From Courtroom to Boardroom, Ruth Whitney Proves a Formidable Player
By: Dwain Hebda – Arkansas Money & Politics
With a list of credentials that can stop anyone in their tracks, Ruth Whitney owns any room she enters. An attorney and entrepreneur, she founded inVeritas, a Little Rock public affairs firm, and Select Litigation, a jury selection and litigation support services company, after leaving public service under then-Attorney General Mike Beebe. And, she can cite a long list of philanthropic achievements to go with her professional success.
It may come as a surprise, therefore, to learn how simply it all began – that the catalyst for such a career had nothing to do with the many accolades that today crowd her resume. Instead, she says, it was that the law gave her the chance to stand up for others.
“It was a way for me to advocate,” she says. “I had a brother who struggled with developmental disabilities and I had an opportunity to start my advocacy when I was a sibling. It stayed with me throughout my life. That was part of my thinking about the law, was to have an opportunity to learn and know and be in a position to be helpful to others.”
Whitney grew up in Fort Smith, graduated the University of Arkansas in 1986 and earned her juris doctorate from Bowen School of Law in Little Rock in 1990. She served as counsel and chief of staff in the AG’s office and amassed more than a decade of experience as a health care and administrative lawyer with the Arkansas Department of Human Services and as counsel to Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard. Prior to launching inVeritas in 2009, she built and managed the Arkansas office of Global Strategy Group, specializing in executing winning campaigns in the public and private sectors.
Under her guidance, inVeritas has amassed a stellar client list to include Global 500 companies, prominent professional services firms, state and federal governments, law firms, nonprofit corporations and industry associations. The roster includes the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism, Visit Hot Springs, Baxter Healthcare and Cox Communications – just to scratch the surface.
Whitney says there were doors to kick down to build inVeritas to the company it is today, but no more than any other entrepreneurial endeavor. She says being a woman didn’t make these challenges any more or less acute, but it did help her develop the ability to learn from others.
“I think being a business owner, period, is a tough endeavor,” she says. “Most businesses fail within the first three years. As a woman-owned business, I looked to the people that I saw who had similar values, who had, at their core, a model of excellence and that is what has driven my approach to the work.”
“Are there doors to be kicked down? Absolutely. I think you do that by finding men and women who are smart, who have talent and skillsets that can make you better every day and at their core have the same high bar in the way they approach their work.”
She followed up inVeritas with Select Litigation in 2017, centered around its Integrated Selection Model, a predictive model providing data-rich guidance for jury selection. At first glance, the two companies seem miles apart – one in the staid legal arena, the other in the more malleable consulting and public relations field. To the contrary, Whitney says, operating one firm informs the other.
“The Select Litigation venture and model is very much built around understanding and managing data and information,” she says. “Historically, 15-20 years ago, the difficulty for businesses, including one like inVeritas, would be access to information.”
“Now the real challenge is, how do you refine the information that you have? It’s information management and being able to verify and integrate that data and information in such a way that you can provide excellent service to a client. That’s true whether it’s my legal clients and others that I serve through Select Litigation or whether it’s our clients on the inVeritas side; we start with a very strong understanding of the landscape of the client we’re serving, something that begins with a deep-dive into information. That’s how the two companies inform and complement each other.”
This philosophy extends to product and service innovations as well. In October, inVeritas announced Global i, a new platform providing global-wide research solutions for companies and individuals in need of comprehensive, fact-based intelligence such as background checks and due diligence reports.
“I’m excited about the launch of Global i,” she says. “I’m also excited to think forward about other types of data platforms that can inform and help, working in congruence with Select Litigation.”
Time and success have also afforded Whitney the opportunity to get involved with a number of charitable causes and nonprofits in the community, something she has pursued with characteristic gusto. Among these have been leadership roles with the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, Arkansas Cinema Society, Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, New Design School and Little Red River Foundation. Through these organizations, she rekindles the service mentality that began this journey years ago.
“I’m passionate about is my work in the nonprofit sector,” she said. “My goal is to continue to engage in that way, whether it’s hunger relief, whether it’s on behalf of individuals with disabilities, whether it’s with the Cinema Society helping promote talent in our home state, or whether it’s something I haven’t even contemplated yet. All of that work is something that excites me as I think forward to the future.”