Covington Attorney Wins State Award
Covington lawyer Richard D. Lawrence, who has successfully represented victims of medical malpractice and other negligent acts over the past 48 years, recently received the Craig Spangenberg Distinguished Advocate Award from the Ohio Justice Association for his lifetime of work as a trial lawyer.
This award was the second time that a state plaintiff’s bar association has recognized Lawrence – Kentucky was the first – for his significant contributions as a plaintiff’s trial lawyer. This also is his third lifetime achievement award he has received from law-related organizations.
The Lawrence Firm, PSC is located in a renovated a Gothic mansion at the corner of Philadelphia and Sixth streets in Covington’s Mainstrasse Village. The firm has eleven lawyers and six support staff members and represents primarily victims of medical malpractice and other negligent acts. Lawrence’s daughter, Jennifer L. Lawrence, son-in-law Robert D. Lewis, and Patrick J. Beirne now serve as managing partners of the law firm.
The Ohio Justice Association’s Distinguished Advocate Award, named after the renown Cleveland litigator Craig Spangenberg, is presented to a lawyer whose life’s work has helped to strengthen the civil justice system so deserving individuals receive justice and wrongdoers are held accountable. In 1997, the Kentucky Justice Association (then known as the Kentucky Academy of Trial Lawyers) presented Lawrence with the Peter Perlman Outstanding Trial Lawyer Award.
“I am very honored to have been recognized by the plaintiff bar associations in two separate states,” Lawrence said. “We have a very talented group of lawyers at The Lawrence Firm and those recognitions would not have been possible without their significant contributions to my law practice. I consider my law firm and the talented lawyers and staff who work there as my greatest accomplishment.”
In addition to these awards, Lawrence also has received Lifetime Achievement awards from Northern Kentucky Bar Association (2005) and the Salmon P. Chase College of Law (2008), from which he graduated in 1971. The Northern Kentucky Bar Association awarded him its Distinguished Lawyer Award in 1996, in part because of his significant contributions to the education of practicing lawyers.
More than 100 verdicts or settlements exceeding $1 million
Over the course of his 48-year career as a plaintiff’s trial lawyer, the Lawrence Firm have obtained more than one hundred jury verdicts or settlements exceeding $1 million for seriously injured individuals. Lawrence served as either the lead trial counsel or co-lead counsel in many of these cases.
In 1996, he obtained one of the largest medical malpractice verdicts in the history of the Commonwealth of Kentucky - $23.5 million – for his client, a Boone County family of a four-year-old girl who suffered catastrophic injuries after a hospital pharmaceutical error gave her too much glucose.
In 2009, Lawrence, along with co-counsel Kenneth L. Sigelman and Patrick J. Beirne, received one of the largest medical malpractice jury verdicts in the history of the State of Ohio when they recovered $31.5 million for a Dayton couple after medical negligence caused their child to have severe brain damage.
“I’ve been very fortunate to in my legal career to recover substantial verdicts and settlements for people or their loved ones who were catastrophically injured or killed because of negligent acts,” he said. “While these verdicts and settlements don’t change what has happened to them, they do help to mitigate the damage by allowing families to get the best care for their children or loved ones, such as support and respite care, which helps to improve the quality of their lives.”
From young criminal defense lawyer to one of the country’s top plaintiff’s lawyer
Over his career, Lawrence has gone from a young lawyer successfully trying criminal and civil cases in the courts of southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky, including winning a first-degree murder case in Kentucky just three years out of law school, to one of the top medical-malpractice and personal-injury lawyers in the country.
After a brief stint working as a lawyer on his own, Lawrence joined established trial lawyer James Gustin to create the Cincinnati law firm of Gustin & Lawrence, where he tried numerous criminal and civil cases. “We had a very busy trial practice in which we served as both plaintiff and defense lawyers in civil cases and criminal-defense lawyers.”
One of Lawrence’s well-known criminal cases at the time as State of Ohio v. Joe Thomas, a highly publicized case involving issues of excessive force against an African-American. Thomas was charged with four felonies for allegedly assaulting four police officers with one of their night sticks, during which he was shot in the stomach by a Cincinnati police officer. Lawrence, with then associate Shannon Smith, obtained “not guilty” jury verdicts on all four counts in the criminal trial. Lawrence later brought a civil action against the city on behalf of Thomas and settled the case for a confidential amount.
In 1991, Lawrence started his own law firm in downtown Cincinnati and focused on primarily plaintiffs’ civil cases, particularly medical malpractice cases. He grew that firm into one of the top medical malpractice and personal injury law firms in the country.
Understanding and using medicine was a key component of his law practice
Understanding and using medicine always played a key role in his career as a lawyer – and even as insurance adjuster and supervisor before he started practicing law.
Prior to law school and while attending the University of Cincinnati, Lawrence worked for two years as a claims adjuster for an independent adjusting firm operated by the law firm of Moore, Moore & Moore. Then he worked as a casualty supervisor for personal-injury claims at Allstate Insurance. As a leading medical-malpractice and personal-injury lawyer, Lawrence was well known for his cross-examination of medical experts on medical issues in his cases.
“I learned a little about medicine when I was a claims adjuster and even more when I became a claims supervisor,” Lawrence said. “As a criminal lawyer, I also often raised medical issues in the defense of my clients. But I didn’t really dig into the medicine – particularly understanding it on a granular level -- until after I lost my first medical malpractice trial in 1978.”
In that case, Lawrence argued that the amputation of one of his client’s legs from the knee down occurred because medical professionals did not treat his underlying injury in a timely fashion, which caused an infection that resulted in the amputation. While the jury found the physicians were negligent, they did not believe that the failure to timely treat his client’s injury was the “proximate cause” of his injuries.
“After that case, I realized that I needed to be better educated about medicine so in 1980 I hired a nurse, Carol Mang, as a full-time paralegal in my law office and her primary duty was to teach me medicine,” he said.
In 1983, Lawrence also started working with Dr. Robert Greendyke, a board-certified pathologist in Rochester, N.Y. “He began teaching me a lot of medicine, both case specific and in general,” Lawrence said. “Since that time, I have worked with three or four other doctors who all have helped me to better understand medicine.”
For the past 20 years, Jill Gustafson has worked as a nurse-lawyer in Lawrence’s law firm and assisted him in cases involving medical-related issues.
Long list of awards and recognition and service to the profession
Lawrence is a retired member of the prestigious Inner Circle of Advocates, an organization of the top 100 plaintiff trial lawyers in the United States, and the International Society of Barristers, an organization of the top trial lawyers in the world.
In 2008, Lawrence received the Daniel P. Cullen Memorial Award from the Birth Trauma Litigation Section of the American Association For Justice (AAJ) for outstanding trial work on behalf of infants injured during birth as a result of medical malpractice.
In addition to his work as a trial lawyer, Lawrence has been very active in the plaintiff’s litigation bar, including serving as on the board of directors of the Kentucky Justice Association (1996-2006), the Ohio Association for Justice (1996-97), and the American Association For Justice (2004-2014).
He served as president of the Kentucky Academy of Trial Attorneys in 2003 and president of the Salmon P. Chase American Inn of Court from 1996-98. He served as national chairman of the AAJ Professional Negligence Section, national chairman of the AAJ Birth Trauma Litigation Section, and national co-chair of the AAJ Medical Negligence Group.
Lawrence has spoken at numerous Continuing Legal Education classes and to lawyer groups across the United States and internationally, including lectures in Australia, Canada, England, and The Netherlands.
In 2009, he received the AAJ’s President’s Award for his outstanding contributions to the organization. He also received the AAJ Wiedemann & Wysocki Award in 2004 for his outstanding efforts in promoting civil justice in the United States.
In 2010, The Best Lawyers in America publication recognized Lawrence as Personal Injury Litigation Lawyer of the Year in Southern Ohio, and in 2017, he received the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award from Marquis Who’s Who publication. Since 1995, Lawrence has been recognized on a number of occasions by Cincinnati Magazine as one of the Top 50 lawyers in Cincinnati. Super Lawyers has listed him as Super Lawyer in both Kentucky and Ohio, including on several occasions listing him as one of the Top 100 lawyers in Ohio.
Lawrence said that although the number of cases he gets personally involved in has slowed down as he has gotten older, his law firm continues to thrive in representing victims of medical malpractice and personal injury.
“I’m very fortunate to have a number of lawyers working in our firm who are as capable as me of trying these types of complicated cases,” he said. “At least five other lawyers in the firm have obtained substantial, seven-figure verdicts for our clients as lead or co-lead counsel in those cases.”
In addition to his daughter and son-in-law, Beirne, and Gustafson, the other lawyers in the firm include Anne L. Gilday; another daughter, Lindsay A. Lawrence; Kara M. Harp, Emily A. Hubbard, Thomas C. Korbee, and Michael D. Gilday. Seven of these lawyers have practiced in the Lawrence Firm for more than 20 years.
Lawrence and his late wife, Diana, have five children – Jennifer, Lindsay, Daniel, Michael, and David - and eight grandchildren. Lawrence currently lives in Hyde Park with his fiancée and best friend, Lamis David.