Faculty Profile: Debra Norwood

Debra NorwoodLaughterLawyerUSA254 Court Avenue Memphis, TN 38103 Work Phone: (901) 528-8300Email Address:
Previous Courses Taught (3)
  • Labor & Employment Fall Foray: Knoxville
  • Labor & Employment Fall Foray: Jackson
  • 23rd Annual Labor & Employment Forum 2019

Debra Norwood is an attorney/peacebuilder and resilience trainer. She is contributor to the American Bar Association best seller Lawyers as Changemakers by J. Kim Wright and is a member of the American Bar Association Relational Practices Task Force. Debra is also a contributor to Legal Changemakers Cafes and a part of the Transformative Law Movement, which is working to encourage integrative practices in all areas of the law. Her program, Lawyers as Couragekeepers, is part of the American Bar Association Relational Practices Tele-summit and her iPhone App, Couragekeepers: Uncovering the Hero Within, is designed to help users journal courage to gain skills in building inner peace.
Debra currently serves as co-chair of the Attorney Wellness Committee of the National Hispanic Bar Association. She also serves as Steering Committee Head for a multi-state suicide prevention task force for the Latina community called Valor D’Vivir. As a certified brain health coach with Amen Clinics, she educates her coaching clients on the current advances in Brain Spect Imaging to help with depression, anxiety and PTSD. As a Certified Laughter Leader, Expert Level, for the World Laughter Tour, Debra creates Lawyer Laughter Clubs as an alternative happy hour for stressed out legal professionals.
Debra has created an unorthodox conflict management model she calls #humor4peace, which incorporates therapeutic laughter, brain health principles and mindfulness to create peace. Debra uses her humanitarian clown persona, LaughterLawyerUSA, to deal with serious subjects such as anger management, trust building and suicide awareness. Her program Peacebuilding for Youth, which began as a peer mediator and mentor program for high school students in Tennessee, has grown to be an outreach program for thousands of youth around the world, including those in the Rohingya refugee camps in India and those who have become refugees from Venezuela, as well as for youth in Pakistan who are being helped by Human Friends Organization International.
In her first major case as a young lawyer, Debra represented the Native American Intertribal Association in the Preserve the Sacred Mounds Project, a project which resulted in an interfaith harmony vigil and became the precursor of many of the current Native American burial site protection laws in Tennessee. Her next public interest cause was to form the Tennessee Language Project, which helped expose the need for certified interpreters in the state’s criminal courts. This project ultimately led to the creation of a state certification process adopted by the Tennessee Supreme Court and now run by the Administrative Office of that court.
Early in Debra’s legal practice, she also volunteered with Pro-Bar in Harlingen, Texas, to help process asylum cases from Somalia, Russia, and the Caribbean. As a family law and juvenile court attorney, Debra worked on the creation of a parenting class program which was approved by the State of Tennessee to address the religious concerns and needs of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints who go through a divorce.
Debra has been married for thirty-four years to labor and employment law attorney Dan Norwood. They have raised seven children, three of whom are special needs. They are currently writing a book together called The Resilient Lawyer: Overcoming Challenges and Finding Joy in Modern Day Law Practice.