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Alumna Lisa Lipsen Featured Twice in Today's W. Post

Monday, May 10, 2010   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Joe Libertelli
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New at the Top:
Linda Lipsen of the American Association for Justice

Monday, May 10, 2010; A14

I've always had a dislike for bullies -- whether it was on the soccer field or in class. Everyone needs to be given a chance. That passion has guided me through my career. I had the privilege and fortune to always be in jobs where I feel like I am helping.

I started out working on Capitol Hill. I was a director of a clearinghouse on women's issues, which acted as a resource center for Congress. This was during fights about discrimination in employment when women were making half the amount as men for the same jobs.

I was in charge of preparing the bill as it proceeded to the floor. We ended up getting a bill passed that ruled discrimination on the basis of pregnancy as sex discrimination.

I realized I had to do even more to have more tools available to me. I went to law school, which allowed me to represent different individuals.

I've always had a heart for making a difference for people who are in some sort of crisis. Representing the trial lawyers helps me make a systemic difference so that the crisis never happens again to another single person -- whether it involves negligence in hospitals or people who have lost their life savings from negligence from a financial institution. That's what always drives me.

I worked at a law firm as an antitrust plaintiff lawyer representing small businesses that felt they were being dealt a harsh blow by a large business. I also had the chance to lead the legislative department at the publisher of Consumer Reports that worked on a variety of issues, from health care to insurance reform and transportation issues.

Eventually I was asked to lead the legislative department for the trial lawyers.

Here you had a group of people who are dedicated to helping people in crisis who, through no fault of their own, were injured or killed because of a dangerous product or some negligently provided service.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, policymakers were discussing what to do about airlines that were afraid to fly. Seeing that more focus needed to be on the victims' families, I went to Congress and recommended that they pass a comprehensive compensation scheme for the victims of that horrible attack on our country. The association helped come up with the design for how that compensation would be set up. It passed at record speed.

We've been successful. Sometimes you lose a few, but I think that in the end, I strive for us to be very fact-driven. I make sure that we tell Congress as much as possible what the justice system does for people.

I'm excited about telling a story about the justice system. It's a rich story of which the public is not fully aware. What would your car be like without the civil justice system? No air bags, no seat belts and possibly defective tires. The public is looking for accountability. They deserve a fair shake.

-- Interview with Vanessa Mizell

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Behind the Career: Linda Lipsen

By Vanessa Mizell, the Washington Post 
Monday, May 10, 2010; 28

Behind the Career

Linda Lipsen

Position: Chief executive, American Association for Justice, a District-based membership organization of trial attorneys.

After serving as a lawyer herself, Lipsen found she had a passion for the civil justice system. She eventually decided to lead a legislative department for trial lawyers through which she spearheaded several key successful pieces of legislation. She now heads up the association, supporting lawyers' causes and those of the organization as a whole.

What work in your career are you most proud of and how did you accomplish it?

After the Sept. 11 attacks, policymakers were discussing what to do about the fact that the airlines were afraid to fly.

I felt that they couldn't just focus on the airlines as victims. They had to think about the victims as victims and help them rebuild their lives. Everyone during that time was very afraid and didn't know what would happen next.

As the head lobbyist at the time, I went to Congress, Republicans and Democrats to get them focused on the victims. I recommended that they pass a comprehensive compensation scheme for the victims of that horrible attack on our country. I was part of the group that convened a meeting with the trial lawyers whereby the entire executive committee at the trial lawyers organization decided to set up the scheme free of charge.

Congress was very interested. It passed in a week. It was the largest pro bono effort of its kind in the country. Our lawyers represented the 3,000 families that lost loved ones in that terrible moment. I'm really proud of the work. The families were able to rebuild their lives after such a horrible crisis.

These were not exactly easy cases. Some involved multiple family members or issues of fact. There's a lot more that went into it than just your average compensation scheme. Our lawyers put in thousands and thousands of hours for this work.

We still hear from the family members that we helped.

It's so incredibly rewarding. That's how you know you've made a difference. I remember one saying, "no one stood up for us except for you all" and "our loved one was in the 30th floor of the World Trade Center and everyone would've forgotten him if it wasn't for the work that you all did." It makes me extremely proud.

See Monday's Washington Post Business pages for Lipsen's "New at the Top" profile. Send nominations for others to

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