In Closing

Issue October 2015 By Mike Vigneux

Boston trial lawyer reflects on remarkable career

Richard P. Campbell is a Boston guy to the core. A past president of the Massachusetts Bar Association, Campbell is a graduate of UMass Boston and Boston College Law School. But to really put it in perspective, his law office in Charlestown is located just four blocks away from the church where he was baptized as a baby.

"I'm a native. I'm so local it's ridiculous," said Campbell, the founder of Campbell, Campbell, Edwards & Conroy PC (Campbell Trial Lawyers).

Sandwiched between that baptism at St. Catherine of Siena and the present day, Campbell has spent more than 40 years as a highly respected trial lawyer while building a nationally prominent law firm that primarily represents Fortune 100 companies and has handled cases in more than 30 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Campbell is in the process of stepping down from his role at the firm, a shift which he refers to as "a work in progress." He is still working on a few pending matters but is not taking on any new assignments.

It has been quite a journey for Campbell, who started a five-lawyer firm as the only partner and shareholder, in February 1983. At its earliest stages, Campbell remembers a time when the firm used borrowed office space and typed up notices of appearances while sitting on phone books. More than 30 years later the firm represents some of the biggest and most prominent corporations in the world in multi-district litigation, class actions, aviation disasters, mass torts, toxic tort, product liability and major commercial disputes. The two primary offices for the firm are located in Boston and suburban Philadelphia.

Campbell served as one of seven national trial counsel for Caterpillar Inc. and also served as lead counsel for a commercial airline in the 9/11 federal litigation in New York City.

"Many of the leaders and shareholders in the firm today have never worked for anybody but me," said Campbell. "I take great pride in the fact that we created this law firm basically out of whole cloth."

In a career that has seen many accolades, honors and victories in the courtroom, Campbell is most proud of his induction as a fellow into the American College of Trial Lawyers, which is widely considered the premier professional trial organization in America.

"In trial practice the singular honor is recognition by your peers," noted Campbell. "To me, induction as a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers is probably the most important professional credit that I have achieved and that's because it's recognition by your peers of your accomplishment in your chosen field."

Volunteering nationally and locally

Volunteering has always been important to Campbell during his career and he has done so on both a national and local level.

He is a past chair of the 34,000 member Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section of the American Bar Association and has served on the executive committees for both the International Association of Defense Counsel and the Product Liability Advisory Council.

Locally, Campbell served as MBA president during the 2011-2012 association year, which Campbell describes as a highlight of his legal career.

"In terms of volunteering in lawyer professional associations, the most important job I had was my service as president of the Massachusetts Bar Association," said Campbell. "To me, as a local guy, ultimately the most important work that you do is local. I will forever hold dear the time that I spent as president of the Massachusetts Bar Association."

The timing of Campbell's presidency coincided with the financial crisis in the courts due to a lack of appropriate funding. Under Campbell's leadership, the MBA launched an unprecedented statewide billboard campaign to raise public awareness about the dire need for court funding. According to Campbell, this initiative "turned a lot of heads" and had a tremendous impact.

"The Massachusetts Bar Association stood up, took the lead and helped bring about positive change to properly fund the court system," noted Campbell.

Campbell also developed and led an MBA task force which studied the changing face of the law economy, including the unemployment conditions for lawyers graduating from law schools. The "Report of the Task Force on Law, the Economy and Underemployment: Beginning the Conversation," was well received and drew national attention from the ABA who created its own task force to take a national perspective on this topic.

"He was very dedicated to the MBA and during his presidency he always took his responsibilities very seriously," said Martin W. Healy, MBA chief legal counsel and chief operating officer. "Dick was a great president to work with in addition to being quite an accomplished attorney."

During Campbell's time at the MBA, he worked with his fellow officers to get each of them to think beyond their own term as president in developing a collective, ongoing program of initiatives that would be passed on from one president to the next. As a result of this close collaboration, Campbell acknowledges that the MBA officers he worked with became some of his really good friends.

"The whole time he was an officer, Dick was a leader that we always knew we could go to when we needed something important to get done. He not only had great ideas and common sense, but he knew how to make things happen," said Valerie A. Yarashus, MBA past president. "He was so well respected by everyone for having good judgment about things and getting right to the heart of an issue. He really knew how to focus on what was the right priority."

Before becoming a fellow officer with Campbell at the MBA, past President Douglas K. Sheff found himself going against Campbell and his firm in several trials throughout the years.

"It just shows the power of the MBA that even adversaries can be brought together and become good friends," said Sheff. "As powerful an adversary as he was in the courtroom, he's even more powerful as a friend. Just because he's retiring from the firm doesn't mean he's going to be retired from my phone calls."

Fellow MBA past President Denise Squillante agrees. She sees Campbell continuing to be a trusted resource within the legal community even after his retirement.

"He was a great bar leader and stimulated conversations that were elevated to a national level," said Squillante. "I am happy for him as he begins what I refer to as his third act. But I don't think Dick is going anywhere because it's his nature to be involved and help people."

Influential people

A successful career is typically not built by one person alone. Campbell mentioned several colleagues and mentors throughout the legal profession that have helped shape his career.

Campbell began his career at Shanley & Fisher, PC in New Jersey where partners Raymond M. Tierney Jr. and Thomas F. Campion spent countless hours teaching him how to be an effective trial lawyer.

"Collectively, those two guys invested in me their wisdom and insights and made me the lawyer that I am today," said Campbell.

Former Superior Court Justice Charles F. Barrett (ret.) was the head of the litigation department when Campbell worked at Nutter McClennen & Fish. Barrett was known as a great trial lawyer and quickly became a trusted mentor for Campbell.

General Motors was a foundation client for Campbell's firm and he noted the work of former GM lawyers William J. Kemp Jr. and Nicholas J. Wittner, who helped teach him the business of law.

Campbell also tipped his hat to shareholders John Grunert and Dick Edwards, two of the four original lawyers at Campbell, Campbell, Edwards & Conroy, who he worked with for 30 years.

Of course, Campbell's family has played possibly the strongest role in his career, and several members have always been steadily involved in the firm. His son, attorney Richard L. Campbell, is a shareholder and his brother, James M. Campbell, is a shareholder and president.

Many different members of his extended family have worked at the firm in one capacity or another. That list includes five of Campbell's six brothers, sisters-in-law and several nieces and nephews.

"We have such an amazing reputation for being a go-to trial firm. It's certainly a huge legacy that's being passed by my father to me and the other partners at this firm as he retires," said Campbell's son Rich. "Working with him here, he's not only been a tremendous mentor to me, but he's also been a tremendous mentor to everybody that he works with here at the firm. There is no better person for a young trial lawyer to work for than Dick Campbell."

Campbell is also quick to recognize the vital role his wife Barbara has played in his success.

"I was successful as a lawyer because I could work a hundred hours, week after week after week and everything at home was taken care of," acknowledged Campbell. "I never had to do a thing. My wife has been my partner in life and she made it all happen."

What's next?

When speaking about the next chapter of his life, one area that intrigues Campbell is teaching. Of particular interest to Campbell is the intersection of law and business, a space that he is undoubtedly familiar with given his vast experience.

He envisions designing a course someday such as "Law as a Weapon in Business," which would address the practical implications for business people that deal with legal tactics in their day-to-day business affairs.

Like a lot of professionals that reach the point of retirement, Campbell is not sure exactly what lies ahead for him. So much time has been dedicated to his law practice and his clients throughout the years that he hasn't had much time to think about it.

Whatever he chooses, there is no doubt he will put the same kind of energy and dedication into it as he did for the past four decades as a nationally recognized