After ten years of handling complex cases as an Assistant United States Attorney, Lisa Noller, ’95, joined Foley & Lardner in 2010. She is national chair of the firm’s Government Enforcement, Defense, and Investigations practice. Since 2007, she also has been imparting her knowledge to students at the Law School through teaching a Federal Criminal Practice seminar and the Prosecution and Defense Clinic that she founded.
It’s not just knowledge that she’s imparting; it’s passion, too. “I love trial work,” she said. “To me, it’s the epitome of justice in action.” Her cases at the US Attorney’s Office included a 100-count racketeering case against car dealers who laundered drug money and sent the proceeds overseas to potential terrorist groups, and the first healthcare Anti-Kickback Statute trial in Chicago. She was an original member of the select team created by US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald to prosecute healthcare fraud. Before she left, she was a deputy chief in the Financial Crimes and Special Prosecutions section.
Noller serves on the Law School Council, has cochaired reunion committees, and is active in both the Women’s Mentoring Program and the Public Interest Faculty Mentor Program. The clinic that she founded provides two quarters of instruction from Noller and an experienced criminal defense attorney, accompanied by a supervised clinical placement in either a prosecutor’s office or a public defender’s office. She and her husband have made a gift to the Law School toward establishing a fund that will support students who are interested in prosecutorial jobs.
“Show me a way to give back to this law school, which has given me so much, and I’m going to be interested,” she said. “I came to UChicago with strong interest in being a litigator with a focus on social justice, figuring I would learn the rules and follow them. There came a moment of clarity for me, as I think comes to most UChicago students, when I understood what the faculty was teaching us—that rules are only part of what a good lawyer has to know and think about, sometimes a relatively small part. I transitioned from student to advocate when I started reasoning my way to the most just resolution, instead of simply following black-letter law and statutes. Once I grasped that concept, the Law School had succeeded in teaching me how to think like a lawyer.” Noller sees client advocacy as “the freedom to argue for just results and a galvanizing challenge to always bring your best to whatever you’re working on.”
Noller has long been a baseball fan, and she thinks that might have helped her get accepted to the Law School. When she interviewed with Dean Badger, she told him she had sold programs at Fenway Park during college, and they discussed baseball for most of the interview. For five years while she was at the US Attorney’s Office, she sold beer at White Sox games. “It’s tough to beat a side job that’s physically challenging, fun, and incorporates a lifelong hobby,” she observed.
Her client work at Foley & Lardner includes several disciplines, principally focused on defending clients under investigation for alleged healthcare and public corruption violations. She is also a member of the firm’s national management committee. Named by many publications as a top lawyer in healthcare, white-collar criminal defense, and government investigations, she was chosen for membership in the American College of Trial Lawyers in 2015.
“People sometimes ask me what I would be doing if I wasn’t a lawyer,” she said. “I can’t really even contemplate an answer to that. I’m fortunate to be able to get up every day and do something I love, and I’m so grateful to the Law School for showing me how to do it to the best of my ability.”