MEET SCOTT SMITH
Here are a few details about my education, background, experience, and other important stuff.
From 1979-1986, I was a litigation associate at a large Indianapolis law firm, where I cut my teeth as a defense trial lawyer on everything from slip-and-fall and dog bite cases to multi-week jury trials involving electrical engineering malpractice, wastewater treatment and collection systems, and many others. I also litigated a variety of environmental disputes involving air, water and solid and hazardous waste emissions and disposal. From 1986 through 2016, I was a litigation partner and shareholder at three prominent Minneapolis law firms serving as national, regional and local trial counsel in the defense of personal injury, wrongful death, property damage and commercial cases involving pharmaceuticals, medical devices, vaccines, over-the-counter medications, consumer/workplace/environmental exposure to a variety of toxic and hazardous products and substances, and production/manufacturing processes and equipment.
Lead Paint/Pigment Litigation. I served on national and trial counsel teams defending personal injury, abatement and public nuisance cases brought throughout the United States against one of the former manufacturers of lead pigments and lead paint. Among other things, I was trial counsel in all matters that went to trial; prepared, cross-examined and defended most expert witnesses in trial and deposition; developed litigation strategy with the client and co-defendants; and, served as one of the media spokespersons for the defense group.
Drug/Device/Vaccine Litigation. I have represented numerous manufacturers of pharmaceuticals, medical devices, vaccines and veterinary biologics in personal property and property damage cases across the United States. Of particular note, I successfully established a federal preemption defense shielding most manufacturers of veterinary biologics from state tort liability, and I served as co-lead trial counsel in MDL bellwether trials arising out of the use of a prescription drug indicated for the treatment of symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Environmental/Toxic Tort Litigation. I have defended clients in numerous personal injury, property damage and medical monitoring lawsuits arising out of exposure to air, water, surface and subsurface pollutants or hazardous materials, including chlorinated solvents, PCBs, heavy metals, asbestos, pesticides and fungicides, biological wastes, sewage treatment emissions, hazardous consumer and workplace products, and numerous others. In several of these matters, I successfully defended against certification of plaintiff classes.
Process/Trade Secret Litigation. I have defended a variety of manufacturers against claims of trade secret misuse arising out of complex processes, engineered systems or devices. Among other matters, I prevailed on a four-week jury trial in federal court based upon the alleged misappropriation of a supervisory system accompanying an industrial dry goods packaging line.
I’m proud of my involvement in and service to the local community. I served for many years as a Warden and Senior Warden of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Minneapolis and am currently a lay member of the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota. I’m the immediate Past President and a current board member of the Edina Chorale, in which I’ve sung for many years. I was also the Scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 48, Edina, Minnesota, a seventh- and eighth-grade football coach for the Edina Football Association, and a registered track and field official for the Minnesota State High School League.
University of Michigan Law School, J.D., cum laude, 1979
Cornell University, B.S. with distinction in Chemical Engineering, 1976
Cornell National Scholar; John McMullen Engerineering Scholar; Member, Tau Beta Pi national engineering honorary society
Honors and Certifications:
Selected as a Minnesota "Super Lawyer" annually since 2012
Listed in the International Who's Who of Product Liability Defense Lawyers
Minnesota Supreme Court
Indiana Supreme Court
United States District Courts for the District of Minnesota, Central District of Illinois, Southern District of Indiana and Eastern District of Wisconsin
United States Courts of Appeals for the Third, Seventh, Eighth and Tenth Circuits
United States Supreme Court
Second, I’m an avid litigation strategist and courtroom advocate. Having handled complex mass tort, product liability, environmental, commercial and trade secret cases across the country, I’m adept at developing winning case concepts and themes, often with the help of empirical jury research, and at crafting effective litigation strategies to maximize the odds of a successful outcome. Along the way, I’ve won praise from attorneys, judges and clients as a savvy trial lawyer, a thorough researcher and a persuasive writer and oral advocate. And being fiercely competitive has never been one of my shortcomings.
Third, as the business of litigation continues to evolve, I firmly believe that project-based litigation expertise is increasingly essential to lawyers and clients alike. As an independent contractor, I’m able to deliver big-firm, senior partner-level excellence in the areas identified above – when it’s needed – at a much lower cost. And when my skills aren’t needed, I’m not on counsel’s or the client’s payroll.
Hence, Smith Legal PLLC. I get to focus on things I’m passionate about – understanding and presenting complex science, developing winning case themes and litigation strategies, and offering high-caliber, persuasive oral and written advocacy – on a value-added basis without the high cost that usually accompanies experience and expertise like mine. To me, that’s a winning proposition, and I’m eager for the opportunity to prove it.F
ABOUT SMITH LEGAL PLLC
So why in the world would someone with 37 years’ experience as a big-firm trial lawyer, litigating complex cases across the country, start up a solo practice aimed at providing other lawyers sophisticated, high-quality litigation assistance on a project basis? Here are a few reasons why:
First, I’m a science junkie. Since my undergrad days in chemical engineering, I’ve loved learning complex issues of science, medicine and technology – everything from complicated neuropharmacology, cardiology, orthopedics and other health sciences to contaminant hydrogeology and air modeling, automated control and supervisory systems, carcinogen risk assessment, high-voltage electrical protection systems, and many others. I adore finding and working with leading experts in their fields. And I’m especially keen on translating complicated science into verbal and visual constructs that help laypersons (not to mention other lawyers) “get it.”
EXPERIENCE AND SERVICES
Devising compelling visual, testimonial and thematic narratives that educate and persuade lay jurors and judges on matters of complex medicine, science and technology.
Developing and implementing jurisdictional and class certification strategies in a wide variety of product liability, environmental contamination, mass tort, medical monitoring, and consumer fraud disputes.
Influencing public perception and opinion of cases and clients
engaged in high-profile litigation.
Identifying, preparing and working with – or working over – expert witnesses in dozens of medical, scientific, and technological disciplines.
Helping jurors and judges visually "get" complex matters of science, medicine and technology that oral expert testimony simply cannot convey.
Crafting and testing successful litigation strategies and winning case themes, and coordinating litigation strategy with overlapping business, regulatory, risk management and public relations concerns.
WHY A FREELANCER?
Increase your firm’s range of services – and clients. Smaller and even mid-size firms frequently lack the depth of experience and expertise in particular areas of practice that legal freelancers offer. For those firms, engaging the services of an experienced hand can help them take on matters and clients which would otherwise be beyond their capabilities. And even if the firm has existing talent in a particular area, retaining an experienced freelancer with similar skills can free up valuable marketing and practice development time for its lawyers.
Improve the firm’s bottom line. Retaining qualified legal freelancers on a project basis assures that law firms will have access to experience and expertise when they need it – without paying salary, benefits and taxes for that talent when they don’t. Nor do firms need to invest in years of associate development and training in a specialized area of law. Finally, so long as the fees billed by the firm for a legal freelancer’s services are reasonable, the firm has the flexibility to set its own rate for his or her services, thus enhancing the firm’s leverage should it so choose.
Timely access to additional legal support. Whether because of attorney vacations, illness, retirement, family leave or new business, law firms frequently require experienced legal support on short notice to accommodate professional staffing needs. Experienced legal freelancers can help law firms meet those demands and deliver seamless service without adding to the firm’s permanent payroll.
Click here for more resources describing how experienced legal freelancers can benefit both law firms and their clients, and some of the professional and ethical issues involved.
For lawyers and their clients, the benefits of hiring specialized litigation support on a freelance basis can be substantial.
Superior value for clients. Many experienced legal freelancers offer partner-level quality work at associate-level rates, and with far more productivity than a less experienced (but billable hour-pressured) associate. Fewer hours needed to complete the task, at a reduced billing rate, is a win-win for most clients. And project-based legal service freelancers often have the flexibility to offer fee certainty that clients needing more predictability in their legal costs increasingly seek.
Providing trial and appellate lawyers with comprehensive legal research, thorough anaysis and crisp and persuasive writing.
“As an in-house lawyer, I have worked with Scott on a number of diverse matters. Scott is one of those [rare??] lawyers who “gets it” when it comes to representing a company. He understands that winning a case can take many forms . . . not just in the courtroom. He understands that strategy and tactics in working up a case can make you win the case without even stepping into the courtroom. Scott takes the time to understand the culture and psyche of the company and its management and tailors his strategy to achieve the desired outcome. He is a passionate advocate for the company he represents and as an in-house lawyer, I value that passion. “
Vice-President and Senior Attorney,