At Callahan & Blaine, our talent pool is deep. Each month, we publish our “Attorney Spotlight” where we look past the briefcases to see what makes the men and women of Callahan & Blaine tick. How have we won over $2 billion in verdicts and settlements? It’s a team effort of hard work, dedication, experience and savvy litigation. Today, meet Senior Trial Attorney, Rich Collins!
Name: Rich Collins
Position: Senior Trial Attorney
Birth city: Mineola, NY
Current city: Laguna Niguel, CA
Law school: Whittier College School of Law
Q: What attracted you to the legal field?
A: I have always been fascinated by cross-examination and how rigorous questioning under oath can yield the truth. One of my early childhood memories is watching PBS gavel to gavel coverage of the Senate Watergate Committee hearings on a 19-inch black and white television. To get to the bottom of a presidential scandal, witnesses were sworn-in and skilled attorneys grilled them for hours.
I watched those hearings cross-legged on the floor as my grandpa, Joe Abbate, narrated. From as early as I could remember, my grandpa encouraged me to become either a doctor, lawyer or politician because those are noble professions that would allow me to help people. Six years later, at 13 years old, I made my decision to become a lawyer and never wavered.
Q: Was there anyone along the way who mentored or influenced your work?
A: Yes, definitely, Andy Hollins. I was Andy’s second chair in my first few jury trials. I was a new lawyer, preparing written discovery and taking depositions for two years, but I hadn’t been to trial yet. If I was going to be a trial lawyer, I needed to go to trial. Andy, the founding partner of the firm I worked for at the time, took a chance and gave me that opportunity. I learned how all of that mundane discovery is distilled and introduced as evidence at trial; I learned how to prepare for cross-examination, developing alternative lines of questioning; how to develop themes through the course of a trial, and how to be respectful of the jurors and court staff. I also learned the importance of hard work and preparation. Andy and I often worked until two o’clock in the morning to prepare for the next day of trial. When I go to trial, I’ll always work harder and be better prepared than my opponents.
Q: What do you think sets Callahan & Blaine apart from the rest?
A: The caliber of our attorneys and our firm philosophy set us apart. We are staffed with experienced and successful trial lawyers. Although each of us has a particular specialty, we are all capable of trying a variety of cases. And when any one of us is in trial, the entire firm is in trial, whether it be an “all-hands-on-deck” call for research and briefing back at the office, or just bouncing ideas off each other and sharing reports from the troops at the front. This firm culture is fostered by founding partner, Daniel J. Callahan, who is known and respected as one of the top trial lawyers in the United States. He instilled a firm philosophy that has proven successful: Be aggressive, thorough and comprehensive. And most of all, WIN!
Q: Tell us about a case that you are particularly proud of.
A: I am extremely grateful for the many opportunities I’ve had to use my law degree to help those who have been victimized or marginalized, such as the immigrant family that had fled Castro’s Cuba, pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps, only to be denied the insurance proceeds to rebuild their bakery that had burned down, or the parents of the many young adults who have died from opioid overdoses as a result of those responsible for overprescribing and supplying prescription drugs like OxyContin.
Presently, I represent a young man who is dying from ALS. His insurance company denied him access to the medically necessary care to keep him alive. Although successful in getting the insurance company to reverse its decision, he persists with his lawsuit because he knows there are others who have suffered the same injustice and may not have the strength or wherewithal to fight a multi-billion dollar corporation. Over the past two years since being diagnosed, my client has emerged as one of the most compelling political activists for causes he believes in, including health care reform. He is a living example to me and others that every day we have choice about what we are going to do with our lives. I choose to do what I can to help others.
Q: What are the things you wish you knew as a junior associate that you know now?
A: I’ll never be completely caught up on my to-do list. I would struggle daily with trying to finish everything I had set out to accomplish in a day. Often those goals were too ambitious given the 24-hour limitation. Most of the time, my to-do list was longer at the end of the day than when I started. As a trial lawyer, I don’t believe you can ever get completely caught up. There is always another witness to interview, another document to review, another case to read. Although I still battle with knowing when to call it quits, I can find peace despite a lingering to-do list.
Just for fun:
Favorite TV show: Saturday Night Live and Sunday morning’s Face the Nation.
Family Facts: My wife, Noreen, and I met in high school. I was captain of the football team and she was a cheerleader. We’ve been married now for almost 29 years, and we have four children: Megan (23), Kevin (21), Erin (18) and Kate (17), and a dog named Quinn.
Guilty Pleasure: Coo-Kies!
No. 1 Bucket List Item: Tour all of the MLB ballparks.
Dogs or Cats: Dog. Definitely, dog.
Dream vacation: Italy’s Amalfi Coast.
Favorite High-Profile Case: People v. O.J. Simpson. As a young lawyer in LA, I remember seeing all of the television broadcast trailers set up with satellite dishes on the roofs and a phalanx of reporters that would greet the lawyers every morning.
Favorite Fictional Lawyer: After 25 years as a lawyer, I would say Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” But as a young lawyer, it was definitely Rudy Baylor (Matt Damon) in “The Rainmaker,” and Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) in “A Few Good Men.”
Stay tuned for next month’s Attorney Spotlight, where we will meet another talented Callahan & Blaine attorney! Our law firm represents corporate, professional and entrepreneurial clients of all sizes. To find out more about our distinctive approach to advocacy and dispute resolution in complex litigation, contact us at the Callahan & Blaine offices in Santa Ana.