitchy and being considered tough in a good way,” Ms. Clements says. “Along the way, I’ve tried to be somebody who communicated well with people and kept in touch … not only with our lawyers, but with our staff.”

Ms. Clements is a consensus builder. Ironically, the toughest sticking point in the merger was the name.

She wanted to keep it clean and simple: Locke Lord.

But the Chicagoans felt if Locke got first billing, they deserved two names. Then the folks in Houston felt Liddell was being slighted.

Happily, she says, the issue with name is becoming moot.

“Most people call us Locke Lord,” she says. “Frankly, no one can remember all of it on a good day. And after a glass of wine, forget about it.”

Now that the team is in place, Ms. Clements is intent on extending the firm’s global reach.

“We’ve got international clients,” she says. “We’ve got to meet their needs. Every partner here understands this.”

It was Ms. Clements’ plans that drew former White House counsel Harriet Miers back to for Locke Lord following her ill-fated Supreme Court justice nomination.

“Jerry shared with me the plan for the combination, and I thought it was a very constructive step,” says Ms. Miers, who now splits her litigation practice between Dallas and Washington, D.C.

Ms. Clements, a Fort Worth native, is a female version of a metrosexual: a former Miss Majorette of Texas, an avid 16-handicap golfer and a masterful blackjack player. She’s equally happy bowling (with a respectable 148 average) or getting pampered at the spa; she’s an aficionado of California reds who loves Coors Light. Stilton blue for dessert is her idea of a slice of heaven.

She somehow manages family, work and friendship.

In 1995, she married another lawyer, Mark Clements, who is retired from his own law firm.

He and his four children (now grown) proposed en masse at the Outback Steak House in Addison.

“I get there and he’s there with all the kids, and he asks, ‘Will you marry us?’ ”

Ms. Clements has a special group of five girlfriends who spend long weekends celebrating significant birthdays together at such locations as Las Vegas, Napa Valley and Cabo San Lucas.

For Ms. Clements’ 50th, they went to New York, where one outing was a predawn, subzero trek to Rockefeller Plaza. They presented her with a baton, held up silly signs and ordered her to start twirling for the Today show cameras. She readily obliged.

“There’s nothing shy about us,” says Susan Soussan, a mediator and former judge in Houston. “Everyone’s a lawyer, and we’re all super busy. But absolutely nothing stands in the way of our weekends.”

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