Bloomberg Law
July 27, 2023, 9:00 AM

They’ve Got Next: The 40 Under 40 - Emma Ross, M.D. of Goldman Ismail

Lisa Helem
Lisa Helem
MP McQueen

Please describe two of your most substantial, recent wins in practice.

My most substantial recent wins in client work include a favorable unanimous jury verdict in St. Louis in Ferro v. Monsanto, and the full exclusion of a key opposing expert in both state court (Ferro v. Monsanto, October 2022) and federal court (In re Roundup Products Liability Litigation, June 2023).

Those wins were possible because I have incredible clients and mentors committed to promoting the next generation of diverse trial lawyers. The defense verdict in Ferro v. Monsanto was particularly meaningful because I had a rare opportunity to help shape litigation-wide science themes and to present them to a jury.

The most meaningful recent win to me personally came in a pro bono matter last fall, when, in a rare bipartisan action, a Senate committee affirmed that female detainees at an immigration detention center in Georgia underwent excessive, invasive, and often unnecessary gynecologic procedures.

What is the most important lesson you learned as a first-year attorney and how does it inform your practice today?

The most important lesson of my first year of practice came from my colleague, mentor, and now fellow Goldman Ismail partner Shayna Cook. Shayna taught me early on that the single most important thing I can do to prepare for a big day in front of a court, jury, or client is to get enough sleep.

That lesson became the foundation of what has become a core personal ethos: I do my job best when I take care of myself first. I have incorporated that lesson into every aspect of my practice, and I teach it to my associates, partners, colleagues at other firms, and anyone else who will listen, including through invited legal education seminars that Shayna and I have given on the science of well-being.

I have been invited to present on that topic in more than a dozen forums, including leadership seminars, national and international conferences, and for in-house legal departments. Practicing this skill helps me avoid burnout, and it makes it easier to love my job even when it’s hard. I certainly don’t do it perfectly all the time, but I find that I am much better off when I keep self-care front of mind.

How do you define success in your practice?

Success to me means creating a practice I’m proud of, even if it looks nothing like I thought it would when I started my career. This means being an example of what is possible to my colleagues and larger community, while delivering incredible results for my clients and having fun along the way.

I started out at a community college before undergrad, medical school, and law school. After earning my J.D. and M.D., I began a surgery residency. I was convinced back then that I would be in the operating room for my whole career.

I quickly discovered that surgery wasn’t for me, and I had to make the most difficult decision I’ve ever made stay on a path I spent a decade planning and working toward or try something entirely new. I chose the latter.

Now I am a trial lawyer explaining science and medicine to juries. This path isn’t one that I expected, but it’s one that I thoroughly enjoy. It turns out I am much better suited to cross-examining an expert than I am to performing thoracic surgery.

What are you most proud of as a lawyer?

I am most proud of advocating on behalf of women in a detention center who underwent unnecessary gynecologic surgery, often without adequate informed consent. I remember reading a story in the New York Times in 2020 about women at this detention center and thinking, I have a skillset that might help. A colleague and friend, Adam Snyder, invited me and Shayna Cook to participate in a team he was forming to investigate the matter further. T

That work led to a report, which ultimately led to a series of news interviews, congressional investigations, and, ultimately, a Senate hearing and litigation. Thanks to the incredible work of a group of gynecologists and other women’s health experts who volunteered their time and expertise over several years, I believe we were able to make a difference—or at least the beginning of a difference—in a critical area.

In November 2022, following testimony by one of our experts at a hearing before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, a bipartisan Senate Subcommittee Report affirmed the excessive, invasive, and often unnecessary gynecological procedures documented in our report.

Who is your greatest mentor in the law and what have they taught you?

Along with Shayna (described above), Goldman Ismail founding partner Joe Tomaselli has been my greatest mentor in law. First and foremost, Joe taught me to be curious. Curiosity means approaching new scientific issues with a set of questions, rather than foregone conclusions.

It means listening to a witness’s answer to the question and following it up with another where appropriate. It also means thinking hard about what questions a jury is likely to have—and making sure I have compelling answers to them. Second, Joe taught me to be generous with opportunities.

I have had the opportunity to do incredible things early in my career because people like Joe and Shayna fought for the chance for me to get those opportunities. I do the same for the associates and others I work with whenever I can, and I believe we all do better when we promote each other.

Third, Joe taught me not to be a jerk. Put another way: I can be an extremely effective advocate for my clients while maintaining professionalism with everyone I encounter in my practice, no matter what side of a dispute they are on.

Tell us your two favorite songs on your summer music playlist?

Glass Animals’ “Solar Power” and the Lake Street Dive cover of “Automatic.” “Solar Power” is a perfect summer song. It has great lyrics and a melody to which I can’t help but dance. And there is just nothing better than belting out a Lake Street Dive cover on a long summer road trip.

Emma Ross of Goldman Ismail skiing in Japan.
Emma Ross and Jonathan Hurtarte/Bloomberg Law

Emma Ross is a physician by training as well as a litigator. Ross co-leads the expert and science team in state and federal litigation involving Merck’s HPV vaccine in re Gardasil Products Liability Litigation. In re Mirena IUD Products Liability Litigation, Ross played key roles in two MDLs, serving on national strategy and science teams that achieved litigation-dispositive Daubert and summary judgment victories, her firm says. In pro bono, Ross is co-chair, Law Firm Antiracism Alliance Reproductive Justice Working Group.

To contact the reporters on this story: Lisa Helem at; MP McQueen at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Lisa Helem at; MP McQueen at

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