Yetter Coleman's senior partner, Reagan Simpson, is profiled in Law360's weekly Q&A series.
Q&A With Yetter Coleman's Charlie Parker
Law360, New York (April 19, 2013) -- -- Reagan W. Simpson is a partner with Yetter Coleman LLP and leads the firm’s appellate practice from its Austin, Texas, office. He has more than 30 years of experience handling a variety of disputes involving torts, personal injury and commercial torts in state and federal courts. Simpson is a fellow of the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, American College of Trial Lawyer, and the American Board of Trial Advocates. Formerly, he was a law clerk for the Honorable Thomas Gibbs Gee of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Q: What is the most challenging case you have worked on and what made it challenging?
A: My most challenging case was litigation in Illinois involving conspiracy claims by persons who contracted mesothelioma. I tried four cases, assisted on two others, and then handled the appeals. It was challenging for three reasons. First, I had to learn Illinois law and trial procedure. Second, I was trying cases in a jurisdiction that was very favorable to the other side. Third, the legal issues on appeal were complex. We had some success in trial, but mostly lost. On appeal, however, we have won every case and have secured holdings that may ultimately end the litigation for our client.
While I adopted Illinois procedural rules, I was never able to adopt a Midwest accent. So communicating was occasionally a challenge, especially given the way Texans pronounce the vowel “i.” The Illinois Pattern Jury Charge is typically called the “IPI.” When I referred to the IPI in my Texas twang, the Illinois judge said, “Mr. Simpson, I am trying very hard to understand you and usually I can, but this time I have no idea what you are saying.”
Q: What aspects of your practice area are in need of reform and why?
A: Litigation is too expensive and time-consuming. We need to develop more efficient ways to try disputes but still preserve the right to trial by jury. More resources should be devoted to the trial courts rather than the appellate courts. If the trial courts do their job, there will be less need to correct problems on appeal.
Q: What is an important issue or case relevant to your practice area and why?
A: Reviewability of arbitration awards is an important issue. It really cuts both ways. On the one hand, if awards are upheld in circumstances that seem unjust, then faith in the process will decrease. On the other hand, if courts are too lenient in vacating awards, then parties will seek other ways to resolve their disputes.
Q: Outside your own firm, name an attorney in your field who has impressed you and explain why.
A: When I ponder this question, I feel like Woodrow Call at the end of “Lonesome Dove.” I have a vision of a lot of lawyers over the last 35 years who have impressed me for a number of reasons. If I must name one, it would be my mentor at my first law firm, the late Royce Till. He was a great trial lawyer and such a genuine person. In handling cases, he was always using his “psychology” to predict how to approach every courtroom situation. I learned from Royce that the law is always a lot more about people than it is about legal principles.
Q: What is a mistake you made early in your career and what did you learn from it?
A: I learned that if your client does not sincerely believe in the case, you should settle. As I was about to walk into trial many years ago, the client confessed to a factual problem that had never come out in discovery and never came out in trial. When I could see that my client did not really believe in the case, I should have resolved it instead of taking a verdict.
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