University of Denver

IAALS Advances Justice with Duane Morris LLP’s Sheila Hollis

Founding Executive Director

IAALS simply would not be what it is without the support of our partners and friends. They are essential to our efforts and hail from a wide range of backgrounds, viewpoints, and sectors. Every month, IAALS will shine the spotlight on one such person and take you behind the scenes for a lighthearted glimpse into those upon whose guidance and support we rely. Together we are advancing justice.

Sheila Slocum Hollis, Partner, Duane Morris LLP

From her 5’3” frame, Sheila Hollis has cast a long shadow in the law, as a trailblazer, innovator, and international leader. She is Colorado grown and educated, and now has deep roots in our nation’s capital, where she brokers with the best of them. I had an initial “taste” of that at our very first dinner together in Washington, D.C., at a restaurant that she frequents often, where she knows the menu, the wine list, the staff, and many of the patrons. I felt like I was getting a peek at the in-crowd.

Sheila packs power and has played a key role in the formation and implementation of energy law and policy (follow her on Twitter @energylawgirl). She was a trial lawyer at the Federal Power Commission and served as lead counsel on the Pennzoil-United spinoff case before becoming the first director of the Office of Enforcement of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. She not only established that office, she also charted its policies and procedures, many of which remain in place today.

Currently, she is chair of the D.C. office of Duane Morris LLP where she is the office's founding managing partner, as well as the founding practice group leader for the firm's Energy, Environment and Resources Practice Group. She has amassed an impressive list of accolades for her international work on energy and power transmission, not the least of which is that in 2014 and 2015 she was named one of D.C.'s Top 50 Women by Super Lawyers, and is the first energy lawyer to be named to this list.

Yet, through all the national and international honors (she’s amassed more than we have space for here), Sheila never forgot her Colorado roots, and when IAALS needed links to the American Bar Association, an AmLaw 100 firm, and to the pulse of the profession, we found all those things in Sheila.

So, you see: Sheila has succeeded beyond measure. I have a little experience with Westerners who were chewed up and spit out by D.C.—my Dad having been one of them when he left state government for a brief career as the nation’s first “Energy Czar.” Sheila, therefore, is all the more remarkable to me. She maintains the Colorado spirit and Western values—but has learned to play on a large and complex stage. At every meeting of our Board, Sheila showed up polished, elegant, and prepared. She does the homework and she asks the right questions. She is modest and private about her charitable work and is always on the lookout for opportunities for IAALS. We are so honored that she makes time for us, serving as an ambassador and publicist.

In between all of her travels, we caught up with Sheila for this month’s Partner Profile.

Your mother was a strong and positive influence in your life. What lessons did she teach you that you find applicable today? My father was deceased early in my life and my mother was my example of complete independence and of how you can make it without sacrificing your principles. She was a strong Irish woman who took excellent care of her family while maintaining her dignity. Yet she also had an irreverent sense of humor and a spiritual side. Her mélange of personal strengths taught me to be my own person. My moral compass comes from her, and it guides me through difficult and complicated circumstances.

What is your most marked characteristic? I’d say it’s my restlessness and curiosity! The “old philosopher” in me wants to know, “how come?” Perhaps that developed from growing up as an only child and wanting to know more about more. I believe that curiosity has created an element of luck in my life. I’ve had a lot of wonderful life experiences that came from standing in front of a door and walking through it just to see what’s on the other side.

As an avid world traveler, what’s the one place you suggest everyone visit? There is nothing on earth like the American Southwest. And for those who live in North America, it’s an accessible trip. From Silverton to Durango to Mesa Verde in Colorado, down through Taos to Santa Fe, New Mexico, the blending of Ancient, Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo cultures is steeped in time yet it’s moving forward. The melding against the backdrop of the landscape has created something unique that’s reflected today in the people and food, art and architecture. One must visit to truly appreciate it.

What is your most treasured possession? My tiny family is unbelievably important to me, but as far as physical objects, there are two family heirlooms that I treasure. The first is a religious piece that my Irish grandmother brought to America. The other comes from the upstate New York side of my family. I inherited a little locket with a Mathew Brady-style, daguerreotype image of a relative who was killed during the Civil War. This little locket tells such a profound story of a young Union soldier proudly and bravely standing with his rifle. I must also add that I absolutely love my mother’s and my husband’s drawings and paintings.

What is it about IAALS that inspires your involvement and philanthropic giving? It is an honor to be involved in any way with IAALS. The dedicated leadership and staff, and volunteer advisors and contributors are gifted, and diverse, and dedicated. They can step outside the hub bub and day-to-day maelstrom of the practice of law to think and analyze how to create a better, fairer, and more responsive system of justice. Despite all the pressures of finance—and wars among factions on various issues—they rise above it and play the long game. And that is remarkable.