Chief Operating Officer of Watkins Ludlam Winter & Stennis PA
Linda Simmons, chief operating officer (COO) of Watkins Ludlam Winter & Stennis, P.A., has more than 20 years of experience overseeing human resources (HR) and other management responsibilities. At times disciplining an employee can’t be avoided. But how that is done makes a huge difference.
Through all those years, Simmons cannot recall a bad experience or interaction with anyone.
“One lesson is that you treat everyone better than yourself as you do not know how you will be involved with that person later,” Simmons said. “A former secretary said that she was surprised that when I had to discipline employees, they left my office smiling. HR is a balance of being an employee advocate and a firm manager, treating others fairly and consistently.”
As COO of one of the largest law firms in the state, Simmons oversees not just human resources, but also legal recruiting, marketing, legal research, records management and facilities administration. She is responsible for procurement of professional liability insurance, employment practices liability and commercial insurance, in addition to other duties.
Former Gov. William Winter has found Simmons a joy to work with.
“She has some of the most demanding and sensitive management duties in the firm, and she carries them out with great skill,” Winter said. “She is highly respected by all her colleagues and is praised by our clients for her responsiveness and attention to their needs. She has contributed greatly to this firm’s professional success. Her entire career has consisted of the pursuit of excellence.”
Ross & Yerger chief financial officer Vivian Farris says Simmons has a unique blend of business acumen combined with creativity and warmth.
“At the same time, Linda is not afraid to warn and, if necessary, fire an employee who is not up to par on performance,” Farris said. “Linda tells it like it is. She is very committed to her job, works long hours, and does things right, whatever it takes.”
Over the course of her career, Simmons has been involved in a number of mergers or acquisitions.
“These are always difficult as people do not like change,” she said. “I felt that I was creative in planning and sported a positive influence to resolve issues or move forward to making the merger work that was satisfactory to most everyone.”
With her current job, she oversaw disaster recovery for their Gulfport and New Orleans offices after Hurricane Katrina.
“The first concern was that all of our attorneys and staff were safe,” Simmons said. “Since our Gulfport office building was destroyed, it was challenging to find another location and services to re-open in two weeks. This required a lot of team work by many in the firm and in the Gulfport area.”
Recently the firm moved its Jackson office to a new building after 21 years at the previous location. Simmons worked with contractors and architects coordinating the build out of their tenant space, and with movers to make the move as efficient as possible.
“The experience was different than working with people in HR, but very exciting and fulfilling,” she said.
Simmons has previously worked as director of human resources at Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens & Cannada, PLLC, and at Woman’s Hospital. She was assistant director of human resources at Mississippi Methodist Rehabilitation Center.
Simmons has a business degree from Belhaven College and earned the Belhaven School of Business Business & Economic Award in 1983. She earned a master’s of business administration from Mississippi College.
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