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    This episode of Settlement Nation is a discussion with plaintiff attorney Grant Lawson, a partner with the Metier Law Firm and President-Elect of the Wyoming Trial Lawyers Association (WTLA).

    Grant shares his story, from being hired by The Spence Law Firm while he was still in law school, to being mentored by Gerry Spence, one of the greatest trial lawyers in American history. Grant also discusses what it's like to work as a trial lawyer in Wyoming, his key advice for any up-and-coming attorneys and a harrowing story of an encounter he had out in the wild.


     

    Courtney Barber:
    Welcome everyone to the second episode of Settlement Nation. I am your co-host Courtney Barber, and I'm here with my other co-host Chris Bua. Today we have a very exciting guest all the way from Wyoming. We have Grant Lawson. Now to give you a little bit of a background on Grant, he is a plaintiff attorney, that started out with the Jerry Spence firm in 2007 from law school. He's been with him for a decade. He was also a faculty for the Trial Lawyers College and since 2018 has been working with the Metier firm which is very well known around these parts. And that's not all, he's also the President-Elect of the Wyoming Trial Lawyers Association and the Chair-Elect of the Motor Vehicle Collision and Premises Liability for the American Association for Justice (AAJ). So welcome, Grant.

    Grant Lawson:
    Thank you. Pleasure to be here with you guys.

    Courtney Barber:
    So something that I didn't mention in your extensive bio, which I really found really interesting when I read up about you is that you were a wild land fireman. First of all, how did that come about? And then when you were doing that job, how did some of those attributes or skills carry over into becoming a plaintiff attorney?

    Grant Lawson:
    So in college my two best friends and roommates went down that path of becoming wild land firefighters. So I of course had to give it a shot and quickly became what's called a hot shot. I was on a hot shot crew and we had some incredible experiences traveling around the western United States, fighting fires in almost every state in the west. It taught me a lot about life. It provided a lot of incredible life experiences including, working for 30 hours straight sleeping on a fire line up in the mountains, sleeping on top of a mountain peak, watching fireworks from some town miles and miles away while we're at a fire, helicopter rides, lightning strikes, crazy fire experiences. It taught me mostly about the importance of teamwork and trust and hard work.

    Grant Lawson:
    Those are the three things that you absolutely have to have in that world to survive because it's very dangerous and at all times you've got to be able to not only trust the people you work with, but you've got to work hard and be part of the team.

    Chris Bua:
    So coming from that, what inspired you to go to law school and become an attorney?

    Grant Lawson:
    I always had a desire to learn about the law from an early age and even when I was a young kid, I said, "Someday, I'm going to go to law school." I didn't really know what it meant until I got a little bit older but I just think that lawyers are the people who protect the majority of us from mistakes made by big government, corporations, and overreaching of power. Those were the things that built my foundation for what I wanted to do as a lawyer and led me to where I am today.

    Chris Bua:
    Okay. So you're with a respected firm in Wyoming. What are some of the obstacles or challenges that you have practicing at a firm like that in Wyoming versus a firm in a big city like Denver?

    Grant Lawson:
    Well, Wyoming has an entire population of 500,000 people, which is less than the number of antelope or buffalo or anything else in the state. So you have a sense of a smaller population base. Your case selection is much different. It's not a high volume situation. It's more industry, blue collar, natural resources-based work up there. A lot of job-site accidents, people getting hurt on the job, a lot of trucking related accidents. That's where I built my focus over the years, even though I did get my start in civil rights cases when I was working with Jerry Spence and his firm and taking on wrongful shootings and wrongful death cases, civil rights cases, but that kind of transitioned into me becoming more centered in working on trucking-related cases, oil field and industrial accidents, and some other product liability matters.

    Courtney Barber:
    I think that's something Chris and I were talking about is how different those cases are to say for a firm in Los Angeles and not really getting any oil field explosions or pipeline accidents. Can you tell us a little bit about some of those types of cases you've worked on and how that comes about that they find you, and what it's like when this happens and someone gives you a call?

    Grant Lawson:
    Yeah, absolutely. The oil field is a very dangerous place to be. It's a very dangerous place to work, not because it's just flammables, explosives, and you're dealing with oil and gas but the machinery and all the moving parts and people there. There are numerous different contractors involved so people have to rely on each other to do their jobs and there's a lot of dangerous elements. If somebody's not doing their job, it can cost the health and safety of somebody that's not even part of the same team or part of the same group. So, these oil and gas cases are just fascinating and although there's a lot of similarities, there's something different each time because there's so many different aspects of the drilling completions and operations that go on there. I guess I developed kind of a niche practice there where I really became knowledgeable with these oil cases and so people have sought me out to help. I do a lot of co-counseling with people from around the country who have these cases because it really pays to know what goes on out there, how it goes on, what the culture is, how that industry works and who's accountable.

    Chris Bua:
    We're going to have a lot of attorneys on this podcast over the coming episodes and one thing we're going to ask all of them is what is something that you know now that maybe you wish you knew as an attorney five or even 10 years ago?

    Grant Lawson:
    I think probably the best answer to that question from my perspective is the trust that I could have in myself. There were a lot of times I doubted my abilities, my talents, my courage in representing the people. I probably didn't take as many risks in trying to fight for the people that I represent and now knowing that I have that confidence and courage, I do things differently and I wish I could go back and do some things differently five, ten years ago.

    Courtney Barber:
    I think too on that note, working with your clients and now having that confidence to know what you're doing and really wanting to fight for for justice, do you have a client story that you've worked with in the past that at the time when you're working on it, you're trying to get the best outcome for them, but then later on you find that it's really impacted you later in your life, as you think back on either that case or that person?

    Grant Lawson:
    Yeah, absolutely. I've told this story before to a lot of people and I'll continue to tell it because it's very meaningful to me. Early on in my career, I was blessed to represent the family of a young man, I think he was 27 years old at the time, when he was killed at out in the oil field. At that time it was before I had my own kids and it was before I had my first golden retriever. The family and I became so close that I stepped into the role of kind of being there for them through the whole process. I really identified with the young man who was killed, he was from Wyoming, came from a very similar family, loved to do all the outdoor activities I did.

    Grant Lawson:
    I had to fight for his family. He had a young child at the time that he left behind and a great set of parents and a sister. That shaped me, it shaped me in every which way, going forward. Now I've looked at life so much differently and how important it is to cherish every day. To know that you may not come home every time you leave the house and to really love those that are around you and not forget what matters most. That case has stuck with me, and that was very early on and I still think about it.

    Chris Bua:
    Yeah, those are good lessons for all of us. Switching gears a little bit, as Courtney mentioned earlier, you started out with Jerry Spence, who's arguably the most famous plaintiff attorney in the history of the United States. Tell us a little bit about how it was to work with him, his firm, and being mentored by Jerry.

    Grant Lawson:
    It was absolutely just dumb luck and maybe because I am from Wyoming that I somehow convinced Jerry and his firm to give me an internship while I was in law school. Jerry is by far one of the greatest human beings I've ever met, but I'll tell an interesting story. I think it was sometime in the middle of the summer, I was interning for him and he decided to take me along on his airplane to fly down to California to present to some military attorneys on how to do voir dire and how to be real. I was so nervous and I dressed up in this fancy suit and put on my gold watch and I got in the plane with him and I sat down next to him in this seat and he's there reading his paper. He puts his paper down and he looks at me and then he looks at my wrist and then he looks back up at me and he's like, you take that gold watch off before we land.

    Grant Lawson:
    I was petrified. I was absolutely petrified. Yes, sir. Yes, sir, I'll take it off immediately!

    Grant Lawson:
    He says, "Grant, we don't want people to think that with all this money and power as lawyers that we're out buying expensive jewelry." So I got the lesson, it was to be real, just be who we are, especially in Wyoming. We don't wear fancy suits and we don't wear gold watches and we don't do those things. So don't try to be somebody you're not, and just be real, be who you are, be the person that the jury needs to see. It was a great experience. I was very fortunate to go to work for Jerry and his firm. I jumped immediately into high profile cases around the country that I had, never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be a part of, and learned from the best lawyers in America. I can't thank him and that team enough for letting me in the door and becoming who I am today.

    Chris Bua:
    I know that you do a lot of trucking cases and from an earlier conversation that we had, and you went and actually learned how to drive one of these 18 wheelers at night. I know other trucking attorneys that have done that as well. What did that teach you and how did the lessons that you learned doing that, how did you integrate that into how you litigate those types of cases?

    Grant Lawson:
    I was part of the inaugural class of lawyers that got to go be part of a trucking school for lawyers with the Legacy Group out of Billings, Montana. Some of the most amazing, if not the best trucking lawyers in the country and teachers, people who actually drive trucks, teach about truck driver safety, those sorts of things. I spent days up there learning, not only getting in these giant 18 wheeler vehicles driving around and learning about perception, time and reaction time, and the importance of your field of view and the mirrors that you have and where you've got to watch and the weight of this vehicle and how it feels to break and all of those incredibly important aspects.

    Grant Lawson:
    I walked out of there with this enormous respect for these giant heavy vehicles and just how important it is that anybody that steps behind or sits behind the wheel of one of those giant rigs has to know what they're doing and has to be on point, paying attention, dialed in at all times, because they're not driving a truck or a car. They are driving a 50-80,000 pound missile on the road that commands respect. I walked away not only with respect to that, but just also having real world perspective when I go in and I sit down in a deposition with a truck driver or I'm in trial and there's a truck driver on the stand or one of the corporate reps. I know what it's like to sit in that truck. I mean, someday, I'll get my CDL just to put my money where my mouth is, but it really helps me in identifying what a truck driver is thinking, what he's doing, what he should be thinking, what he should be doing, all of those things that come into play in these, these trucking accidents. 

    Courtney Barber:
    Absolutely. And I was going to say on that point you take your craft very seriously. You've been a trial attorney now for over a decade, worked with Jerry Spence, you've been on the faculty, you've taught other trial lawyers. What are some tips or some wisdom that you can impart on other trial lawyers that are listening to this today that are starting out, or even have been working for years to give them the edge over everyone else?

    Grant Lawson:
    Don't discount your own courage. Don't walk away from your own courage and your own abilities based on fear. Fear is what drives people to make bad decisions. The fear of money, the fear of losing, the fear of the unknown, the fear of whether I'm good enough. All of those things end up costing your client not just money, but true justice. Unfortunately that goes back into everybody else being treated differently and it gives lawyers a bad name, or it gives the industry, especially the insurance industry, the ability to cheapen case values because people get scared and settle cheap or things like that. So along those lines, I would say, don't be afraid to reach out to those who can help you because there's hundreds, if not thousands of lawyers like me out there who want nothing more than to help other lawyers get better and do the best they can.

    Grant Lawson:
    That's just out there for the taking, so don't be afraid to do that. Don't be afraid or ashamed to go out and have people help you get the knowledge, go get trained up, go to courses, learn and practice, practice, practice, to develop your own courage and strength to overcome this giant battle we have on a daily basis of fighting these billion dollar insurance companies.

    Chris Bua:
    So before we wrap up, in these earlier conversations that we've had with you getting to know you a little bit more, some extreme things have happened to you. I was hoping maybe you could touch on a few of those, just give our audience a little bit more perspective on your life.

    Grant Lawson:
    Well, yeah - I'll keep the ones that are appropriate for our listeners, I guess.

    Grant Lawson:
    One idea or one example that comes to mind being from Wyoming, I developed a passion for the outdoors early on as a kid and became a big time fishermen, hunters, backpackers and outdoorsman. When I was in my young twenties, me and my best friends would backpack into the wilderness of Wyoming to go hunting. There was a day where I was sitting on top of a ridge and naturally like anybody I think in their right mind should, I have a strong fear of bears, because you can't control them. They're unpredictable. Of course, coming from Wyoming, you hear the horror stories of what they can do to people. So we were out one day and of course I'm nervous to begin with sitting up on top of this mountain top in the wild where I know there's bears everywhere and sitting across from this big giant mountain bowl.

    Grant Lawson:
    I'm watching with my binoculars and I hear something rustling behind me in the woods and then it turns into crashing and it's getting louder. I look over at the guy and I'm tapping him on the shoulder. I'm like, are you hearing this? Now he wasn't paying attention to me and it's getting louder. All of a sudden it gets to the point where there's like trees crashing down behind me. I had just enough time to stand up and look behind me and here's a bear charging at me. He gets within 10 yards, less than 30 feet and we made eye contact and I was frozen like a statue. All these times in my head, I imagined I'd pull my bear spray out or I'd pull my pistol out and I'd be ready to go on this bear.

    Grant Lawson:
    In the moment, the true moment, the test moment, I froze like a statue and the bear froze like a statue. We looked at each other for a split second, and then he turned around and he ran away. It was probably one of the coolest experiences absent the fact that my heart did stop for some time. I was absolutely scared out of my mind, but that was something not many people can probably say they've ever experienced.

    Courtney Barber:
    I would say, that's probably right here, your courage and your time as fireman and everything comes into play. In Australia we have many animals that will attack and eat you, but I'm very afraid to embarrass myself and I'm waiting for the day that I have to face off. In my mind I'm going to be like Indiana Jones and charge it, but I know I'm going to be screaming and running the other way. So I'm glad that you've told me what to do.

    Courtney Barber:
    Grant, how do people get in touch with you? Where do they learn more information about what you do and your practice?

    Grant Lawson:
    I'm a partner with the Metier law firm. We're based out of Fort Collins, Colorado, and have offices around the country. I've actually got my satellite office up in Wyoming and I would love to hear from any listener. Please reach out to me, email me, call me, I'd love to hear from you. It's Grant@matierlaw.com or my office line is (307) 237-3800. 

    Chris Bua:
    If an attorney that's listening wants to, co-counsel a case with you or work on a referral you're licensed in Colorado, Wyoming and Montana, is that right?

    Grant Lawson:
    That's right and working on Washington state right now as well, but I'm licensed in those three states and actively practicing in those three states. I'm also co-counseling on other cases coming in as trial counsel, in cases around the country, actually, not just the Rocky Mountains at this point.

    Chris Bua:
    Well, thanks so much for joining us today on Settlement Nation, Grant. We really appreciate it. For all of our listeners to make sure you like review, subscribe, wherever you listen to your podcasts and, look forward to having you join us for our next episode. Thanks so much.

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