It might be hard not to hate Jennifer Cutler. She’s a tri-athlete, a former wide receiver for the Sacramento Sirens, partner in a law firm, mother of three boys, two of them twins, and a successful litigator who has just received a life membership in the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum. And she’s slender.
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At her Shingle Springs home, Cutler, 46, said, “I’m very lucky, but I also put in a lot of hard work.” Life with a 6-year-old, two 3-year-olds, two labrador retrievers and a husband who is also an attorney can be chaotic said Cutler, but it all works out.
The prestigious Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum life membership recognizes excellence in advocacy from its members — trial lawyers who have won million dollar verdicts, awards and settlements. There are 3,000 Million Dollar Advocates members, less than 1 percent of U.S. attorneys.
“It’s a validation of my ability as an advocate, but I’m not really an award person,” said Cutler. “I could have applied for membership in 2008, but I was too busy.”
Cutler, a personal injury and medical malpractice attorney, won multiple settlements in excess of a million dollars. One was for a patient who suffered a stroke during surgery because the anesthesiologist did not properly monitor him; another was for the victim of sexual abuse from a priest; one case was a motorcyclist who had been hit by a car and another case was a structured settlement of $2.75 million for a birth injury when an infant was deprived of oxygen. She also represented the heirs of a person killed in the Colusa bus crash and they were awarded $1 million.
“It’s bittersweet, winning a big settlement,” said Cutler, “because you are representing someone who is severely injured. But still I’m glad that they had a lawyer to fight for them and that they have the financial support they need.”
Some of the skills that have served Cutler as a trial lawyer carried over from her experiences as an athlete. Growing up on 14 acres in Santa Rosa, she played a lot of flag football with her adored older brother and his friends.
“I was always an athlete — softball, volleyball in school, lacrosse, flag football and floor hockey in college, football with the Sirens and marathons and triathlons later,” said Cutler. “I’m used to being competitive and aggressive in sports, but also playing by the rules, so I’m a civil, fair and polite lawyer until I feel someone is playing games with me and not treating me the way I’m treating them. Then I can get very no-nonsense.”
Cutler was named partner at Poswall, White and Cutler, a Sacramento-based personal litigation firm, in 2001. She came back to Northern California for good after college at University of California, San Diego and living in Ventura for a few years.
“But it never felt like home and I never found my niche there,” said Cutler, “so I moved to Sacramento to attend McGeorge School of Law.” After graduation in 1991, she tried Ventura again before coming back to Sacramento in 1995. After she joined Poswall and White in 1998, she found time to play wide receiver for the Sacramento Sirens. “I grew up playing football and when I heard they were having tryouts, I decided to go for it.”
The Sirens, a semi-professional, full-tackle football team became part of the Women’s American Football League in 2001, the year Cutler joined the team. “I played for about eight months,” said Cutler. “We had games in Hawaii and Las Vegas. It was a lot of fun but it was the first year of the league and women really wanted to prove themselves. I thought I would probably get creamed.” Cutler went on to run marathons, do triathalons, win multi-million dollar lawsuits, get married and have children while the Sirens went on to three championships.
Raising a family and working full time has made running and training problematical, but Cutler’s support system makes her life work.
“Hillary Clinton said it takes a village to raise a child,” said Cutler. “Well, I have a village.”
Husband Ken Pogue is an attorney in the Attorney General’s Office about four miles from Cutler’s office in Sacramento. “Being a lawyer, he gets it. He understands if I need to work on weekends or nights. We are pretty equal partners. He is a great cook,” she said.
In-laws, including Pogue’s energetic 97-year-old grandmother who also does some family cooking, live almost next door and are there to pick up 6-year-old Liam after school. The twins, Finn and Kellan, ride to preschool in Sacramento with their parents each morning.
“I thought I would hate the commute, but it’s our time to plan the day and talk together,” said Cutler. “I couldn’t do this without my husband, my in-laws and my support staff at work.”
Although she represents clients from all over California, Cutler likes to meet with Northern California clients at a coffee shop in Shingle Springs. “I don’t get to spend much time up here and I love it,” she said.
She said she has never had to deal with gender bias in the workplace. “I’m kind of a tomboy and can fit into wherever I’m thrown. In the ’90s I would walk into a courtroom and be the only woman. They would ask if I was the court reporter. Now I can walk into a room to take a deposition and there’s a whole roomful of women lawyers.”
“I enjoy what I do,” said Cutler. “I enjoy meeting new people, meeting defense counsel and talking with all kinds of people. I plan on doing this forever. With a 6-year-old and two 3-year-olds, I’m never retiring.”
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or [email protected] Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.