2017 Trial Lawyers Conference

February 1, 2017| By Alexa Brown —Over 258 law students and attorneys attended the Second Annual Trial Lawyers Conference held on Pepperdine Law’s beautiful Malibu Campus on January 28th. Since it’s founding in 1969, Pepperdine University School of Law has been a leading light in the Southern California legal community. With its focus on developing lawyers for service and leadership, it is no surprise that Pepperdine has trained many of the top plaintiff’s trial lawyers in the region. The Southern California Trial Lawyers Conference was convened both to highlight the many ways that trial lawyers advocate for justice in their legal communities and to showcase Pepperdine’s contributions to the field. The Second Annual Southern California Trial Lawyers Conference sought to focus on those fighting for justice for consumers.

Alumnus Jamin Soderstrom (JD ’08), Founding Shareholder of Soderstrom Law, said of this year’s event, “The Trial Lawyers Conference is another example of how Pepperdine Law provides a great balance of intellectual learning and practical training opportunities for students and alumni. All of the speakers were excellent and showed just how important meaningful trial experience is in today’s legal environment. Last year’s inaugural conference was one of my inspirations for starting my own firm and focusing increasingly on representing plaintiffs in a trial-oriented practice.”
The keynote speaker for the event was trial consultant David Ball. Ball is widely acknowledged as America’s most influential and effective trial consultant. He is a partner in Malekpour & Ball Consulting in North Carolina, the nation’s only consulting firm qualified to guide attorneys in the use of Reptilian methods and strategies. Co-creator of the Reptilian theory of trial advocacy, Ball specializes in mediation techniques, early case development, focus groups, case analysis and presentation, advocacy skills, damages strategies, and jury selection. His best-selling books include Reptile: The 2009 Manual of the Plantiff’s Revolution with Don Keenan, David Ball on Damages (now in its third, ground-breaking edition), and Theater Tips and Strategies for Jury Trials. His DVDs include guidance on opening statements, voir dire, case strategies, and other essential topics for trial advocates. He is the nation’s most in-demand and experienced trial consultant for teaching Continuing Legal Education (CLE’s). His firm works on every kind of case including commercial litigation; plaintiff’s personal injury, wrongful death, professional negligence, and civil rights cases; and criminal defense. He is best known for his insight into methods of explaining difficult cases, identifying and dealing with case weaknesses, turning case problems into strengths, and focus group techniques. He is also regarded as the major authority on damages. Ball teaches trial advocacy coast to coast. He has also taught law students at Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, and at Campbell University as an adjunct professor of law. A frequent teacher for the North Carolina Advocates for Justice and AAJ’s National College of Advocacy, Ball received the 2002 Charles Becton Award for Excellence in Teaching Trial Advocacy.

Panel moderators at the conference included:

Title Sponsor of the event Robert T. Simon (JD ’05), cofounder of The Simon Law Group. Robert Simon has quickly become one  of California’s most sought-after trial attorneys, winning awards for top trial lawyer from the largest bar associations in Los Angeles County
and in Orange County in 2014. He runs the Simon Law Group with his twin brother, Brad, with offices throughout Southern California. A tireless advocate for consumers, Simon is also one of the youngest members ever to be inducted into the American Board of Trial Advocates.

Platinum Sponsor of the event Mark O. Hiepler (JD ’88), partner at Hiepler & Hiepler. Hiepler has been called “the nemesis of the HMO industry” by 60 Minutes in his many interviews with reporter Morley Safer. He is renowned for his many landmark jury verdicts, ranging from his record-setting $89 million bad-faith verdict on behalf of his late sister to a $120.5 million verdict against Aetna for its refusal to pay for care recommended by the plan’s own doctors. Hiepler was voted one of the Top 10 Trial Lawyers in the Nation by Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, “One of California’s Top 100 Most Interesting and Influential Healthcare Leaders” by readers and editors of California Medicine and named one of the 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America by the National Law Journal. (Photo via Ventura County Star.)

Platinum Sponsor of the event Michael J. Bidart (JD ’74), managing partner at Shernoff Bidart Echeverria LLP. Bidart is a preeminent consumer attorney who has had a major impact on our healthcare system. He leads Shernoff Bidart Echeverria LLP’s HMO Litigation and Property/Casualty Departments. His inexhaustible efforts were showcased in a $120.5 million jury verdict against Aetna over its refusal to pay for care recommended by the health plan’s own physicians. It was the largest jury verdict ever rendered against an HMO. Last year, he obtained a $28.2 million jury award against Kaiser Permanente for a 17-year-old cancer survivor. In 2016 he was named Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles 2015 Trial Lawyer of the Year, in 2011 he was named CAL ABOTA Trial Lawyer of the Year, and has also been named a Top 100 SoCal Super Lawyer every year since 2004. In 2015 he was also listed in the Top 25 Plaintiff Lawyers in California by the Los Angeles Daily Journal. Bidart is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, and ABOTA.

Breakfast Sponsor of the event Brian Chase (JD ’92), senior partner at Bisnar Chase. Chase focuses his practice in auto products liability and crashworthiness; governmental entity tort liability; personal injury; and products liability, wrongful death, employment class actions, mass torts, and medical-device tort liability. He is the current president of the Consumer Attorneys of California and is a past president of the Orange County Trial Lawyers Association. Chase has been named Trial Lawyer of the Year in products liability by the Orange County Trial Lawyers Association and Trial Lawyer of the Year by the Consumer Attorneys of California. In 2009 Chase published his book Still Unsafe at Any Speed, which profiles the auto industry and defective vehicles.

Panelists at the conference included Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell (JD ’90), District Judge, U.S. District Court for the Central District of California; Geoffrey Wells (JD ’85), Partner at Greene, Broillet & Wheeler; Alex Wheeler (JD ’05) of Parris Law; and Spencer Lucas (JD ’04) and Brian Panish of Panish Shea & Boyle. These panelists and more spoke on their own legal backgrounds and success stories, and contributed teachings on the latest in legalities. A common theme amongst panelists and moderators was the concept of constant commitment to clients. Many shared stories of their fight for justice via contingency cases, and the emotional achievements that followed as a result. Students and lawyers alike were urged to hold on to their dreams of making a meaningful difference in peoples lives.

Pepperdine Law also extends thanks to Luncheon Sponsor M. Lawrence Lallande (JD ’83) President, Lallande Law; and Room Sponsor Louis E. Masry, Millennium Settlement Consulting.

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