Helping Individuals Fight Back

James L. GilbertMy journey as a trial lawyer began in 1969. Until 1980 I was a partner in a small general practice in Arvada. My work was pretty much like anyone else in a general practice. I guess I was okay with that but I wasn’t exactly excited about going to work every day. Then in the 1970’s two things hap pened at about the same time. My 5-year-old daughter was walking home from kindergarten and a careless driver ran over her in a crosswalk causing permanent dis ability to her leg. I will never forget seeing my daughter when she came out of hours of surgery and she asked, “Daddy, why are you crying?” I told her I was so happy to see her and I would protect her forever. I knew then what my calling was and it didn’t involve drafting contracts.

Within a month of my daughter’s injury, I received a call from a family in Lubbock, Texas. Five of their relatives had burned to death in a Pinto rear-ender. I had no idea how to handle such an important and complicated case, so I decided to get help. An Illinois lawyer and I invited 20 lawyers with experience in Pinto cases to join us for a meeting in Arizona. That meeting was the beginning of a national litigation group called the Attorneys Information Exchange Group specializing in automobile defects including the Pinto cases. We moved our headquarters to Alabama and I was then elected president of the national group. I left my general practice firm in January 1981 and began to specialize in product litigation. For the first few years I struggled to make ends meet financially but was determined to succeed. I was money-poor, but rich in self-satisfaction. I knew I had found my calling and believed I could make important contributions to consumer safety.

Since 1981, our firm has grown substantially with some ups and downs (the General Motors and Chrysler bankruptcies were back breakers). However, all of us here at The Gilbert Law Group® kept our noses to the grind and resolved to seek justice for the families we represent.

In the 1990’s I created an engineering department within our law firm, the only law firm in America having engineering services in-house. For more than 20 years, our engineers and staff have given us the ability to not only walk into a courthouse anywhere in the country to try a case, but also to actually redesign cars and trucks to make them safer. Some of these safer designs include stronger seatbacks, protection for diesel fuel tanks in 18-wheelers, addition of side beams to vehicles to make them safer in both side and rear collisions, design improvements to roof structures in passenger cars and SUVs, etc. We brag about this work because it allows us to prevent consumer injuries. Because of our work and the work of others, many unsafe products have been pulled from the market or recalled such as Pintos, Jeep CJ’s and seatbelt buckles that become unlatched inadvertently. Every time I drive down the highway and see cars with advanced safety features, I think to myself how proud I am of the work we have done in helping to bring about greater consumer safety. My name may be on the letterhead, but everyone here knows it is their law firm. The people who work here are smart and they work hard. They also care about each other as much as they care about our clients. I love working here and I look forward to coming into the office every day. We give our clients a fighting chance against some of the largest corporations in the world. We know it and those big companies also know it.

I do not want to leave the impression that we are the only ones doing this important work for families who need help. Other lawyers in the CLTA are doing these things and carrying on the finest traditions of our organization for as long as I have been a member. We can’t forget to thank them for all they do. We care about each other and that is why I urge everyone to contribute as much as they can to the EAGLE program which allows us to do what we love doing. Thank you for your consideration of this request.

(Originally published in Trial Talk, a publication of the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association)

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