Attorney at Law Magazine asked Gallagher & Kennedy attorney Kevin D. Neal to share some insight into his career. Neal is a trial lawyer, who practices in the area of wrongful death and personal injury with an emphasis on aviation crashes, medical malpractice and product liability. He has over 30 years of experience in Arizona and nationwide.
AALM: What drew you to a career in the law?
Neal: My interest in the law started when I was very young. I was keenly interested in the U.S. Constitution and the court system. I studied American history and participated in debate. In college, I knew I wanted to take course to prepare me for law school. Being an advocate for someone who needed help appealed to me as a noble profession.
In law school I thought I would be a prosecutor. I still live for trial, but representing people who need help is the most rewarding thing I have done as a lawyer.
AALM: Tell us a little about your philosophy when it comes to your practice. Do you have a personal motto?
Neal: I believe as an attorney it is important to be a positive influence in my community. So my work doesn’t start with a lawsuit any more than it ends with a settlement or verdict.
AALM: What motivates you?
Neal: I am driven to provide my clients with answers. I serve as an advocate for people and families wronged by powerful organizations and large corporations. I have obtained outstanding results on behalf of my clients, but my representation has also led to significant changes to help try an prevent other tragedies from happening again. I believe in not only protecting the rights of injured victims but also pushing for major changes on an institutional level.
AALM: Tell us about one of the most important lessons you learned from a personal or professional mentor.
Neal: I had a judge tell me it is invaluable to learn to look at myself in the courtroom not how I thought I appeared, but has others saw me. He suggested I serve as a Judge pro Tem. When I did, I presided over dozens of jury trials and watched what worked and what did not work.
AALM: What is the most important lesson your parents taught you?
Neal: My father quoted Einstein when he told me: “Not everything that counts can be counted. And not everything that can be counted, counts.”
AALM: What drew you to your current firm?
Neal: I did insurance defense work for 25 years. I then had the opportunity to work on some large complex cases representing the victims. I decided that was more rewarding for me and a friend and colleague, Pat McGroder, convinced me a better fit for my practice was with Gallagher & Kennedy. He was right.
AALM: How would you describe the culture of your firm?
Neal: Gallagher & Kennedy is comprised of many of the top lawyers in the state, whose accomplishments have expanded the firm’s reach beyond its deep Arizona roots. While individual excellence is the goal for all employees, the Gallagher & Kennedy culture centers on a team approach of service excellence for each of our clients. This work environment led to the firm’s recognition by the Phoenix Business Journal as the Valley’s “Best Place to Work” for two consecutive years.
AALM: Tell us about a single case that has significantly impacted you personally or professionally?
Neal: I represented a young man whose mother was killed in a helicopter crash. She raised him alone and her death was devastating to him. Helping him find out not only why the crash occurred, but holding the responsible party accountable meant a lot to him in putting back together his life. The case profoundly impacted the human tragedy that people experience and what it means to help them recover from a loss.
AALM: As technology changes the practice of law, how are you adapting? Do you believe these changes are good or detrimental?
Neal: Technology changes are inevitable. It is better to stay out in front of the changes in order to not get run over by them. The best adaptation for my practice is making sure technology is used to help understand the intricacies of a case and still make the issues simple to comprehend. The judge and jury need to have technology help them reach a decision, not overwhelm them.
AALM: What are some of the challenges you see negatively impacting the judicial system?
Neal: The workload and lack of resources are the biggest impacts on the judiciary that I see. Providing both is essential to ensuing justice remains obtainable by the average person.
AALM: Tell us about a book, movie or event that changed your perspective on the practice of law or your approach to life.
Neal: I led an expedition into the Sierra Nevada Mountains to locate a World War Two Bomber crash. The team had to climb a mountain and then execute a high altitude dive to survey the wreckage. Standing by the shore of a mountain lake at 12,000 feet where few if any had been before, and bear witness was poignant and gripping. The loss of the young airmen who died in the crash reminded me of the high toll it takes. Flying into a mountainside at night is just as deadly as flying into a hail of enemy gunfire—and just as painful for the families of those killed. Perhaps even more so when years pass before the survivors knew how their sons’ lives ended.
AALM: Tell us about your ambitions for your career.
Neal: I believe the best years of my career as a trial lawyer are yet to come. I am working on some very important cases that should see trial this year or next. I suspect I’ll finish those cases, and a few yet to come, right here where I am. I have a tremendous network of professionals helping me with each case, and the firm could not be more supportive of my practice.
AALM: What are you most proud of professionally and personally?
Neal: I am proud of the fact most of my cases are referrals from other lawyers and professionals. I believe it shows a level of confidence in my ability to help people who are in crisis that they think of me.
AALM: Tell us about your life outside the law.
Neal: I am a husband, father and grandfather. Nothing gives me more joy than my family. When I am not with them, I am an active member of the New York based Explorers Club. I am also an avid pilot, hunter and scuba diver. Taking hikes in the McDowell Mountains with my wife and our dogs is how I unwind.
AALM: Tell us about your community involvement.
Neal: I am honored to serve on the Board of the Valleywise Health Foundation. Valleywise is our community’s only public teaching hospital and safety net health care system. The Foundation supports our safety-net health care system for our County that includes the Maricopa Medical Center, Arizona Burn Center, Level 1 Trauma Center, two behavioral health centers and 13 neighborhood clinics. Access to quality healthcare is a major issue in our community. Our County Hospital not only provides access to care, but also trains more doctors than any other hospital in the Valley. The Valleywise Foundation is there for the entire community, and for the most complicated and traumatic burns, injuries and illnesses. After working with doctors and other professionals who have treated my clients, I am proud I can give back to those who have helped so many that needed it the most, and had the least.
AALM: At the end of the day, what makes you happiest professionally?
Neal: At the end of the day, I am most satisfied professionally when I have helped someone through what is likely one of the worst experiences of their lives. When the litigation is over, I stay involved to the extent I am needed and wanted. Knowing I have made a positive difference in a tough situation is a huge emotional reward.