Retirement Tribute: Elizabeth Scott Wood

Happy Retirement, Betsy Wood!

McAfee & Taft is proud to honor the career and contributions of Elizabeth Scott Wood, and to celebrate her retirement from the firm.

A founding member of the firm’s Labor & Employment Group, Betsy devoted her 37-year career at McAfee & Taft to representing employers and management exclusively in all areas of labor and employment law. In addition to defending clients in litigation in federal and state courts and before regulatory and administrative agencies, she routinely counseled clients on a myriad of employment law compliance issues and best practices and provided training to both management and non-management employees in all areas affecting the employer/employee relationship.

Nicknamed “The Oracle” by her colleagues, Betsy was widely regarded as the Labor & Employment Group’s go-to person whenever some outstanding, obscure, complex, or nuanced question about employment law arose, or when the proven voice of experience was needed to help navigate a particularly tough issue. During her tenure with the firm, the firm’s Labor & Employment Group grew to become the state’s largest, due in large part to Betsy’s role in developing the practice and mentoring many of its attorneys.

A 1980 graduate of the University of Oklahoma College of Law, Betsy joined the firm in 1986 and retired at the end of 2023.

Over the course of her career, Betsy’s legal achievements earned her inclusion in Chambers USA Guide to America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, The Best Lawyers in America (employment law – management; labor law – management; labor and employment litigation) and Oklahoma Super Lawyers. She was selected by Best Lawyers as the “Oklahoma City Employment Lawyer of the Year (Management)” for 2017, an honor given to a single lawyer in each legal specialty in each market.

Additionally, Betsy was recognized for her professional and civic contributions to the state of Oklahoma by being named to The Journal Record’s list of Leadership in Law honorees in 2008.

Michael Lauderdale
Employment and trial lawyer; managing director, McAfee & Taft

Betsy Wood was our only employment lawyer at the time. Only one in the firm. One of the few in the state. And so 92, 93, 94. she kept asking me to come to employment law. And I’m like, “Betsy, I don’t want to do employment law. I don’t want to be stuck behind a desk, answering questions. I want to litigate.” She’s like, “Mike, everybody has employees. You’d really love this.” “Well, I want to try cases.” She’s like, “how many cases have you tried?” I’m like, “Well, none.” “But we try cases as employment lawyers.” I’m like, “Okay.” And she was right. And so, you know, Betsy took me by the hand and taught me everything that I know. And talk about a brilliant, generous, kind, thoughtful, considerate lady.

You know, I owe Betsy a lot. Introducing me to the clients she worked with, allowing me to continue to work with those clients while she went out and got more clients. And, you know… I look back, it’s the best thing that ever happened to me at McAfee & Taft — meeting Betsy Wood.

Natalie Ramsey
Labor and employment lawyer, McAfee & Taft

I met Betsy when I was a baby lawyer when I first started here. She was, in my opinion, probably one of and has been one of the powerful women in our law firm. And so when I started, hers was a face and a name that was easily recognizable, because although we have lots of women here 20 years ago, she was a big deal.

And she I mean, she’s been a big deal. We call her the Oracle. But I mean, she was she had a strong practice and she was a strong leader and she had grown up a lot of really fantastic lawyers and so was someone that I knew. I wanted to kind of crawl under her wing and have as a mentor.

She’s forgotten more than I’ll ever know… is kind of what we all say. If anybody knows the answer to a difficult question, if anybody knows how to solve a complicated problem, to navigate both the realities of what the practical limitations of the law are, married to what the political ramifications are, and the morale ramifications are for an employer…

she’s just got tons of experience and lots of great perspective. And such a — you know, a lot of us are excitable people; lawyers are excitable people. We have lots of energy and enthusiasm. And Betsy is as well. But she was one of my mentors, one of several who has this very calm and even keeled demeanor. And she’s very sophisticated in her approach to all things.

And you could always get a very well-reasoned bit of advice on whatever your issue was, because we would oftentimes shop when we were young lawyers, we would get a difficult question and we would sit down together and try to solve it. And if you really are at a stumped point or there’s a debate amongst the group as to what to do, you go to the Oracle to get her advice.

Paul Ross
Labor and employment lawyer, McAfee & Taft

She is one of the pioneers of employment law, both at McAfee & Taft and in Oklahoma. She was doing it before anyone else was. And that’s probably a particular reason as to why she knows more than everyone else does. Betsy is an amazing lawyer and an amazing mentor. And besides just being the founder of the practice group, she’s been the foundation of the practice group.

She’s the rock that the rest of us built our practices on. And she’s been a giving and loving mentor the entire time, absolutely caring about the development of young lawyers and not just being the person that knows everything, but the person that wants to see you grow as a lawyer. And I and several other people in my age group and colleagues and in or around when I became a lawyer, basically owe our practice to her.

And I just couldn’t have better things to say about her as a lawyer and a mentor. Betsy had the most loyal long term clients. Betsy had built relationships with her clients that are still strong to this day, as her practice has slowed down and she’s started transitioning clients to some of us that are kind of newer in the practice than she is, you still hear from time to time the clients will say, Maybe we should check Betsy on that, right?

That’s the trust level that she’s developed with her clients over the years, and I think that’s just a testament to being an amazing lawyer for a long time. Those clients have come to trust her and in fact, some of those clients have trusted her over generations of H.R. leadership, right? So even when their leadership changed the relationship with Betsy continued.

And so she’s been amazing with clients and has taught all of us how to communicate with clients in a way to build that trust. You know, you’re going to hear a lot today about what an amazing lawyer Betsy is and how exceptionally intelligent she was and the references to her being the Oracle of employment law. But what you really need to know about Betsy, in my opinion, is what an amazing person she is.

Betsy is without a doubt one of the kindest hearted people I know. She very often would tell stories about her family and just individuals in the community that she’s helped care for and, you know, she was a lover and a supporter of the arts in Oklahoma City. And just as a very unique person with a very different perspective on life and has absolutely just been a joy to be around.

Erin Van Laanen
Aviation lawyer, McAfee & Taft

Well, I clerked here at McAfee between my second and third year of law school. And Betsy was one of my mentors here when I clerked. I did not get an offer, which is okay. So I wound up coming to McAfee about five years after I graduated from law school. And I remember one day I passed Betsy in the hallway and she said, “Gosh, Erin, would you like to go out and have a glass of wine sometime after work?”

And I said, “That would be great.” I said, “How about maybe Thursday or Friday of this week?” And she said, “Oh no, no, no.” She said, “Monday is the only time you really need a glass of wine, because if you make it to Thursday or Friday, you’re done. You’re sweet. So how about next Monday?” I said, “Well, that’s—” thinking to myself a little unusual. But we did. We went out, had a glass of wine on Monday after work, and we had been having glasses of wine on Monday ever since that time, which was probably in about 1996.

She is about the best mentor an attorney could have at this firm. And I’ve been here since 1995, and I’ve known a lot of the lawyers who have been mentored under Betsy, and she is about the finest person, best lawyer.

So if you were lucky enough to have Betsy as a mentor, then you were doing quite well. And I have to say that she was a wonderful mentor to me as well, even though we did not work in the same area at all. But when I would have questions about the firm or management or just kind of how to make my way in a large firm, Betsy always had good, sound, rational advice.

Tony Puckett
Labor and employment lawyer, McAfee & Taft

Well, Betsy was always the place the person we could go to with the obscure question that no one ever asked us before. And she was likely to have the answer or to know where to find it. And I’m that others have said the same thing. She practiced so long and she had such a varied employment practice, doing all the questions and working all the types of areas that we with we confront or were asked about, but not our day to day stuff also.

And so you go to her and get started on a on a question that you might not have any idea where to look. You can go with a request to ask her question it and she would make time to answer. And and she was always it not just the question about answering your question about the law, but then she would frequently have questions about me or my family, my granddaughters, once I had granddaughters. So that was always nice too.

Betsy, happy times in your retirement. I’m happy that we were able to practice together for so long and I wish you much success.

Roberta Fields
Labor and employment lawyer, McAfee & Taft

Betsy. Congratulations on an amazing and successful career. You were always there for all of us. You always knew the answers to all the questions. I will miss you. Enjoy retirement. You have certainly earned it.

Phil Bruce
Labor and employment lawyer, McAfee & Taft

Betsy, congratulations on your retirement. It is very well-deserved. I would personally say that I learned a lot from you as a younger lawyer, not just in the nuts and bolts of employment law, but really on how to interact with clients, how to treat them. You really personify the idea of being a true counselor and seeing how you talked with clients, how they trusted you, how you could establish trust, and younger lawyers like myself with clients as well, was a great skill, and something that I really try to achieve with my own practice is take that to heart that we’re not just giving legal advice, but we truly are counselors that care about our clients.

And seeing that over and over again when I got to work with you with something that I will always remember and try to emulate in my own practice. So congratulations on the next steps. We’ll be thinking about you and hope you stop by. Thanks.

Paige Good
Labor and employment lawyer, McAfee & Taft

Betsy — otherwise known as the Oracle — thank you for being a trailblazer, for being the founder of our labor and employment group, which has grown over the years to be the largest labor and employment group in the state of Oklahoma. Congratulations on your retirement. It’s much deserved.

Nathan Whatley
Labor and employment lawyer, McAfee & Taft

Hi, Betsy. Well, they say congratulations to you on your retirement and thank you for all the years of mentorship and friendship that I got to enjoy with you. It was great having you as a partner and I hope that you enjoy your retirement. Congratulations.

Erin Van Laanen
Aviation lawyer, McAfee & Taft

Hi, Betsy. I’m very glad you’re retiring. I know that this firm meant a great deal to you through the years, and I know that you meant the world to everyone here, including myself. But of course, you’re not gone. You’re just retiring. So you can expect many music festivals and lunches and dinners in your near future. Congrats.

Paul Ross
Labor and employment lawyer, McAfee & Taft

Miss Betsy. Congratulations on your retirement. But more importantly than that, thank you for everything you’ve done for me and for everyone else in our department over the years. We owe all of this practice to you and I just can’t thank you enough for all of it. Good luck to you. Enjoy your time. You have definitely earned it.

Natalie Ramsey
Labor and employment lawyer, McAfee & Taft

Betsy, thank you for everything. There’s no way I can begin to list all of the things and ways you’ve helped me, and you’ve been a great professional mentor and a personal mentor and you should just know I love you. And I think that you’re incredible. And I’m going to be looking to hear from you and have lunch with you and hopefully see your face.

So I wish you the best in retirement, but you’re not going to be able to get rid of us that easy. I’m going to stay after you and and hopefully see you a lot.