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Theresa Bevilacqua
Theresa Bevilacqua

The POWER 30: Theresa Bevilacqua

Theresa Bevilacqua started out intending to be a voice performer, but that didn’t seem like a secure career path, even though her parents were performers and she “grew up in a practice room.”

She became a trial lawyer and one of the things she loves is the performance aspect. “I rehearse.  I’ll do it out loud in front of a mirror and I always preview with my team and my client,” Bevilacqua said. She and her clients at Dorsey thus benefit from the muscle memory that athletes and actors have.

Apparently her strategy works, because she is now the chair of the Minneapolis trial group. She has been lead trial counsel in cases ranging from manufacturing, energy, agribusiness, aviation and technology.

Bevilacqua is bracing for a predicted epidemic of lawsuits resulting from business shutdowns and other issues like employee relations, COVID compliance and other “litigating the pandemic” concerns.

She is one of the coordinators of Dorsey’s Dispute Anticipation and Readiness TEAM (DART), which advises on its website, “There will be litigation. For all of the questions the COVID-19 pandemic leaves in its path, this is a certainty.”

DART is a team that works across Dorsey’s platform to respond to COVID litigation with support such as work product, research and forms. Its first cases involved insurance coverage and force majeure clauses, which often don’t apply if there is no physical damage to the business.

Employee relations is the most important issue to the clients right now, Bevilacqua said. The role of the lawyer in this realm has mostly to do with advising on best practices and regulatory compliance, she explained. The concerns extend across all industries, and deal with staffing shortages, compliance with all regulations and workplace morale problems.

Other litigation continues, pandemic or no pandemic. One case is Crow Wing Cooperative Power and Light Company v. Great River Energy, a challenge to the defendant’s rate structure. Five of six counts have been dismissed leaving a breach of contract claim against Bevilacqua’s client.

Another is a Lanham Act case, Cirrus Design v. Cirrus Aviation, scheduled for trial in March in Las Vegas after being moved to Nevada. Technically, Bevilacqua represents the defendant but it has raised counterclaims.

Bevilacqua is the mother of four, ranging from ages nine to 16. She credits her “traditional marriage with gender roles reversed,” with her husband as a stay-at-home father. “I don’t know how people with two working parents do it,” she said.

Gender discrimination against women lawyers still exists. Bevilacqua said she has always felt supported and encouraged within Dorsey and has not experienced any there. “They gave me as much experience as I wanted,” she said.

But, she said, “I have experienced it in other settings. I try to use it for my advantage. It happens mostly in settlement but also in court. It’s more about age than gender,” she said.

And there is a way to stop it, Bevilacqua said. “Winning. Winning is what earns you respect.”