“Leadership is about motivating people to accomplish a goal. As a leader, you have the obligation to define that goal,” said Montgomery County, Pennsylvania District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman ‘92 in response to a question from Widener Law Dean Linda Ammons
about defining leadership.
On Monday, September 27th, Widener Law and Dean Ammons welcomed Risa Vetri Ferman for the 4th Annual Dean’s Leadership Forum. With Dean Ammons asking questions in a talk-show style setting, District Attorney Ferman shared details about her career, and her views on leadership.
Dean Ammons opened the forum with a question about what sparked District Attorney Ferman’s interest in serving the community. Citing an internship with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Philadelphia, noted that she initially began her law school career with no intent to become a litigator. She also indicated that she wished she had done even more during her law school days to gain practical experience, saying, “You have to get out of the classroom.” She urged the students in the audience to gain that practical experience and said, “I love it when I have the opportunity to see law students in the courtroom.
In further defining leadership, District Attorney Ferman also cited the importance of empowering those who work for you, stating, “Surround yourself with good people and let them do their jobs.” She also discussed some of the cases that had the greatest impact on her, citing in particular a case of child abuse that really stuck with her.
Commenting on the political aspects of her job, she noted, that she felt the need to “Be aware of the public you serve. You owe an explanation to people,” but she also indicated distaste for “people who aren’t focused on doing the right thing,” and a general lack of civility. Asked about the best part of her job, she said, “You get to do things that are important, and every day is different.”
Following the Dean’s questions, District Attorney Ferman took questions from the audience. She addressed a question about whether prosecutors should be elected or appointed by saying, “I think either way can work,” adding that she disliked the political process itself but that it might help with issues of accountability. She also addressed questions about her high profile work on the Rabinowitz murder and whether the adversarial system necessarily led to the lack of civility she had spoken of earlier.
Risa Vetri Ferman is the District Attorney of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. She served fifteen years as an Assistant District Attorney in Montgomery County before beginning her term as District Attorney in January 2008. She served for six years as First Assistant District Attorney, overseeing all operations of the District Attorney’s Office and County Detective Bureau. Her previous experiences include supervising both the Trials and Pre-trials Divisions and serving as Captain of the Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Unit. She began her career with the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office as a Trials Assistant District Attorney specializing in sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse.
A Montgomery County native, Risa Vetri Ferman graduated from Abington High School in 1983. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1987 with a B.A. in History, and in 1992, she earned her law degree from Widener Law’s Delaware campus. She is the co-founder of two non-profit organizations to benefit and protect abused children, The Montgomery Child Advocacy Project
and Mission Kids