Criminal Defense Attorney joined Nichols Zauzig in 2003. Find out why she decided on the field of law and who some of her biggest influences have been.
ROOTS: Tracey grew up in Centreville, Virginia, but was born in Texas. Until age 4, she moved every few months to towns from Texas to Montana. Her father’s trade as a mapmaker meant a nomadic lifestyle for the family. Tracey’s three older siblings moved 64 times until the family settled in Virginia. She and her siblings and Mom now live within a 20-mile radius of one another. Tracey’s father passed away when she was 17 years old, dramatically impacting her life.
EDUCATION: Straight A’s, year-round sports, club officer positions, and President of Chantilly High School’s student government—activities like these shaped Tracey’s school years. Her parents inspired high expectations, including the prospect of attending Harvard. When Tracey’s Dad died during her senior year of high school, her world collapsed. She reluctantly applied to two nearby colleges. Ultimately, Tracey attended William & Mary, and found an ideal home there, because, as she says “my professors cared deeply about me and I found meaning in the study of philosophy,” which became her major.
WHY LAW? Tracey believed she could best affect the world around her and help others if she became an attorney. Two weeks into law school, she regretted the decision! The foundational beliefs that gave her life new meaning in college were rocked by the black and white nature of law. But with a sizeable student loan commitment, she became an accomplished, albeit unfulfilled, student. She promised herself she would leave the profession after five years and find a new career, if she still wasn’t satisfied.
BIGGEST INFLUENCE: Her mother’s career has been the single largest influence on Tracey’s work. She was part of the international water resources branch of the United States Geological Survey. Tracey’s Mom cultivated and grew relationships among scientists in Jordan, Palestine and Israel for the region’s mutual benefit in all-important water issues. Through her collaborative skills, “differences were set aside and people actually talked with and trusted one another, amid tremendous chaos,” Tracey says. She emulates this problem-solving model daily in her practice.
ALTERNATE PROFESSION: “It took me a while to discover philosophy in the practice of law,” Tracey says, and once she did—in constitutional law, and later criminal law—her passion as an attorney ignited. It continues unabated. Building the criminal law practice at NZS willingly consumes her life, except for family time. She may have pursued a career in international peace keeping for an organization such as The Carter Center, but once she found her niche in the law profession, she never looked back!
FAMILY: Family is a top priority for Tracey and includes her husband, Bill; her stepdaughter Rachel and stepsons Damon and Nick and their families; and her Mom, three
siblings and multiple nieces and nephews. After playing throughout high school, Tracey coached her niece and family friends in league soccer from age 11 until they left for college. Although it was incredibly time consuming, Tracey won’t rule out coaching her great-nieces once they are old enough!
GIVING BACK: The Prince William County Police Department frequently asks Tracey to train experienced detectives by providing insight on defense attorney trial techniques. “It makes the overall legal system better if police officers are educated to do a better job in the beginning,” Tracey explains. She is also a board member for prisoner advocacy on Georgetown University’s Institutional Review Board, which safeguards the rights and welfare of human subjects participating in research. “It provides a junction between academia and my own practice,” she says. Tracey also participates in many Prince William County Bar Association programs, including the So You’re 18 Program.
PASSIONS: Tracey and her husband enjoy hiking and traveling, especially visits to historic and battlefield sites. In October, they will tour battlefield sites in Europe to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of WWI. Fine food and wine is another passion, one she shares with NZS Law partner Chuck Zauzig, “who has a much better wine collection than I do!” she says.
BEST TEAM: From April to September, Tracey “bird watches” as she follows and attends Baltimore Orioles games. Tracey, her Dad and brother often went to the O’s games when she was a child. At the age of six, she became the official score keeper and stat tracker for her brother’s little league team, which her Dad coached.
HEROES: To be known as a cop’s cop is high praise in law enforcement. Tracey admires her husband, Bill, a retired 1st Sergeant with Prince William County Police, for earning that reputation through a career of “always taking care of the people on the street,” she says.
PROFESSIONAL PRIDE: Tracey is most proud of achieving acquittals for clients who had maintained their innocence throughout the legal process, clients for whom she had to go all the way to jury trials “to help them get their lives back,” she says.
WHAT SETS HER APART: Perception and empathy are traits Tracey personifies in her practice. “Many lawyers are great talkers, but they don’t listen as well. You have to be able to listen to what your client really cares about and then tend to it,” she says.
ON NZS LAW: Every lawyer at NZS has a deep commitment to helping clients. And it’s combined with an unusual amount of skill. “We really hear what our clients need and try to bring comfort or resolution,” she says. She points to Betty and Paul who try to keep families together; and to Chuck who works to bring some level of healing to a devastating injury or death. “The motivator is not our reputation—we care about the people who are our clients, and we are inspired to succeed for them.”