Law, Justice & Results, Building on a Tradition of Success Meet Atlanta Attorney, Lyle Griffin Warshauer
Q: How old were you when you knew you wanted to pursue a career in the legal field?
LGW: 18 years old, when I was a freshman in college. I thought I wanted to be a doctor and was in the pre-med program; but I took a Constitutional Law class as an elective on a whim and I instantly fell in love with the law. I changed my major to political science, with a minor in history – the quintessential pre-law scenario! By the time I graduated I was pretty sure that law school was in my future, but knowing what a commitment that would be, both in terms of time and money, I decided to test the waters as a paralegal first. I worked for a great litigation firm for several years before starting law school, which was a perfect precursor for me. When I entered law school, I was very focused and intentional about preparing to be a trial lawyer.
Q: What expectations did you have after graduating and receiving your law degree?
LGW: I had a pretty good understanding of what I was getting into. Not only did I know that I wanted to do civil litigation, I knew I wanted to handle medical cases on behalf of patients and their families. I was fortunate to get a job with a firm that did catastrophic injury work, and it was essentially baptism by fire. I was exposed to very complex cases right from the start and was able to participate in trials and appeals at an unusually early stage in my career. In fact, one of my first trials was a very high profile, three-week long wrongful death trial in Florida that was covered by Court TV. I guess you could say my best expectations were realized pretty early on.
Q: How long have you practiced law?
LGW: I’ve been a lawyer for 26 years … 23 of those years I have had my own firm.
Q: What type of cases do you generally handle?
LGW: All of the cases that I handle as lead attorney involve medical malpractice. However, as one of the principals in our firm, I have some involvement in many of the cases that our firm takes on. I am also the lead brief writer, so I am often involved in the complex motions practice of the firm, and I handle most of the appeals.
Q: I see you have Bar Admissions in Alabama and Tennessee, as well as Georgia. Can you share with our audience, what it means for an Attorney to have multiple admissions?
LGW: Our firm has a national practice, so we handle cases in venues throughout the country. While the majority of my medical cases are in Georgia, we often have matters in other southeastern states and it helps to know the applicable laws in the different jurisdictions, particularly when and claim can be asserted and the types of damages that are recoverable. Being licensed in multiple states not only gives me that knowledge, but I am permitted to appear in the courts of those states without special admission, so it is just more efficient.
Q: What are some of the most popular topics you are asked to lecture on?
LGW: I am most often asked to talk about one of two things. Because of my experience handling medical cases, I frequently lecture on medical malpractice law and strategy. In addition, I have become fairly well known as an authority on the admissibility of expert testimony, so I talk a lot about the rules of evidence applicable to expert witnesses and have probably written about expert testimony more than any other area of the law.
Q: Who is your typical client?
LGW: I always tell people, “you don’t ever want to be my client,” because the people that I represent have either experienced a very serious injury themselves, or a family member of theirs has been gravely injured or killed. In recent years, I have taken on a number of birth injury claims, so my clients are the parents of children with significant deficits, such as cerebral palsy or other consequences of brain injury. I care about all of my clients, but I really appreciate the opportunity to help children, who have their entire lives ahead of them, because I know that what we do can be the difference between a full life and one that cannot withstand the challenges. The responsibility can be daunting; but when things work out the emotional reward is beyond measure.
Q: What's the greatest fear you've had to overcome to get where you are today?
LGW: I don’t know if it is a fear so much, but I never want to succumb to apathy. I want to face every day as an opportunity to learn and grow – and give back. When I stop doing that, I will know that it is time to do something else. Fortunately, I am not there yet.
Q: Can you tell our audience one of your most memorable moments your career?
LGW: Years ago, I represented the parents of a child who died shortly after birth from an undiagnosed metabolic disorder. We were able to resolve the matter in their favor, and it was the largest recovery for the death of a very young child in Georgia at that time. But what was so rewarding was the fact that my clients used the money to start an organization dedicated to improving the newborn metabolic screening process in states throughout the country. Countless lives have been saved by their efforts and I am grateful to have had a small part in the process.
Q: What’s one lesson you’ve learned in your career that you can share with our audience?
LGW: We learn more from our losses than our successes. In no vocation is this more true than in trial work. Some of my firm’s best results have come with second chances, when we re-tried a case after losing the first time.
Q: Which woman inspires you and why?
LGW: It may sound cliché, but the woman I most admire is Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Not only does she embody the person I most want to emulate, but her story is emblematic of the struggle that women have faced, and still face, in what remains primarily a man’s world. That she has become sort of a symbol of the bad-ass woman, and so revered by the younger generation is just awesome to me. Every time I see an RBG tee shirt or some sort of positive meme about her, it makes me smile – and it encourages me to keep the faith and work even harder.
Q: What are some of the challenges you feel women face today?
LGW: Even though more women than men are entering professions like law and medicine, it remains true that women are still behind in attaining the highest positions in many fields, including law. I have been a trial lawyer for almost thirty years, and in many ways, it is still a good old boys club. We are making huge strides, but particularly in litigation, which is by its nature an adversarial process, women who are strong and confident are perceived in a negative light as compared to their male colleagues. I was recently involved in a discussion about the dearth of female expert witnesses appearing in trials. I realized that, in fact, most testifying experts are men. I am not sure why that is because women are certainly excelling in all professions; but it concerns me, and I have made a concerted effort to look to female doctors, engineers and other scientific experts to provide support for our cases.
Q: What advice would you give to young women who want to pursue a career as an Attorney?
LGW: My advice is the same for both women and men. First, don’t do it just because you aren’t sure what path you want to take. Being an attorney is hard work. It is stressful. It is difficult to be successful while maintaining a good work-life balance. So, with that in mind, you have to love what you do. Ask yourself why you want to be a lawyer and what kind of lawyer you want to be. There is a very big difference between doing mergers and acquisitions at a big law firm and representing death row inmates at a public interest firm, for example. Find your passion. But once you take the leap and become a member of the bar, my best advice is to get involved. When asked to join a bar committee, say yes. When asked to speak at a seminar, say yes – even if you have never spoken on the topic before and you don’t think you are experienced enough to do it. We all had to start somewhere. Never pass up an opportunity to network and promote yourself.
Q: What's your advice for women in male-dominated fields?
LGW: Women are better than men at a lot of things. We tend to be more organized, more compassionate and much better at multi-tasking. Those are important skills, so use them.
Five Things About Lyle Griffin Warshauer
1. If you could talk to one famous person past or present, who would it be and why?
There are so many people I would love to meet, but right now I would really like to have a conversation with the political historian, John Meacham. I struggle every day with how divisive our world has become. It affects my work, in the lack of professionalism by some of my adversaries; and in the skepticism we see from jurors who can’t relate to someone else’s life experience. It seems like everyone is on a team, and anyone from another group just can’t be trusted. I would love for John to help me realize that our country has faced situations far worse and come out better for it. His incredible intellect and calm demeanor might get me through my funk!
2. Do you have a favorite quotation?
Below my signature line on my email is this quote from Maya Angelo: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I believe this to be true, and that is why my second favorite quote is “when given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” That may seem counter-intuitive, or even counter-productive for a trial lawyer, but I think it is good advice even in the heat of battle in the courtroom.
3. Where is your favorite city?
Vancouver, British Columbia. It is such a fabulous combination of modern luxury and an outdoorsman’s paradise. Any place that has both water and mountains can’t be beat. The views are to die for.
4. What app can’t you live without?
My podcast app. Lately, this is how I get my news. I have also become addicted to all of the crime stories, like “Doctor Death” and “Cold.” The work that goes into these series is incredible. And listening to a podcast on a long drive, or run, can make the time go by so much more quickly.
5. Do you have a hidden talent?
Lyle Griffin Warshauer