Hon. Leah Ward Sears (Ret.) is an arbitrator and mediator with extensive ADR, trial and appellate experience in the fields of contracts, torts, construction, eminent domain, local government law, products liability, professional malpractice, public utilities, title to land, torts, and wills. She is a partner at Smith, Gambrell & Russell, and member of the Law Firm’s Executive Committee. Sears previously worked at Schiff Hardin LLP from 2009 – 2016, where she was also a partner. She was the first woman to hold a position on the Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia. In 1992, was appointed to Georgia’s Supreme Court as the first woman and youngest person ever to sit on that court. Was also the first woman to win a contested statewide election in Georgia, retaining a seat on the state’s Supreme Court. In 2005, was sworn in as Chief Justice of Georgia’s Supreme Court.
Sears’s experience on the bench provides a unique and valuable perspective on ADR matters and she sets herself apart through a steadfast dedication to work and an impressive array of professional achievements. As a result of her illustrious career, Sears has become a dependable counselor for a variety of legal issues. Her deep roots in the South provide valuable insight into the legal landscape of the region. Sears provides legal counsel to private and public entities, especially in high-stakes investigations and other sensitive matters. Her experience with appellate work makes for an ideal adviser when complex issues are involved, and a creative strategy is needed.
Sears has ten years of experience as a neutral in the practice of arbitration and mediation, concentrating in complex commercial transactions and labor and employment matters. While serving on the Supreme Court, she participated in the resolution of over 26,000 disputes, most of them civil disputes, resulting in over 1,000 published opinions. The subject matter of many published opinions includes arbitration, class actions, contracts, corporate law, domestic relations/family law, employment contracts, environmental law, estates, insurance law, land use restrictions, libel, local government, maritime claims/admiralty, products liability, professional malpractice, title to land, torts, trusts, UCC, water rights, wills, and workers’ compensation. Sears has heard hundreds of oral arguments before the Georgia Supreme Court and has participated in numerous law school moot courts.