Grant Woods

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Grant Woods is one of Arizona's most acclaimed and successful lawyers. His career is legendary, with record jury verdicts and settlements in the toughest cases. Grant Woods is who other lawyers call with their big cases.

Grant was Arizona's Attorney General from 1991-1999. He has been a political and community leader for more than 30 years.

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Somehow, through various organizations and circumstances, I have become a “mentor” to young lawyers. There are many levels on which this is disconcerting.

I have enough problems working through my own life without giving advice to others.

And it seems like yesterday that I was the mentee, watching others closely to learn their secrets of success.

But when I look around at the so-called leaders of our state and nation, I guess I’m as qualified as they are to give my two cents. And I always appreciated that Ferris was right: Life moves pretty fast. I’ve travelled from Who’s Who to Who’s He, so I guess I can slide on over to the mentor’s seat with the qualification that my credentials are only relative.

I find these young lawyers need the most help in navigating outside of the law books.  So here are a few of the things they seem to have appreciated.

You have to prioritize your own goals and then take concrete action steps to achieve them. Then re-evaluate and try again. I learned quickly that I could fill up my day responding to the things that naturally came my way. There were always calls to return and papers to write and projects to complete. But days turn to years before you know it and you discover that, although you have had busy days, you have not moved closer to your own goals. If you don’t prioritize your goals, nobody else will.

Make room in your day, every day, for things that make you happy. I play sports virtually every day. I do it because it is fun. And fun counts, especially when the rest of your day is practicing law. All of my career people have told me that they don’t have that much time. I make the time. There have been times in my life when I bet I was busier than you, but I made the time. It was important enough for me to schedule it and make it happen—because it was fun.

You were an excellent student. Don’t stop learning. I’m not talking about the law; in fact, I’m talking about everything but the law. You were one of the best at learning of any student at every school you attended. There have to be things you still would like to know. For me, right now, it’s classical music and dance and art. For you it could be anything, and whatever it is will make life (and you) more interesting.

Don’t forget your responsibility to make this community better. Very few people have the skills to do what you could do for others. We didn’t have a Boy’s and Girl’s Club, so we started one. We didn’t have a Children’s Museum, so we built one. The underprivileged kids didn’t have access to the arts, so we started a school for them. You can do amazing things and change people’s lives forever, including your own.

Finally, make sure to nurture your relationships with your friends and family. We men are the worst at this. And it shows. Your kids will grow up, with or without you. Your friends will move on. It takes time and it takes effort and it’s important. It’s more important than whatever project is keeping you late at the office tonight.

The practice of law is very demanding. If there is a theme to this advice from a reluctant mentor, it is that you have to demand that your life reflects your priorities.

Do what you want to do. Have fun. Expand your horizons. Make a difference.

Love the ones close to you. Live.

GRANT WOODS is a trial lawyer in Phoenix emphasizing complex litigation, plaintiffs’ personal injury, and government relations. He was Arizona Attorney General from 1991 to 1999.

Very few people have exactly the same views today as they did 20 or 30 or 40 years ago. In fact, you would have to question the intellectual curiosity of someone who never changed their mind on anything; it is more likely that they stopped thinking altogether.

Yet this is what we seem to expect of our elected officials. If they ever change their views or evolve in their thinking to a different conclusion, they are accused of flip-flopping or opportunism. Sometimes it probably is political convenience, but I wonder more about the person who never changes than the one who reverses field.

I took most of my first real positions on issues while in college. I decided that because I was for limited government and personal freedom, I should be a Republican. I saw crime in absolutes and was therefore in favor of the death penalty and against the legalization of drugs. I couldn’t figure out a real rationale for the Vietnam War, so I was skeptical of nation-building and the use of U.S. troops to be the world policeman.

One day while interning for U.S. House Minority Leader John J. Rhodes, I announced to his staff that, after months of agonizing over the issue of abortion, I had decided that I was pro-choice. His press secretary sarcastically told me that he would alert the media.

That was a long time ago, and since then I have seen a lot, from inside and outside government. In that time, I like to think I have learned a few things. Most views have stayed the same, while others evolved. And some I have decided that I was just wrong about in the first place. I used to think that marriage had to be between a man and a woman. Now I believe strongly in gay rights across the board; it is a civil rights issue for me now. I supported decriminalizing most drugs and mandating treatment over incarceration because my experience taught me that without treatment there would be no progress for the individual or protection for society. I used to favor civil forfeiture prior to criminal conviction until I saw so many instances where, because of the money involved, no criminal prosecution ever occurred or was even seriously contemplated.

As Attorney General, I worked hard to restore the implementation of the death penalty in Arizona. We were successful, and many horrible murderers were executed. The victims’ families were grateful, and it felt like justice was served. But I am increasingly troubled by the prosecutions of arguably innocent people across the country. The recent case of the West Memphis Three is a powerful call to reexamine whether we can trust men and women, some who may act in bad faith or at least without competence, to decide the life or death of our fellow man. I am thinking a lot these days about that one. Again.

I guess that’s the point here. It is constructive to continue to measure your views on important issues against your experience in the real world. It is important to listen to the point of view of those who disagree with you. This nation is polarized politically today in part because our leaders and their followers only listen to those within their own echo chamber. As lawyers, we should appreciate the importance of debate and of examining the evidence impartially and logically. It is all right to change your mind. It is all right to hold firm to your long-held opinion. But it is not all right to stop thinking. Opinions in the magazine are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the State Bar of Arizona, its Board of Governors, the Editorial Board or staff. The magazine provides an open forum for readers. Send your own letter to AZ


Grant Woods

Encountering Anguish and Anxiety Across America

By Joe Klein Thursday, Oct. 07, 2010
Peter van Agtmael for TIME / Magnum
On a blistering evening in Phoenix recently, a group of prominent civic leaders met to talk about America. It didn’t take long for the conversation to get around to the fall of the Ottoman Empire. That’s what happens when smart Americans get to talking about politics these days. Topic A is the growing sense that our best days as a nation are behind us, that our kids won’t live as well as we did, that China is in the driver’s seat. The group had been assembled for my benefit by Fred DuVal, vice chair of the Arizona Board of Regents. Fred’s a Democrat, but most people in the room were Republicans, and the conversation was bracing from the start — though not in the knee-jerk, contentious way we’re used to seeing on television. People told personal stories and made complicated arguments that didn’t fit neatly into their assigned political categories. Early on, a former Arizona attorney general named Grant Woods said he’d recently visited Turkey. He described “a prevailing sense of melancholy,” which, he was told, was caused by the fact that Turkey “once had been a great empire but no longer was, and probably wouldn’t ever be again … In my lifetime, growing up in America, we were raised to believe that we were the best, No. 1, and always would be — and what I see happening now is that people are afraid our day may be passing and that the current Administration is putting that process into fast-forward.”(See more entries from Joe Klein’s road trip.)

Woods is a Republican, and his was a conservative lament: Barack Obama was leading the country away from private enterprise toward a more “European” style of Big Government. This is a popular, perhaps even dominant, theme in the U.S. this season — but it doesn’t begin to describe the anguish that dominated every conversation about politics I witnessed during a four-week trip across the country. With a month to go before a crucial election and campaign ads cluttering the TV, people were in a heightened state of political awareness. I’ve covered more than a few midterm campaigns, but this one seems particularly fraught. That was made clear by the next speaker, a Republican public-relations consultant named Kurt Davis, who agreed with much of what Woods had said about “the far left undermining American values.” But, he added, “when the middle class looks to the right and sees how free trade has sold them down the river, exporting millions of jobs … they feel whipsawed, pissed off at both sides. I can’t tell my kids that they’ll be able to get a good job with a good company, work there for 30 years and retire with a good pension. I’d be lying. People know that doesn’t exist anymore, and they’re angry about it. That was the anger that elected Obama. He was the anti-Establishment candidate — and John McCain was anti-Establishment too. And so was Bill Clinton. But none of them did anything to change the reality that’s making people angry.”

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Attorney Magazine – Pay The Lawyer Last – Grant Woods

If you check your Black’s Dictionary, you will not find an entry for two Latin phrases that are prominent in the lives of most Arizona lawyers these days: slow pays and no pays. If you are new to the profession, you find out pretty quickly that your new job is different from most others. People need you desperately but will choose to pay you last—because they can. And if you are lucky enough to log a court appearance for one of these welchers, you will learn that involuntary servitude is alive and well, from the Land of Lincoln to the Valley of the Broke.

The phenomenon of the slow pay is truly epidemic. Maybe we should try it. You know that car dealer who is two months behind on his bill? Why don’t we walk onto his lot and pick out a nice new convertible and just drive it off? Shouldn’t be a problem—-we promise we will pay as soon as that tax refund comes in or that deal comes through or that guy pays me that money he owes me. We will just enjoy the car until we get around to paying. Don’t worry about it. You know we’re good for it.

And if a client finally just refuses to pay at all, despite that nice retainer he has long run through and despite all of his promises and excuses, then you just withdraw from the case and move on, right? Well, not necessarily. If it is a criminal case or if you are getting close to a trial date in a civil case, the judge might just happily inform you that you get to continue representing this liar, presumably for free. And you get to represent him for free not because he is poor or oppressed or because you think it is the right thing to do, but because he managed to maneuver and procrastinate and generally sucker you into hanging in there with him until it was too late.

Those must be some trials. I’ve never had it happen to me, but I’m sure that everyone is very professional and continues to represent this louse to the best of their abilities. But if juries do really pick up on most everything going on in the courtroom, it is hard to imagine they will miss this tsunami of bad vibes emanating from over at the defense table. We really should get a medal— especially since we aren’t getting any money—for wholeheartedly arguing the case of a person who is, as we speak, becoming one of the biggest debtors we will ever have.

In the book (and movie) North Dallas on a team modeled on the Dallas Cowboys is exasperated by the dealings of the team ownership. They tell him to relax, it’s only a game. But as the character observes, “Every time I say it’s a game, you tell me it’s a business. Every time I say it’s a business, you tell me it’s a game.”

Sometimes our “profession” is the same. I tend to think of us as very highpaid plumbers. People get themselves into the nastiest situations with all of their pipes backed up or burst and they call upon us. We get paid well, but we still have to go in and fix the toilets.

You would think, then, that we could get paid and get paid on time. The plumber does. But, then, he’s not in a “profession.” He’s just doing a job. So I guess that’s the difference. So we can be forced to do pro bono work for former millionaires rather than for the poor. But it still seems to me that something other than the pipes is getting Roto-Rootered.

Grant Woods is a trial lawyer in Phoenix emphasizing complex litigation, plaintiff’s personal injury, and government relations. He was Arizona Attorney General from 1991 to 1999. For more by the author, go to

Grant Woods Acceptance Speech for Award at Chicanos Por La Causa Dinner on 5/5/11

Thank you to Chicanos Por La Causa for this award; it is especially meaningful coming from such an important and wonderful organization. It is also great to be here on Cinco de Mayo, or as it’s known in the Legislature, May 5th.

Arizona is no longer at a crossroads, we are on a downslide, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the State’s actions on immigration. What many do not realize is that we are a State born of diversity.

To be an Arizonan is to be part of the Native American culture. To be an Arizonan is to be part of the Mexican culture. And so it has always been. So to deny basic respect and compassion to any of us is to deny it to all of us. When our so-called leaders denigrate any segment of this community by calling them names, rather than by their names, they denigrate all of us. As Cesar Chavez said: “Our language is the reflection of ourselves.” A language is an exact reflection of the character and growth of its speakers.

We can do better. The immigration issue is complex and it is difficult. But it is a challenge that can be met if we have the courage to do it right. It is a challenge that can be met without trampling on the constitutional rights of American citizens and the basic human rights of all people.

A couple of years ago, I accepted the job of prosecuting a border patrol agent accused of killing a young Mexican man who had crossed illegally and was in the act of surrender. The first thing I told that federal jury was this: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

These rights are given by God, not government, to all people, regardless of citizenship. When we fight for human dignity in this immigration debate, we are not the radicals – - – we are fighting for basic American values embodied in our most sacred beliefs.

And if we are to be called radicals, then we are joining with radicals of the past such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, Abraham Lincoln, Cesar Chavez, and Dr. Martin Luther King. There is a reason we are in good company – - – it is a righteous fight.

But it is still a fight, and one worth fighting by those of us who still have that dream . . . who still dream that one day our children and our neighbors will be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character . . . who still dream that one day our State and our country, in speech and in action, will reflect humanity and compassion for our fellow man, regardless of race or ethnicity, and always show the respect for human rights that all of God’s children deserve.

Thank you all again for this honor.

Head over to to read more about my commentary on federal gun laws and common sense laws:

… On Monday, Mayors Against Illegal Guns — a group headed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino — introduced a proposal to require states to report mental health records, drug-abuse histories, domestic violence cases and other red flags to NICS. The proposal would also require unlicensed gun dealers to perform NICS background checks — a step not mandated under current law.

“While I support the Second Amendment rights of responsible, law-abiding Americans, I also support tough, common-sense laws to keep guns out of the hands of felons, drug abusers, the mentally ill and other dangerous people,” Grant Woods, former Republican attorney general of Arizona, said in endorsing the Bloomberg proposal….

Mike Lillis - 01/26/11 12:34 PM ET,
Grant was Arizona’s Attorney General from 1991-1999. He has been a political and community leader for more than 30 years.

Though Grant left public office in 1999, he is still an influential figure both publically and politically.  He has been the lead counsel in many important legal battles in Arizona, and can be seen frequently at Diamondbacks, Suns and Cardinals games.  Whether in the courtroom or at the ball park,  Grant is always working to make the Valley a better place to live.

Grant and his wife Marlene are big supporters of many organizations and programs that support the many challenges that confront today’s youth. Some of their favorite organizations include the Phoenix Children’s Museum, the East Valley Boys & Girls Club (especially the  Grant Woods Branch in Mesa), and grass roots tennis programs that bring underprivileged youth to participate in free clinics with professional players.  Through their charity work, the Woods’ impact is being felt all over the state.

An award-winning radio host, Grant went back to the ‘airwaves’ for a special encore presentation of the Grant Woods Show. The show aired weekly over the internet and ITUNES as a podcast during 2009.

In addition to his law practice, being a sports fan, working with charities,  spending time with Marlene and his kids Austin, Lauren, Cole, Dylan and Ava, hosting a radio show and generally trying to keep public figures on their toes through his infamous “Woody Award”, Grant has several other projects which have helped earn him his ‘renaissance man’ moniker. These projects include a screenplay, a published novel, several country songs and a reality-type television show.

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