With the turn of the month, we bid farewell to summer – and hopefully to the year’s record-high temperatures, too. The start of autumn has brought with it a host of thrilling new stories in the legal space, all of which we are excited to present in our September 2023 edition. Langston & Lott managing partner Casey Lott joins us as this month’s featured attorney. In an exclusive interview on page 14, he shares his expertise gained from years of focus on burn injury cases, as well as his plans to develop his firm’s practice further. A leading expert in personal injury law, his insights are not to be missed! More featured perspectives can be found elsewhere in this edition. On page 22 we hear from Shawn Collins, who speaks on his efforts to combat polluters and their contamination in some of the most impactful class action lawsuits of our time, and on page 44 Andy Riddle provides a deep look at the challenges of caring for mentally disabled children post-18 (including issues with accessing Child Trust Funds). You can find out more in their full-length profiles. All of these interviews come a plethora of content to keep you informed on the latest developments in the legal industry, from the newest lawyer moves to the biggest breaking M&A deals. Whatever your business or your interest in law, everything you need to be prepared for the autumn is right here in these pages. We hope that you enjoy this edition. LAWYER MONTHLY©2023 Universal Media Limited Lawyer Monthly is published by Universal Media Limited and is available on general subscription. Readership and circulation information can be found at: www.lawyer-monthly.com. The views expressed in the articles within Lawyer Monthly are the contributors’ own. All rights reserved. Material contained within this publication is not to be reproduced in whole or in part without prior permission. Permission may only be given in written form by the management board of Universal Media Limited. Approx. 302,000 net digital distribution. Oliver Sullivan Editor Lawyer Monthly Welcome to Lawyer Monthly Magazine SEPTEMBER 2023 EDITION @lawyermonthly @LawyerMonthly @lawyermonthly company/lawyer-monthly Universal Media Limited, PO Box 17858, Tamworth, B77 9QG, United Kingdom 0044 (0) 1543 255 537 Production Team: Emma Tansey, Luke Ostle, Nathan Athersmith email@example.com Sales Enquires: Jacob Mallinder Jacob.firstname.lastname@example.org
14 30 Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. By Gage Skidmore - WikiCommons. Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en)
Contents 22 48 6 Monthly Round-Up 10 Lawyer Moves FEATURE OF THE MONTH 14 Casey Lott Skilfully Tackling Burn Injury Cases MY LEGAL LIFE 22 Shawn Collins Leading the Charge Against America’s Biggest Polluters SPECIAL FEATURES 30 Past Presidents and Their Legal Troubles Oliver Sullivan, Lawyer Monthly 34 Time for Law Firms to Widen Their Brief with an EVP Richard Barrett, Initials CX 38 The Impact of Email Marketing on Legal Practices Shamil Shamilov, dNOVO Group EXPERT INSIGHT 44 Caring for Severely Disabled Children Post-18: Health and Financial Challenges Andy Riddle, Professional Deputies 50 Overcoming Obstacles in Business Formation Jessica Zubiate-Beauchamp, Zubiate Beauchamp LLP 54 ROI in Establishing a Robust Freedom to Operate Program Keith Gilman, Lerner David LLP 58 Safeguarding the Livelihoods of Auto Accident Victims Steven Jacobson, The Law Offices of Jacobson & Tchernev THOUGHT LEADER 66 New York City Zoning and the ‘City of Yes’ Howard Goldman, GoldmanHarris LLC 70 A Guide to UK Immigration for Exceptional Businesspeople Malini Skandachanmugarasan, Doyle Clayton 74 How Electrical Injury Cases Are Litigated Greg Baumgartner, Baumgartner Law Firm TRANSACTIONS 76 What’s Happening in the World of M&As and IPOs?
Arizona State Law School Allows New Students to Use AI on Applications The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University has announced that it will permit prospective students to use generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools to help draft their applications. Stacy Leeds said that the school wanted students to know that the use of AI is acceptable ahead of the admissions cycle beginning. 10 August. “This is just one more of the tools that is in their toolbox when they think about how to present their admissions package,” Leeds said. Leeds pointed out that lawyers and law students are already making use of AI, but noted that the new policy is limited to prospective students. The law school is still in the process of drafting rules concerning the use of AI in the classroom and for coursework. The move follows a decision from the University of Michigan Law School banning the use of widely used AI tools such as ChatGPT on student applications and requiring applicants to certify that they have adhered to the restriction. A spokesperson for the school added that applicants will be required to clarify that they used an AI as part of the application process and certify that the information submitted is truthful. The spokesperson also noted that the school has previously asked prospective students to confirm whether they have used a professional consultant as part of their applications, and that AI tools are widely available regardless of applicants’ economic situations. Arizona Law School dean Monthly Round-Up SEPTEMBER 2023 Trump Indicted Over Efforts to Overturn 2020 Election Former US President Donald Trump was indicted on 2 August by a federal grand jury for his allegedly illegal attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and obstruct the peaceful transition of power. On 24 August, Trump turned himself in to be booked at the Fulton County Jail. The indictment charges Trump with conspiracy to defraud the US, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy against the rights of citizens. The charges follow special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation of Trump’s actions following his election loss, culminating in his supporters’ attempted storming of the US Capitol on 6 January 2021. “The Defendant lost the 2020 presidential election”, the indictment states on its first page. “Despite having lost, the Defendant was determined to remain in power. So for more than two months following election day on 3 November, 2020, the defendant spread lies … that he had actually won.” The latest allegations mark the third time in four months that criminal charges have been brought against the former president. The new indictment names six co-conspirators, of whom one is believed to be former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was Trump’s attorney following his election defeat. Immediately following its announcement, Trump’s re-election campaign team denounced the indictment. “The lawlessness of these persecutions of President Trump and his supporters is reminiscent of Nazi Germany in the 1930s, the former Soviet Union, and other authoritarian, dictatorial regimes,” the campaign said in a post on Truth Social. 6 LAWYER MONTHLY SEPTEMBER 2023
allegedly found that the publication of hateful material on the site has risen since its purchase by Musk last year. A legal representative for Musk accused the CCDH of posting articles that made “inflammatory, outrageous, and false or misleading assertions about Twitter”. The CCDH subsequently accused X Corp of intimidation. “If you were unfairly treated by your employer due to posting or liking something on this platform, we will fund your legal bill,” Musk tweeted in a post on 5 August. “And we won’t just sue, it will be extremely loud and we will go after the boards of directors of the companies too.” Musk added that there would be no limits to the bills that X was prepared to fund. The series of tweets follows Legacy https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Elon_Musk_(12270807823).jpg - Tesla Owners Club Belgium Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) Motor Club’s suspension of NASCAR driver Noah Gragson, who had ‘liked’ a racist meme parodying the death of George Floyd. X Corp’s conduct has recently come under scrutiny after Musk threatened legal action against the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), an anti-hate speech campaign group whose study of the Twitter platform MONTHLY ROUND-UP 7 Elon Musk has said that X Corp will sue on behalf of users who have been ‘treated unfairly’ by employers for posting or liking something on the site formerly known as Twitter, in addition to paying their legal fees. Elon Musk Offers to Sue on Behalf of Users Fired for Tweets
Serial Killer Nurse Lucy Letby Sentenced to Life Imprisonment Neonatal nurse Lucy Letby received 14 whole-life sentences following her conviction on 18 August for the murder of seven babies and six attempted murders. 33-year-old Letby is the UK’s most prolific child serial killer in modern times. During her tenure as a neonatal nurse at the Countess of Chester Hospital between June 2015 and June 2016, she deliberately injected babies with air, poisoned two with insulin and force-fed milk to others. Letby refused to appear in the dock for her sentencing hearing. Mr Justice Goss addressed her as if she were present. “There was a malevolence bordering on sadism in your actions,” he said. “You have no remorse. There are no mitigating factors.” Letby was found not guilty of two counts of attempted murder, while the jury was unable to reach a verdict on six further charges of attempted murder. Prior to her arrival on the neonatal ward of the Countess of Chester Hospital in 2015, the ward saw fewer than three baby deaths per year. The trial, which lasted for more than 10 months, is believed to be the UK’s longest murder trial to date. Letby’s defence team argued that the alarming rise in deaths and nearfatal collapses of premature babies at the hospital were the product of a “system that wanted to apportion blame when it failed”. Monthly Round-Up SEPTEMBER 2023 8 LAWYER MONTHLY SEPTEMBER 2023
3M Settles US Military Earplug Lawsuit for $6 Billion Department of Justice Sues SpaceX Over Discriminatory Hiring Practices US-based industrial conglomerate 3M Company has agreed to pay $6.01 billion to settle lawsuits brought by US military veterans who claim that they suffered hearing loss as a result of using the company’s earplugs. The US Department of Justice (DoJ) filed suit against Elon Muskowned aerospace company SpaceX on 24 August, claiming that the company discriminated against refugees and asylum recipients during hiring. of training and active combat from 2003 to 2015, seeing use in theatres including Afghanistan and Iraq. Plaintiffs in the lawsuits claim that the Combat Arms earplugs contained design flaws that the company covered up, in addition to fudging test results and failing stated that SpaceX job listings and public messages had falsely claimed only to be able to hire US citizens and lawful permanent residents, sometimes referred to as green card holders. The DoJ also pointed to a 2020 post on X, then called Twitter, by Musk stating that: “US law requires at least a green card to be hired at to provide instructions for the earplugs’ proper use, leading to hearing damage for many users. 3M will not admit liability as part of the settlement, and continues to claim that its earplugs are “safe and effective when used properly”. SpaceX, as rockets are advanced weapons technology." Musk hit out against the lawsuit, describing it as “weaponization of the DOJ for political purposes” and claiming that SpaceX “was told repeatedly that hiring anyone who was not a permanent resident of the United States would violate international arms trafficking law, which would be a criminal offence.” The DoJ is seeking fair consideration and back pay for refugees and asylum recipients who were deterred or denied employment at SpaceX, as well as civil penalties in an amount to be determined by court. The settlement comes after a failed attempt by 3M earlier this year to move the lawsuits into bankruptcy court in order to limit their liability. These lawsuits have now grown into the largest mass tort litigation in the history of the US, with 240,000 people expected to be eligible for the settlement. $1 billion will be paid out in the form of 3M stock. 3M’s ‘Combat Arms’ earplugs were created by Asaro Technologies, a subsidiary of 3M that was acquired in 2008. These earplugs were then used by the US military as part In a statement, the DoJ said that SpaceX had “routinely discouraged asylees and refugees from applying and refused to hire or consider them, because of their citizenship status, in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).” Evidencing its claim, the DoJ MONTHLY ROUND-UP 9
Lawyer Moves RECENT APPOINTMENTS FROM ACROSS THE GLOBE Jones Day announced the arrival of Pulina Whitaker as a partner in its labour and employment practice. Whitaker will be based in the firm’s London office. She joins from the London office of Morgan Lewis, where she was cohead of the firm’s global privacy and cybersecurity practice. Whitaker has 25 years of experience advising clients on matters involving employment and data privacy issues, and boasts particular experience managing key employment matters in sales and acquisitions, commercial outsourcing and business restructurings. She regularly advises on international employee misconduct investigations and defence strategies in response to a wide range of employment and data privacy allegations and claims. In her new role at Jones Day, Whitaker will work alongside the firm’s senior-level employment lawyers to advise clients facing cases involving employment discrimination, harassment, wagehour and restrictive covenant disputes. “Pulina is highly accomplished at helping clients navigate complex employment law matters in the UK and across other European jurisdictions,” said Elizabeth McRee, co-leader of Jones Day’s labour and employment practice. “Her practice spans internationally and includes some of the world’s largest companies in the technology, financial services and life sciences industries. Her background is an excellent complement to our global practice and I am pleased to welcome her to Jones Day.” Leading European law firm Fieldfisher announced the appointment of Marguerite Brac de La Perrière in the firm's Paris office to bolster its life sciences and digital health capabilities. She brings more than 15 years’ experience in medical sciences law and digital health, along with particular expertise in IT contracts and data protection. Her past clients have included medtechs, biotechs, medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturers, healthcare organisations and insurance companies, whom she has advised on issues including GDPR and local data protection regulations, as well as SaaS licensing, AI and cybersecurity. Before her career moved to private practice, Brac de La Perrière worked at telecommunications operator Orange, where she was responsible for managing the Group’s healthcare activities. She commented on her new appointment: “Fieldfisher is an internationally recognised law firm for life sciences and technology law. Joining the firm will see my clients benefit from their extensive international network and in-depth sector capabilities. I very much look forward to collaborating with the wider network and building out the firm’s European offering across digital law." New Partner Boosts Jones Day’s London Labour & Employment Practice Fieldfisher Bolsters European Life Sciences Offering With New Partner London, United Kingdom Jones Day Paris, France Fieldfisher Johannesburg, South Africa DLA Piper Global law firm DLA Piper announced the appointment of Nick Grootes as director in its South African Johannesburg finance, projects and restructuring FP&R team. Grootes joins the firm from Allen & Overy, where his practice was focused on transactional and advisory work in the banking and finance sector. His clients include local and international banks and real estate investment trusts, whom he advises on matters involving debt restructuring, acquisition finance, real estate finance and corporate lending. “Nick is a great fit for our South Africa FP&R practice,” said Jackie Pennington, DLA Piper’s South Africa practice head. “His skillset means that he will not only bolster our existing leveraged finance capability but also improve our capacity to work on wider debt restructuring mandates. We look forward to him joining the firm and adding further bench strength to our already successful team.” Grootes also spoke of his eagerness to join the firm. “DLA Piper’s strong reputation in the South African market and impressive reach across the African continent and globally really appealed to me,” he said. “They are delivering some really cutting-edge work for clients in the finance space and are known for their collaborative culture and innovative approach to client service – two things I am also passionate about. I am pleased to be joining and look forward to further enhancing our leveraged finance offering to clients.” DLA Piper Gains Finance Director for South Africa Team 10 LAWYER MONTHLY SEPTEMBER 2023
Allen & Overy announced the appointment of Kfir Abutbul as the new head of its US energy private equity group as part of the firm’s ongoing expansion efforts in the nation. Abutbul joins from Paul Hastings, where he served as partner and chair of the firm’s energy transition team, and formerly the vice chair of its energy and infrastructure practice. In this new position, Abutbul will become part of Allen & Overy’s US corporate private equity and M&A practice. He is well-positioned for the role, bringing with him a strong background in domestic and cross-border private equity deals, especially in the energy transition, renewables, power and infrastructure sectors. Abutbul’s notable clients include Guggenheim Partners, Sandbrook Capital, Oak Hill Advisors and Morgan Stanley Private Credit. He has also expressed excitement about the ongoing innovation, technological advancements, and fresh ideas emerging as part of efforts to combat climate change and achieve global net-zero, observing what he describes as “very intense growth” in this sector. Abutbul will be based primarily in New York, a city where he has significant past experience. He also boasts experience of having practiced in Houston, though Allen & Overy does not currently maintain a presence there. Allen & Overy Taps New Head of US Energy Private Equity Team White & Case hired Wilfred Ho as a disputes lawyer in Hong Kong. Ho, who joins from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, is the US-based firm’s first partner hire in Asia this year. With his new appointment, Ho brings to White & Case nearly 15 years’ worth of experience representing companies and private equity funds on commercial litigation before Hong Kong courts and arbitration panels. He also has expertise working in the Greater China market, particularly on shareholder disputes, insolvency and restructuring matters and intellectual property disputes. Donald Baker, global executive member at White & Case, lauded Ho’s arrival: “Wilfred's arrival demonstrates our continued commitment to Asia-Pacific and ensuring we are our best placed to meet current and future client demand there.” Ho is White & Case’s first partner hire in Hong Kong since 2021 and brings the number of partners at the firm’s Hong Kong office to 15. White & Case Strengthens Hong Kong Disputes Practice New York, USA Allen & Overy Hong Kong White & Case LAWYER MOVES 11
Our front cover story for this month features an in-depth look at burn injuries and the accidents that cause them; a prevalent source of personal injury lawsuits, and one which has a high potential for causing lifelong damage to victims. As one might expect, the trauma incurred by such injuries and the time needed to recover are all the greater for this. Here to explore this niche further is Casey Lott, managing partner of Langston & Lott. A leading personal injury attorney, Casey’s dedication to specialising in this particular area of law has yielded him a wealth of needed experience and a highly worthwhile perspective, as this exclusive interview makes clear. We discuss Casey’s practice and his plans for further professional growth in the following pages. FEATURE OF THE MONTH
14 LAWYER MONTHLY AUGUST 2023 Skilfully Tackling Burn Injury Cases CASEY LOTT Personal injury claims comprise one of the largest areas of law worldwide, and not without good reason. In the US alone, thousands of auto accidents and medical malpractice lawsuits are opened each day. Just as serious (and, frequently, lifechanging) as these are personal injury cases involving burns – and this is a niche where Casey Lott, managing partner at Langston & Lott, holds specialist knowledge. In this article, Casey takes us through the ins and outs of burn injury cases, drawing upon a wealth of personal experience gained by representing many clients in this area. From an analysis of the dangers posed by unreliable smoke detectors to a look at the burn injury cases that proved most formative for his career, Casey provides an incisive examination of this vital area of personal injury law and shares a glimpse of where Langston & Lott is looking to further expand its expertise. I know you handle all types of personal injury cases, but you have developed a niche for burn injury cases. What are the most common incidents that cause burn injuries? We probably handle more propane explosion cases than anything. Propane explosions are much more common than people realise. We have also represented people who were burned by hot liquids or toxic chemicals. Defective products like e-cigarettes or portable propane cylinders can explode and cause severe injuries. Home LAWYER MONTHLY SEPTEMBER 2023
FEATURE OF THE MONTH 15
appliances like water heaters, stoves and space heaters are the cause of a lot of residential fires every year. Sometimes you do not know what caused the fire, but you know the injury or death that resulted from the fire could have been prevented. For example, sometimes the fire investigators we hire to give us expert opinions on the cause of a fire cannot tell us how the fire started. They can almost always tell us where the fire started – say, on the west wall of the living room – but they cannot always tell us exactly how it started. Maybe it was faulty wiring. Maybe someone knocked a candle over. You cannot always figure it out, because sometimes too much evidence is destroyed in the fire. But I have never represented anyone who was burned in a residential fire where the smoke detectors functioned properly, because those people get out in time. So, when someone is burned in a house or apartment fire, there is a high probability the smoke detector did not function properly. And if the condition of smoke detectors was the responsibility of someone else – say, a landlord – then you might have a cause of action against the landlord for violating safety rules. Manufacturers of smoke detectors have advertising material that says, “every second counts”, and they are right. Research has shown that delayed sounding of detectors dramatically increases the risk of serious injury or death. What are the most common reasons why smoke alarms do not function properly? Many times, it is because the detectors are not hard-wired to a power source and the battery is either dead, not installed properly, or not installed at all. Sometimes they are installed correctly, but they don’t work because they’re out of date. All smoke detectors have an expiration date. Some models last as little as five years and some as much as 10 years. Alarm sensors wear out and dust and cobwebs make it harder for alarms to detect smoke, so it is important to keep them clean and replace them before they expire. Even if the detector is in date and installed properly, it may not timely detect the fire if it is not a combination 16 LAWYER MONTHLY SEPTEMBER 2023 I have never represented anyone who was burned in a residential fire where the smoke detectors functioned properly, because those people get out in time.
and in my community. I want to have a positive influence on as many people as I can, whether those people are my clients, employees, or members of my community. That is the macro level, but the means to that end is more granular. You can be the best lawyer in the world, but if you do not have any clients, you are not making much of an impact. So, you have to not only be a good lawyer, but you have to be good at attracting clients. You need to be both a good lawyer and a good businessman. As with any business, you need to set clear and specific goals, both short-term and longterm. I measure my professional success against those goals. unit. There are three types of smoke detectors: ionisation, photoelectric and combination units. You really need a combination unit if you want to be fully protected. Ionisation and photoelectric detectors have different sensing techniques, which means they perform differently to various types of fires. Scientific testing has shown that ionisation detectors can fail to provide a timely warning of slow-developing or smouldering fires, even if smoke levels are extremely high. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and several other agencies recommend installing both types of smoke detectors or combination units, but sometimes landlords sacrifice safety to save a few bucks. What led you to focus on personal injury and wrongful death as areas of specialisation? Early in my career, I took whatever walked through the door. Family law, criminal defence – just about anything. It didn’t take me long to realise that if I was going to be a jack of all trades, I would be a master of none. I knew I had to focus on a particular area if I was going to get where I wanted to be. I hated divorce and child custody cases. Personal injury was by far the most rewarding area of practice for me. I still have a picture on my desk of a little girl I represented in a scald burn case. She had really bad facial scarring and she needed laser resurfacing treatments, but Medicaid would not cover it. They said it was ‘cosmetic’. I knew how badly she needed those treatments, and fortunately, we were able to convince the burn centre to take an assignment on the proceeds of our civil case, so she could get the treatment she needed immediately. We ultimately obtained a really good recovery for that little girl, and we had to get the settlement court approved since she was a minor. When I saw the little girl at the settlement hearing, I could not believe my eyes. You could not even tell she had been burned. It is amazing what those treatments did for her. She gave me one of her recent school pictures where she was smiling from ear to ear, and she signed the back of it. I have had that picture on my desk for the last eight years. When you see things like that, it really makes you feel good about what you do. How do you measure your success? Professionally, I measure success by the impact I make through my law firm FEATURE OF THE MONTH 17
When it comes to my personal life, I measure success by happiness and well-being, not money. I know several wealthy people who are unhappy, so money does not get you there. My family is very important to me, and I have to be careful not to let my desire to succeed professionally interfere with the more important goal of being a good husband and father. It is tough to strike the right balance at times. But nothing makes me happier than being around Amanda and the boys, so if I can be a good husband and father to them, that’s success in my book. Do you have a particular career achievement that you feel especially proud about? I have been fortunate enough to litigate numerous cases throughout my career that were very impactful, not only for the client we represented, but the public at large. Some cases make a lasting impact and lead to positive change that extends beyond that case. Flame arresters are a great example. We have successfully litigated wrongful death cases against water heater and gas can manufacturers for failing to equip their products with flame arresters, which are safety devices designed to prevent the propagation of flames and explosions in certain equipment. Now, gas water heaters and gas containers have flame arresters. I am not saying that this is solely because of us, but I do think the plaintiffs’ bar as a whole led to that change. Plaintiff lawyers get a bad rap sometimes, but I do believe the work we do is the impetus for regulations that lead to safer products and workplaces. Like I said, I have been fortunate enough to litigate numerous cases that have made that kind of impact. But as far as one particular case or career achievement that makes me especially proud, I cannot point to just one. I think I am proud of the entire journey. When I joined my dad in 2005, we were a firm of four – two lawyers and 18 LAWYER MONTHLY SEPTEMBER 2023 You can be the best lawyer in the world, but if you do not have any clients, you are not making much of an impact.
About Langston & Lott Langston & Lott is a personal injury law firm based in Mississippi and operating internationally. Founded in 1964, the firm is actively involved in trial litigation involving catastrophic injury, personal injury, product liability and car, motorcycle, and trucking accidents. The Langston & Lott team have won judgments against and negotiated settlements with many of the country’s most prominent companies and insurance carriers and have secured multi-million-dollar awards on behalf of their clients. Contact Casey Lott Managing Partner Langston & Lott, PLLC 100 South Main St, Booneville, MS 38829, USA Tel: +1 662-728-9733 E: email@example.com www.langstonlott.com About Casey Lott Casey Lott is a highly experienced personal injury attorney who is actively involved in trial litigation across a variety of fields, including personal injury, product liability, burn litigation and automobile accident cases. With a wealth of experience in leading multi-district and class action litigation, Casey has received a number of accolades for his work, including ‘AV Preeminent’ peer review rating from Martindale-Hubbell® the highest possible rating for legal ability and ethical standards. He and his wife, Amanda, also provide numerous scholarships each year to students at Northeast Mississippi Community College through The Casey & Amanda Lott Scholarship and The Cynthia Langston Memorial Scholarship. two paralegals. Today, we are a team of 17 with six attorneys. John Morgan says if you are not growing, you are dying, and I believe that. There are lots of ways to measure growth and it is not just by the number of people you employ. But I see consistent growth in our firm year after year, and that is something that makes me very proud. I think winners compete with themselves, and self-improvement is a never-ending journey. My goal is to be better every year, and I think we have done that so far. Can you share anything about your plans for career development in the latter half of 2023? We are taking a hard look at other practice areas that could be beneficial for our firm, like labour law. We have filed several WARN Act cases this quarter. The WARN Act, short for the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, is a US labour law that provides protection to workers by requiring certain employers to provide advance notice of large-scale layoffs or plant closures. The primary purpose of the WARN Act is to give employees who are living paycheck to paycheck adequate time to prepare for the loss of income and to seek other job opportunities. Unfortunately, we have seen a lot of large-scale layoffs lately where the employers did not comply with the WARN Act. We took a look at those cases, and we decided to get into that practice area because we think it is an underserved niche. Jack Simpson is running point on those cases for us and he is doing a great job. If you want to have sustainable success in our industry, you have to be able to evolve and adapt to changing circumstances. I do my best always be on the lookout for other opportunities, because I do not want to miss ‘the next big thing’. Personal injury is still our bread and butter, and probably always will be, but the largest fee I have ever generated came from an antitrust case. You cannot be afraid to step outside your comfort zone, and that is what we’re doing with these WARN Act cases. I think it is going to be ‘the next big thing’ for us. FEATURE OF THE MONTH 19 If you want to have sustainable success in our industry, you have to be able to evolve and adapt to changing circumstances.
Each month, Lawyer Monthly Magazine has the privilege of interviewing the brightest and most ambitious movers in the legal space. In these conversations we dig into their areas of expertise, learning more about their practice and the stories behind their pursuit of excellence. The featured My Legal Life spotlight of September 2023 falls on Shawn Collins, a veteran of the ongoing fight against some of the biggest polluters in the United States. In this profile exclusive to Lawyer Monthly, he shares details of his remarkable legal career and the challenges that face today’s campaigners for environmental justice. MY LEGAL LIFE
Shawn Collins My Work and My Clients I have fought polluters for more than 23 years. My clients are individuals, families, and communities whose air and water have been contaminated by the reckless discharge of dangerous chemicals – usually carcinogens – from factories, industrial parks and landfills. In my cases, chemicals with names like TCE, PCE, DCE, vinyl chloride, ethylene oxide, arsenic, toluene and glyphosate were poured, spilled, dumped or spewed into the air – often for years – by companies who did not care to spend the money to dispose of the chemicals responsibly or protect those they knew would be exposed. Left to migrate throughout the environment and find their way into homes, schools, churches and parks, these toxins were then inhaled and consumed by residents who had no idea the chemicals were even there, let alone how badly their health was being threatened. No one bothered to tell them. Not the polluter. Not even their government. My Legal Life Leading the Charge Against America’s Biggest Polluters Instances of harmful pollution and ecological disasters have grown unsettlingly commonplace in the US – despite environmental regulations that appear strict on paper. Why is this, and how can polluting corporations be held responsible for the damages they cause? Enter Shawn Collins, the ‘environmental lawyer for the people’. In this exclusive interview, Shawn shares a look at the work he does and the clients who come to him, as well as a glimpse into the ongoing battle to hold polluters accountable in the US. 22 LAWYER MONTHLY SEPTEMBER 2023 The discovery of a toxic chemical in the community frightens residents, understandably, and warns those who might be interested in living there one day to stay away. The contaminated homes – typically the most valuable asset a family owns and hopes one day to leave to the next generation – can be rendered worthless in an instant of discovery. Who wants to live in a home like that? In a place like that? A life of saving and building and caring can be lost. Parents are terrified to learn that the home they thought was a place of sanctuary and safety for their children is actually quite dangerous, because colourless, odourless industrial chemicals have infiltrated the family’s water supply, flowing daily out of the kitchen tap and showerhead. Or they have silently intruded into the home’s breathing spaces, having migrated there as the vapour remnants of industrial solvents dumped into the groundwater decades earlier. In some cases, far more than ‘just’ the value of a home is lost. Health can be irreparably damaged. People
MY LEGAL LIFE 23 can and do suffer and die, their bodies ravaged by cancer (my cases mostly involve chemicals that cause cancer). The science demonstrates this catastrophic causal chain. What these powerful chemicals do in the factory – for example, kill living microbes in a sterilisation process, or pulverise industrial grease and grime off a new machine being constructed – proves that they have no place in the human body. Who in their right mind would think it acceptable to release such chemicals into the environment in such a way that humans, including especially vulnerable children, would one day breathe them, drink them, or shower in them? In these cases, I file lawsuits, using the courts and laws to seek justice and compensation for my clients and send a message about how polluters must pay a price for continuing their reckless conduct. Over the last 23 years, my colleagues and I have forced polluters to: • perform thousands of tests for contamination throughout the community, including tests of the water and air inside homes; • clean up the soil, air and groundwater they have contaminated; Regulators often react only when a toxic chemical has proven unsafe to a community.
how, while nearly 1,000 people perished in the sinking of the Titanic because the ship did not have enough lifeboats to hold them, the ship’s number of lifeboats actually fully complied with existing government regulations. It was just that the regulations had been written years earlier, when ocean-going ships carried far fewer passengers, and had not been updated to protect the far greater number of passengers on a ship so large as the Titanic. In other words, something could be regulatorily compliant and yet still terribly unsafe. Environmental ‘regulation’ often works just like this. Regulators today determine what are supposedly ‘safe’ concentrations of a carcinogen in air or water, but based on decades-old science that does not take into account all that is currently known about a chemical’s dangers. And of course, industry benefits from this because, invariably, the outdated regulations underestimate • supply safe and clean water to communities whose supplies were ruined by contamination; • pay for the lost property value their industrial operations have caused, and in one community, guarantee the value of the families’ homes at their uncontaminated value; • compensate residents for the anxiety they have caused; • compensate hundreds of cancer victims who had been exposed for years to a carcinogen discharged for decades from a plant in their community. Just last year, I was co-counsel on a toxic exposure case where the jury awarded $363 million to my client: a woman who contracted breast cancer after 22 years of unknowing inhalation of a carcinogen released daily from a nearby plant. The case is especially significant because $325 million of the jury’s verdict – nearly 90% – was for punitive damages. The jury was clearly outraged by the polluter’s decades-long release of the toxic chemical into the plaintiff’s residential community and failure to do anything meaningful to protect her from it, or even warn her that her health might be in danger. Why the Polluters Control Pollution Regulation in the US Over the last 23 years, I have worked on hundreds of environmental contamination cases. Each one has followed the same enraging script: government regulators knew all along 24 LAWYER MONTHLY SEPTEMBER 2023 about a company’s reckless disposal of chemicals, threatening its neighbors. But they did not force a cleanup to protect the people or issue warnings so that the people could try to protect themselves. Why does this happen? While we have so-called ‘environmental regulation’ in this country, it is mainly controlled by polluters, and by governments far more attentive to the business needs of polluters than to the health and safety of the people. For example: ‘Safe until proven dangerous’ We often do not require proof that a chemical is safe before we allow companies to use it… and so the potential risk of the chemical falls not on the company profiting by its use, but instead on the company’s neighbours, who neither know of the danger nor profit from it, but who nonetheless will pay a dear price if the polluter and government have made a bad bet. Regulators often react only when a toxic chemical has proven unsafe to a community. Of course, when this proof finally shows up, it is usually years after people have been breathing or drinking the chemical and someone notices that there is more cancer than normally expected in that community. But by then, it is too late. Regulations are conveniently outdated David Michaels has written a wonderful book about industry dominating government regulation called ‘Doubt is Their Product’. Michaels tells the story of Billions of dollars ride on environmental regulation.
the danger and allow the polluter to expose people to more of the chemical than appropriately updated science ever would. Polluters write the science Billions of dollars ride on environmental regulation. Whether regulators allow industry to contaminate the air to one ‘part per billion’ per cubic metre of a certain carcinogen, or one-tenth of that, can have extraordinary financial consequences for the profits of companies in the industry. A company having to buy and install expensive pollution control equipment or use and emit much less of the chemical than called for in its business plan, in order to meet more stringent air quality requirements, can significantly erode profits. The pollution industry’s response to this is to try to control the outcomes of scientific studies that provide the basis for regulations. And so many of the scientific studies which opine about how safe or unsafe a chemical is, and thus are critical in determining regulations, are actually performed by scientists who are paid pollution industry consultants, or are funded by lobbyists and companies who make money using and selling the chemical that is the subject of the study. This is a blatant conflict of interest. However, as polluters see it, the conclusions of these studies can so greatly impact profits that they cannot be left to the work of independent or public health scientists. Industry controls the regulatory and law-making processes Just as they do with the consequences of scientific studies, billions hang in the balance when environmental regulations and laws are made by agencies and legislative bodies, and the pollution industry makes certain that it has a firm grip on each. For example, today, a contested campaign for a United States Senate seat – the holder of which casts important votes about whether or not to enact environmental laws – can cost $100 million or more. Where does such money come from? Certainly not from the disadvantaged communities with the most to lose from breathing polluted air or drinking polluted water. No, not surprisingly, the money comes from companies who profit by lax, or non-existent, or un-enforced, environmental laws and regulations. That is why the wealthiest polluters in the world, and their PACs and lobbyists, are among the most significant and active campaign contributors to American elections. Increasing numbness to cancer risk When I began work as an environmental lawyer in 2000, government health agencies typically would not allow exposure of human beings to MY LEGAL LIFE 25
resources, either at the behest of its pollution industry or because Kansas was simply unwilling to make a priority of the health of its citizens. So, if the government is failing us, who can Americans rely on to protect them from environmental contamination? Juries. Juries Are the True Environmental Regulators in the United States With pollution and its horrible consequences so dramatically on the rise in the US, I am sometimes asked whether we need tougher anti-pollution laws. My answer has always been: no. We have tough anti-pollution laws on the books right now, both civil and criminal. And regulations, too. We just need to enforce them – really, we need the will to enforce them. However, as I describe above, in the US today, we have a system of concentrations of a carcinogen if they posed a cancer risk of more than one in 1 million. This is called the ‘excess cancer risk’, or ECR. It is a measure of how many excess, or unexpected, cancers in a population of 1 million people would be caused by their exposure to those concentrations. Today, however, the government often allows people to be exposed to concentrations that cause 100 excess cancers in 1 million. That is a tolerance for 100 times greater cancer risk. Why? There are several reasons for this, but one certainly is the pollution industry’s persistent efforts to influence government to alter health standards in a way that favours industry profitability, such as by allowing more pollution to infiltrate a community without regulatory consequence. Budget cuts Environmental laws are only as strong as our willingness to enforce them. American law is filled with civil and criminal laws that empower the government to, for example, force 26 LAWYER MONTHLY SEPTEMBER 2023 polluters to stop polluting, compel companies to clean up the pollution they caused, and imprison corporate decision makers who knowingly endanger lives. But, despite the fact that our country is inundated with industrial chemicals that can ruin our lives and health, when was the last time any pollution executive was ever convicted and sentenced to prison for breaking environmental laws? And why are the environmental laws and regulations that we do have not enforced with more vigour, or at all? Over the last few decades, both federal and state governments have stripped environmental regulators of the resources necessary to enforce the law. One extreme example comes from the state of Kansas. When the state announced late last year – years after it first knew – that the groundwater underlying a large Wichita community might be contaminated with industrial chemicals, the state confessed that it had no money to address the problem. Pathetically, it asked for voluntary donations so that it might do so. Kansas had stripped its budget of enforcement
Shawn Collins is the founder of The Collins Law Firm and a prolific trial attorney, with a breadth of experience across the fields of environmental law, personal injury law and business litigation. Since 1986 he has worked on a number of ‘high stakes’ litigation matters to recover tens of millions of dollars for his clients. Shawn’s expertise and leadership have seen him recognised as one of the Top 100 Trial Lawyers by The American Trial Lawyers Association from 2005 through 2023, among many other accolades. The Collins Law Firm was founded by Shawn Collins in 1992 and has since become one of the leading law firms in the Chicago area. The firm’s team are experienced in business, personal injury and environmental law, with several attorneys recognised as leading lawyers both regionally and nationally. The Collins Law Firm has represented hundreds of clients and secured more than $900 million in settlements and verdicts. Contact Shawn Collins Founder The Collins Law Firm, PC 1770 Park St STE 200, Naperville, IL 60563, USA Tel: +1 630-527-1595 www.collinslaw.com environmental ‘regulation’ that is ever more in the control of the polluters it is supposed to regulate. The bottom line to all of this is that, until further notice, Americans cannot trust their government to define how much of a chemical is dangerous and what a polluter profiting from the use of a dangerous chemical owes to its neighbours whose lives, health and property values are on the line when the polluter discharges chemicals irresponsibly into a neighborhood. Enter the jury. The US is the only industrialised country in the world that constitutionally guarantees that a jury will decide (many) of its civil trials. In other countries, juries are reserved for criminal trials. In the US, juries decide civil trials because the people who wrote our Constitution, frankly, wanted a forum for resolving important disputes that was as removed as possible from the corrosive, sometimes corrupting, influence of the relationship between business interests and government. As a result, for example, in my 2022 case where the jury awarded $363 million to a woman who had contracted breast cancer after inhaling for years a chemical released from the defendant’s plant, the jury was free to look sceptically upon (and, indeed, to even disregard) the defences that: • “the company did not behave recklessly in releasing the chemical because local government gave the company a permit to do so.” The jury was free to conclude that the company was responsible itself for knowing the dangers of the chemical it unleashed on a residential community and could not blindly rely on the permission of a government regulatory agency that might have been too ignorant or uncaring to know the chemical’s true danger. • “the chemical concentrations inhaled by plaintiff must have been safe because no study has ever shown concentrations so low to cause harm.” The jury was free to agree with plaintiff that the defendant’s argument was meaningless because no study of the concentrations plaintiff inhaled had ever been performed, and that many of the studies defendant relied upon at trial were not trustworthy, because they had been paid for by money from the pollution industry. As our Constitution’s framers had intended, this jury took seriously its role as the judge of what was necessary to protect a community from a carcinogen. It rejected the conclusion of the polluter and regulator that the community did not deserve any such protection. The result was a record-setting verdict that reverberated literally around the world, speaking to that defendant and other polluters in the only language they understand: money. In that way, the jury did more than most regulation ever would. MY LEGAL LIFE 27 The wealthiest polluters in the world, and their PACs and lobbyists, are among the most significant and active campaign contributors to American elections.
These articles come from guest authors across a broad range of specialisations. Rather than focusing on subjects necessarily pertinent to law firms or the world of business, our special features most often touch upon new legislation, common law and the intersection of the contemporary legal landscape with the public interest. This month’s special features concern the potential for law firms to rise above their competitors with an EVP focus, a guide to optimised use of email in legal marketing and a history of legal troubles faced by past Presidents of the United States. Each is fresh, informative and well worth a look. SPECIAL FEAT URES