Why Mike Campbell Practices Law
I enjoy practicing law and fighting for my clients. Recently, I had to fill out a questionnaire asking me to explain why I wanted to practice law. Here’s my response: “Many years ago my family experienced a tragedy that put us right in the middle of the legal world. As a result, my superheroes growing up did not wear capes; they wore suits and carried briefcases. They argued in courtrooms and fought tooth and nail for my family. I’ll always be indebted to those attorneys and I think they know that. That’s the power we have as attorneys and we should always remember the lifelong impact we have on our clients.”
That’s the truth. That’s my truth, anyway. When I was five years old my dad purchased a brand new bicycle from a bike shop in Kansas. Both my godfather and I agreed to ride back in my dad’s truck while my dad rode behind us at a safe distance. I watched through the rear window as he wrecked. Memories are funny, though. I can no longer recall the wreck or much that happened shortly after. There’s a slideshow of memories though: Wrestling with my dad in a hospital bed one of the numerous times he was having surgeries, meeting with attorneys, my dad’s funeral. Good memories, sad memories.
My dad suffered a catastrophic injury when the pedal on his brand new bicycle snapped off halfway through a cycle. He fell into the bike and suffered substantial internal injuries. He was later treated at a medical facility in Kansas, and his care was completely mismanaged. The result of the doctor’s actions led to undetected blood clotting, which traveled to an artery. He suffered a massive heart attack in our home, and died in my mom’s arms.
When he died, he left behind my mom to raise four kids, alone. We had limited means at that time and my dad was the primary provider for my family. When my dad died, we were broke…mentally, spiritually, and financially. I can remember before my dad dying wearing clothes from the salvation army, shopping for food at the local Aldi before Aldi were a thing, going to mass every Sunday morning, and not having many concerns about our lot in life. We were a family and we loved each other, and had a roof over our head and food to eat. My dad and my mom cared for us.
A close friend of the family talked to my mom about investigating my dad’s case. He was an attorney with a law firm in Kansas City who pled with his firm to investigate this case. The background to this is literally something you read in a legal novel, but know this: This guy was relentless, was willing to give up everything to fight for the case, and nearly did. There’s too much to the story to share here, but know that the passion that drives good and decent trial attorneys is not money. Money comes and goes. What drives good and decent trial attorneys is justice and a desire to help the helpless.
After some investigation in our case, the attorney discovered a number of troubling things. First, the company skimped on buying the proper parts for the bicycle pedal and gear mechanism. Instead of finding the right part, the company ordered the employees at a manufacturing plant to literally jam and hammer the defective parts into the bike. This attorney went to the manufacturing plant and witnessed for himself how the defect occurred during the process, and how it was known to the company.
The employees openly admitted that they knew the defective part would cause harm to someone and told management, who ignored them. The company was also warned multiple times independently about the shaft snapping on the pedals, leading to bicycle returns at stores throughout the United States. I guess the manufacturer never envisioned that someone could suffer catastrophic injuries through and refused to recall all of the bikes. Or, it did and just did the cold math: A potential lawsuit versus a nationwide recall of bicycles. They decided to go with the risk of a lawsuit.
The attorney also discovered that the doctor who was treating my dad permanently damaged, the result of which would eventually lead to my dad’s death. The attorney was convinced that both the manufacturer and the doctor were responsible for my dad’s death. He talked with my mom at length about the steps the family should take to hold those parties responsible. My mom agreed and we eventually filed suit against both.
I spent my childhood in courtrooms, law offices, and learning about lawsuits while other kids played catch with their dad or did what normal kids do. I enjoyed it though. My attorneys were my superheroes. I liked being around them. I started to think that one day I could become one too.
When our case against the manufacturer was finally resolved several years later, we had received a small amount of justice. The manufacturer of the bicycle eventually settled with my family…and with several others. Turns out a lot of people had been injured by their defective bikes and their calculated risks didn’t pay off.
There are horror stories about this case that I could share and dirty tricks played by the actors involved that are nearly unbelievable. Someday, maybe I’ll share them. John Grisham has done a pretty decent job describing cruel company decisions in many of his books. But know this: A company that makes it financial decisions by weighing a human life versus profits will go to any lengths to protect those profits. I’ve seen this first hand in my own practice and in my own life. The cases against this specific corporation against eventually drove it into bankruptcy, got its terrible bikes off the road, and reformed certain manufacturing processes.
All of this was possible because of the trial lawyers who helped us. They believed in us, fought for us, and did everything they could to make our family whole. I am still friends with them to this day. The main attorney who took our case taught me how to shoot a gun for the first time, his wife taught me the alphabet when I was very young, and he has stayed in touch throughout my entire life. He and his family are family to me.
I try to build the same relationships with my clients that my attorney had with our family, and I approach every case with empathy and understanding. Know that I’ve been there, and I’ve done that. I know what you and your family are going through. I want to fight for your family against injustice and right the wrong that has happened. There are lots of choices for attorneys in this world, but I ask that you consider allowing me to help you on you or your family on your journey to justice.
— Mike Campbell