This article was published in the fall of 2005. Last month, a stallwart of the state bar association told me how he still remembers this article - and as he talked about it, I saw him tear up. I take no credit for this. My girls were 16, 14 and 11 when they wrote this in honor of me receiving the trial lawyer of the year award from WSTLA now WSAJ:
Proud to be...a trial lawyer's child.
I am preparing my daughters for the escalating "greedy lawyer" name calling that is the centerpiece of the pro I-330 campaign. The television and radio ads have started. They say that personal injury lawyers help undeserving people win "jack pot justice" against innocent doctors. I worry about my girls. Here I am, doing my very best to be a role model and an inspiration for them, but they are being told that I am an unworthy person working in a detestable profession.
"How will you feel when someone tells you your mom is a greedy trial lawyer?" I ask the eldest. She looks up at the ceiling, pauses and then looks me in the eye. "I will be so upset. They don't know you. I'll want to do something to them which will not be 'PG' rated - I will want to punch them." Well, I think, don't want to have them slapping people, we need to talk this through and come up with a less combative way for them to respond.
What follows are the girls' stories, written to express their feelings and to share with you the reasons why they are proud to be a trial lawyer's child.
Cristina Greig - 16 year old high school junior.
I know my mom's not a greedy trial lawyer, because I see what she does. She takes on really small cases and really big cases. It isn't all about suing for the money. She likes the challenge of the small cases because they are so hard to prove and likes the big cases because she can make such a difference in people's lives. We were with her once when the jury came in and read its verdict and I saw the tears swell in her eyes.
Her cases have made an impact on me. In one case the little girl was hit by the car - we watched the video of how she was this athletic, healthy and amazing kid and then she was in the accident where she was smashed and her face destroyed. That could happen to anyone; that could happen to me. She was my age and there was nothing she could do to prevent it from happening. If I was in that situation I would be helpless. She wasn't the one driving. I would rather die than go thru what she's going through. All she could sue for was money, nothing else. She could never get her life back to how it was.
What I never get is why insurance companies don't pay. Isn't that what insurance companies are for. Why else do we have insurance if they don't ever pay. I don't get why you can't tell juries that you really aren't suing people, you're suing the insurance company. It's not the injured person who's greedy, it's the insurance company.
The Mardi Gras case was always about more than money. The plaque the city had to put in the park. That's a reminder. That whole case was really awful. Kris Kime was helping this girl and he was beat to death and the police were standing there watching it. I'm sure the police really wanted to help but I'm sure they were going through a lot of emotions, following orders I guess. The commanders were the ones who needed to be sued. The other thing cool about that case was my mom was in the media and my friends were like, your mom's on tv. So that was my ten minutes of fame. I always wondered why they picked my mom. At that point she wasn't a big lawyer. I felt proud because the Kime family's cause was honorable and respectable.
As for stereotyping, my mom is a hooch court mama. It is hard for me to take her seriously as a lawyer. Lawyers are supposed to wear suits and be dull and wear glasses with money falling out of their eyes. What I've found, is that the lawyers my mom hangs around only wear suits when they have to. I can only think of my mom as my mom. Other people see her as a lawyer. It's like when you think about teachers and can't imagine them outside of school, and when you see them outside its like wow you're a normal person. I've met lots of lawyers mainly at WSTLA conventions. My sisters and I love going to conventions and are strange because we like to go to lawyer parties.
These are some of the lawyers we know and none of them are boring. We've known Lori Haskell the longest. I wore bigger shoes than her by the time I was six years old. She was at a party at our house and she told us that she put bug eggs under our beds which were going to hatch into nasty monsters. We were scared to look under our beds for weeks. Judy Massong is always wearing vibrant African colors. We went bumper boating and soaked her so bad she had to go upstairs and shower and change before one of the receptions. Mike Withey always wants to play - he went barn dancing with us. Deborah Nelson Willis and her husband Andy are like my country family. I'd like to move out to a farm with them. Matt Knopp - he's good with kids and he's funny. Jeff Donchez - he's so funny he acts like he's 15 sometimes. Pat LePley - if he could, he'd be riding his horses, he loves them that much and is always so proud of my mom. Morris Rosenberg - he's an amazing tennis player- I hit balls with him. Lex Mathis - we just met her, she's lawyer by day DJ by night. She has to be the only woman in the whole world who does that. She's a bleached Italian how cool is that. Clare and Brandi and Gabriella -if they weren't there one year I don't think I'd want to go. They're always there to welcome us. They always spell our names wrong on the barbeque badges, even when they ask how to spell them they get them wrong.. The Spruances are just an amazing family. I really like them a lot.
So when I hear people talk about greedy trial lawyers, I know they don't know my mom and they don't know the lawyer's I've met in WSTLA.
Alysha Greig - 14 year old 9th grader
My mom isn't exactly a big rule person, but for as long as I can remember she's enforced and repeated these rules to me and my sisters countless times throughout our lives.
RULE #1: DO NOT lie. Honesty is the best policy even if it may end up hurting you or someone else. "The truth will set you free."
RULE #2: Treat others, like you would treat yourself (equally). All people are created equal no matter their skin color, ethnicity, disabilities, or differences.
RULE #3: Respect the opinions of others. Everyone is able to think their own thoughts and shouldn't have to be forced to think the way you do.
I don't know how my mom finds the time in the day to work long hours and do what she loves best, run 8 miles every day, cook us dinner or run us around to restaurants, take her three high-maintenance daughters shopping, let alone constantly remembering to hammer down the three most important rules in this household.
When my sisters and I were little we would go to my mom's office and eagerly help make copies or organize or alphabetize folders (all the dirty workJ ) On the weekends when the office was empty we would look forward to claiming a desk and computer, and would play "office." We'd run around and keep pressing the intercom button and #16 to bug my mom about something or type up "documents" and make sure all of us had our signatures on it, making extra copies for all of us on the copy machine of course! Then and now we became curious about what exactly my mom was always doing behind her laptop, flying fingers punching in those black keys.
We loved to hear about her cases and the horrible things that had happened to so many of her clients. We began going to court with her sometimes and became glued to everything that was going on around us. We met the judge once and got to go into the judge's chamber which was absolutely amazing. Several times we saw my mom cry tears of joy when her clients were brought to justice. As being the little greedy children we were; of course we would pester my mom about how much money she won on that case!? All my mom would do was smile at us and reminds us that that was not what mattered to her.
It's not only my mom that I look up to as an amazing trial lawyer. There are countless attorneys that my sisters and I have met that inspire and excite me to know that my mom is working with a group of such amazing, witty and intelligent people.
Every year my sisters and I attend WSTLA conventions. We're some of the fewer kids who actually WANT to attend the luncheons, or receptions. We love meeting the lawyers new to the organization and being able to see the familiar faces we see every year.
My mom explained to me how the insurance companies want to post ads everywhere saying that ALL trial lawyers are greedy and are just "out to rob the world." This deeply upsets and frustrates me. I know that my mom and many of the trial lawyers I know work their tails off to help their clients who were not being treated fairly. To me this statement is unfair and incorrect. Not ALL trial lawyers are greedy. I suppose it would be fair to state that "SOME and VERY FEW trial lawyers are greedy and "out to rob the world." Wouldn't the statement that they're making be like all the trial lawyers telling their clients," ALL insurance companies are greedy and insensitive."? SOME of the insurance companies are, but it wouldn't be fair to the ones who work their hardest to try and prevent stereotypes like this.
I must say that of all of the trial lawyers I've met throughout my lifetime, I highly doubt that a single one of them is what insurance companies are making them out to be. Most of all, it rattles me that ALL trial lawyers including my mom have been given this title. Yes, my mom is a single mother with three daughters to support. So money is important to her, she needs to keep us living healthy and happy lives. She could've taken so many other jobs that offer the same, if not more, money if she wanted to. She took this one because she loves it. I doubt that when most of the attorneys I know decided they wanted to be a trial lawyer that they thought in their minds, "I want to become a trial lawyer so I can make a LOT of money off of insurance companies!!"
I don't' know exactly what I want to do or be when I grow up. Every now and then I wonder how I would like being a trial lawyer. In a kid's opinion going to court, and fighting for justice, seems so cool to me. Being able to do something that would actually make a difference in someone's life. Then reality strikes and I think, well how would I win a case? I would have to go through tons of college and work all of the time, read through documents a lot and listen to sometimes boring but important conference calls. It seems like hard work and not just any ordinary person could do it, these trial lawyers are dedicated, hard working, fight with great effort and courage, and are constantly persevering. Although what is going on with the insurance companies is mind boggling, immature, and just straight up rude... I highly doubt it is going to slow down these rear end kicking' attorneys!
Noelle Greig - Almost 12 years old 7th grader
If people say my mom's a greedy trial lawyer I'm going to be sad. I know she isn't and that she works hard every day.
I think I was three when I first went to court with my mom. I went after that too and remember not knowing what it was about. I started understanding more when I was about 8 or 9 years old. I remember walking to the courthouse and it smelled like spoiled food. When we got inside we had to wait. We watched the prisoners walk by in orange suits. Police walked with them. I remember hiding behind my mom. The judges were also scary at first. They talked so seriously. Later I wasn't as scared because one of the judges (Judge Mary Yu) let us into her chambers and she was nice to us and funny and I realized judges weren't so bad. We visited with other judges. I think one had a beaded curtain.
One of the coolest times I was in court was in Olympia when we watched teenagers actually doing what my mom does. It was a mock trial competition and my mom was a judge for that. I liked seeing them rebut each other and because it wasn't real, it wasn't as serious. It was cool to watch kids have fun.
We go with my mom to her office usually some of the weekends in the school year and a lot during the summer. At the office with Mr. LePley, we'd either get McDonalds or Taco Time and come back to the office and play at the desk and play cases. We each had our own desk. Mine was Eva's, Cristina's was Alycia's and Alysha's was Sue's. We would call each other on the intercom and pick up a new case and work on it and figure a way to solve it and all sign at the end. Cristina was the main secretary and she would always call us with info pieces. The office now in Seattle is a lot different. There is a lot of noise there. Everyone is always laughing. Mr. Withey is usually either text messaging people, working hard, and not realizing when I'm doing ballet in front of him. Mr. Coluccio can be in a really funny mood or in a real serious mood. Mr. Whelan is always working. Mr. Schifferman is very serious in his work. Mr. Moore talks a lot but is always paying attention. Mr. O'Neil's office is hidden away, and he's either copying or working very hard. During conventions, Mr. Kessler and Mr. Withey always play piano and sing together. I think it's very funny but they are actually quite amazing. Mr. Kessler's house is fabulous and he has a great dog.
My mom's paralegal gives us stuff to do. We help him type because we're so fast, we sort files for him or copy gross pictures. We call him the candy man because he's just like a candy dispenser. You do the work and he gives out the candy. My favorite is butterfingers.
My mom and the other lawyers I know fight for people who are injured or sad. They help the people with their problems. I don't ever hear my mom talking about money. It annoys me sometimes but then I think it is just her privacy and I'll let her stay with it. Instead she tells me about the cases and how sad they are and how they turn out. The one I remember the most is the one where the girl got speared in the face and my mom was almost crying when she told us about it. I know she worked real hard on that. I remember her going to the hospital to visit the girl and help her feel better. We went to the store to get a present for her. We got her bubbles and little things to play with.
Spending every day and night with my mom is a joy. My sisters being teens and me almost being one makes us not want to listen to what my mom has to say. But we almost have to because it's so hard not to appreciate what she has to say because we see what she does. Plus, she's a good arguer - believe me, I've had experience. My mom is the coolest mom you could ever be blessed with. Through good and bad times my mom is either listening to the cool songs with us, or helping us play piano, but no matter what she loves us and we love her.
I want everyone to know that there may be some bad trial lawyers out there but not one trial lawyer I know (and trust me I know a lot) is at all in the least bit greedy. I think it's rude that people are saying negative things about trial lawyers because when I hear my mom talking to us about what people say of trial lawyers, it makes me want to cry because I can hear my mom wanting to cry. In my point of view she has does nothing wrong or greedy, and I love and appreciate my mom very much.
It is hard to explain to my children, why the proponents of I330 find it necessary to engage in mean, personalized, unfair attacks against lawyers and those we represent. It is just as difficult to tell them that many people listening to the ads will believe the rhetoric. The best I can do is to continue to show my children by my acts and deeds, that I am a parent they can look up to. That I have an honorable spirit and that I work in a noble profession.