Phelan Petty’s Administrative Team
Mary Jean Colwell
Mary Jean has lived in Richmond since 1980 and worked as a public-school history teacher for 45 years. She began her career in education at Milford High School in Connecticut, where she taught for 20 years. One of her most troublesome students was her son and our law firm’s founding partner, Michael Phelan.
Later, Mary Jean moved to Virginia and continued her career by teaching social studies in Chesterfield County for 25 years, where she helped create the American studies curriculum and the humanities program at Monacan High School.
Mary Jean currently serves as a receptionist at Phelan Petty. Her hobbies include reading British mysteries, traveling with friends, and spending time at the beach. She also loves to travel and has walked across England in addition to taking trips to Italy and Greece.
Irina Winder was born and raised in Tashkent, Uzbekistan and later moved to Riga, Latvia to pursue a law degree. She is fluent in Russian and English.
Irina assists on medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuits, many of which have resulted in multimillion-dollar verdicts. She assisted attorneys in preparation of cases to trial, attending more than 15 trials. Irina’s energy, work ethic, and positive attitude enrich the firm’s team through all aspects of a case.
Irina enjoys reading, biking, traveling, hitting the gym and partaking in the vibrant local community and nightlife in Richmond. Irina lives in the Richmond area with her husband, Casey, her son, Christian, and their precious dog, Landon.
Deborah Gardner was born and raised in Virginia and has called the Richmond area home since 1998.
Deborah has been a paralegal since 1994, working on both plaintiff’s and defendant’s cases. Her heart is in plaintiff’s personal injury and she has assisted in numerous complex litigation and mass torts cases including motor vehicle accident, products liability, premises liability, traumatic brain injury, childhood lead poisoning, and Baycol, Fen-Phen and Sulzer Hip Implant mass tort actions.
Deborah currently resides in New Kent County and enjoys traveling, reading, music and spending time with friends and family, especially her 6-year-old nephew, Brayden.
Debbie Downey was born and raised in Northern Virginia, where she began her paralegal career over two decades ago, all while raising four children.
Debbie’s paralegal career has been richly varied. Prior to joining Phelan Petty, Debbie honed her skills in criminal and civil defense work. She has been awarded commendations in numerous settings, including for her work in the City of Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. Debbie has always loved trial work and sought out a position in the medical malpractice and personal injury settings to give her a greater ability to help people. Debbie is a people-person through and through, as the firm’s clients quickly learn. Debbie contributes an extraordinary work ethic, a can-do attitude and an experienced skill set to every case.
Debbie has made Bowling Green her home for the past three years. She relishes every minute with her large family, many friends, and especially, her four children and three grandchildren. Debbie is a rabid sports fan, who enjoys rooting on her beloved Washington Football Team and the Washington Capitals. When she can, Debbie enjoys spending time out-of-doors, fishing and camping.
Betty is originally from Pennsylvania but has made her home in Richmond for the last 30 plus years. Betty entered the legal field 24 years ago and has worked on both plaintiff’s and defendant’s cases in many areas of the law. She continues her education as a member of the National Organization of Legal Assistants.
Betty enjoys helping people and has worked as a volunteer for CASA and is a member of the Optimist Club.
Outside of work, Betty enjoys spending time with friends and family including two adult children and her fiancé Fred. She enjoys traveling, reading, kayaking and hiking in the many state parks and taking advantage of all that Richmond has to offer.