Top Lawyer 2023: Amy Sells

Editorial StaffSeptember 1, 2023
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Photo by Mirelle Inglefield
Photo by Mirelle Inglefield

Specialty: Appellate Law
Law School/Year Graduated: Hofstra University, 2004
Years in Practice: 18

Describe appellate law in layman’s terms. Can you give us a recent example of the work you do?
As an appellate lawyer, my job is to persuade the court of appeals to either correct or uphold the trial court’s decisions, depending on who I represent. I handle appeals on a broad range of matters, including business disputes, real estate, bankruptcy and family law matters.

You have a bachelor’s degree in English lit. What ultimately led you to pursue a career in law, and in what ways did your undergraduate education determine your path?
I’ve always had a passion for writing [and] coincidentally, I funded my undergraduate education by working in law firms, which introduced me to the practice of law. Appellate practice fits seamlessly with my [literature background] because appellate lawyers are distinctly skilled at researching, writing and oral advocacy.  

You were on the editorial board of the State Bar of Arizona’s Arizona Attorney magazine from 2019-2023. What was that experience like?
It was a joy to collaborate with lawyers and judges to review articles for Arizona Attorney. It was rewarding to give back to the legal community in this unique way. 

You have five children – two of which have special needs. How do you balance your career and being a hands-on parent?
For me, it’s less of a balance, and more of a constant triage. I wouldn’t be able to do it without my husband, who is a professional musician by night and a full-time stay-at-home dad by day. With his support, I’m able to dedicate myself to both of my loves: family and appellate practice.  

What’s your favorite depiction of the legal world in entertainment/pop culture?
Regular Show, the “Intergalactic Cool Court” episode.  

“If I wasn’t a lawyer, I’d be…”
Working in some capacity with at-risk youth or special-needs children to help enrich their lives. 

How we Picked our Top Lawyers

PHOENIX magazine generates its Top Lawyers list via an online survey of practicing attorneys in the Greater Phoenix area. Partnering with Colorado Springs-based information research firm Data Joe, PHOENIX disseminates emails to each of the roughly 16,000 active attorneys licensed with the State Bar of Arizona, directing them to an online portal managed by Data Joe. The survey, which takes place over six weeks, asks respondents to provide the names of up to three attorneys they deem the best in 39 legal specialties. To spread the votes democratically, respondents are asked to nominate at least one attorney in each category who works in a firm other than their own.

At the conclusion of the voting, Data Joe tallies the votes digitally and verifies that vote recipients are in good standing with the State Bar. PHOENIX editors then set the vote thresholds in a manner that ensures the top 10 to 20 percent of vote-getters in each category make the Top Lawyers list. Our fact-checkers then call each attorney on the final list to confirm their affiliation with a Valley-based firm and obtain accurate contact information.

PHOENIX does not give preference to attorneys who advertise. Top Lawyers earn their place on the list purely by virtue of the votes they receive, and our sales staff does not see the list until the lawyers have been confirmed by our fact-checkers. 2023 is the second year PHOENIX has conducted Top Lawyers.