Daniel J. Callahan One Step Ahead

Daniel Callahan
2024 Feature Nominations

A fierce litigator, Daniel Callahan has made a name for himself in the Los Angeles legal community. With a lengthy list of successful jury verdicts to his name, Callahan has helped shape the expectations of “victory” not only in Southern California, but in the country. For example, to this day, his $934 million victory holds the position as the largest jury verdict in the history of Orange County, California. For Callahan, the victories are just markers of the hard work and dedication he and his team have put forth on behalf of each client.

On the Road

Although Callahan loved to argue from a young age, it took him some time to picture himself as an attorney. It was in eighth grade, while standing victorious at the podium following his first debate that he began to nourish his desire to argue for a living.

Embracing the impact he could make as an attorney, Callahan worked his way through undergraduate and law school. His broad litany of jobs included stints as an Amtrak porter and bingo caller.

“I always wanted to be a trial lawyer and never gave any real consideration to anything else,” Callahan says. “I am very satisfied with the choice that I made and believe that my personality and persuasive nature has assisted me in excelling in that area.”

Upon completing his Juris Doctor, Callahan moved to the island life in Honolulu, Hawaii, where he worked at Carlsmith, Carlsmith, Wichman & Case — one of the oldest and largest law firms in the state. Aft er gaining two years of experience, Callahan decided to return to the mainland, setting his sights on California.

He spent the first few years learning the ropes at a major real estate litigation firm before venturing off on his own. He founded the predecessor to Callahan & Blaine on St. Patrick’s Day in 1984.

Callahan & Blaine

With a roster of more than 25 attorneys and 50 staff members, Callahan & Blaine handles complex litigation matters of all kinds, both on the plaintiff and defense side. While the firm’s core specialty is complex business and commercial litigation, Callahan & Blaine also handles complex insurance litigation, employment, product liability, intellectual property and class actions. In addition, in the last 15 years, the firm has become one of the top catastrophic personal injury law firms in the nation.

No matter which bucket a client’s case falls into, the firm’s attorneys approach it with the same zeal, bringing the firm motto — “A will to win and a commitment to make it happen” — to life.

“My personal motto is that ingenuity, creativity and hard work is a winning formula,” Callahan says. “Th at coupled with my never say die attitude has been the hallmark of my success.”

In the 32 years since launching the firm, Callahan has strived to impart this philosophy to the attorneys who come to work with him.

In his personal practice, Callahan has put his words to action in various sectors of the law.

“No matter what case I’m handling, I approach it with the same drive,” Callahan says. “I begin by going into ‘lockdown’ mode.”

Thirty days before trial, Callahan enters his office, posts an absolute “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door and settles in to review and analyze every piece of information from the case, from pleadings and discovery to depositions and evidence. Throughout this process, he dictates “trial memos,” which record the creative ideas that come to him while reading. These memos ensure that he and his trial team follow up on every idea and every lead. If appropriate, they’re incorporated into the trial presentation.

“My process is to outwork and outprepare my opponent,” he says. “I want to walk into the courtroom on the first day of trial fully confident in my preparation.”

Callahan brings that mindset to the firm’s recruitment as well. The firm has achieved insurmountable success, but Callahan credits the team effort of the attorneys and the excellent training they’ve received.

“Every single one of our attorneys has at least 10 years of complex litigation experience, and many have 15 to 20 years of experience or more.” he says. “Most of them were trained in the top law firms across the world, gaining almost a decade of experience before coming on board. It’s at that stage, when they’ve developed the fundamentals of practice and know their way around the courtroom, that we hire them on.”

Callahan explains, “In this manner, we provide our business clients experience and efficiency in the handling of their litigation matters. We have a saying at the firm: we provide our clients ‘twice the results at half the cost’.”

Once they’re recruited to the firm, the attorneys are trained in the ways of the Callahan & Blaine attorneys.

One of the unique “traits” of the Callahan & Blaine attorney is the experience and skill to cross the aisle. “In law school, professors used the Socratic method, calling on students to articulate the plaintiff, defense or judicial perspectives,” Callahan says. “This is how I envision our team.”

As for the firm’s future, Callahan plans to continue molding attorneys into litigation machines. “If the past is any indicator of the future, I would expect that we will grow by 50 percent over the next five years,” he says.

Three Monumental Cases

Having found success, many look back on their career and can point to moments that have altered their path — some shine bright like beacons, noting a significant fork, while others merely light the path to the present. For Callahan, there were three cases that have stood above the others as impactful not only in leading him to his current position at the helm of an impressive litigation firm, but in affecting the way he looks at the law and approaches it.

The first, Beckman Coulter v. Flextronics, led to the $934 million unanimous jury verdict that still stands in the record books. Callahan and his team were retained to represent Beckman Coulter company in a breach of contract dispute with Flextronics. During the litigation, Callahan uncovered a fraud that was perpetrated against his client. As a result, during the three-month trial, the $2 million breach of contract case morphed to a whole other level.

One thing that sets Callahan apart from virtually all trial lawyers is his ability to memorize the names of all of the potential jurors during jury selection. He believes that it adds a sense of genuine care for them and builds their trust. As a result, in the Beckman case, all 12 jurors and four alternates stayed on for the entire three-month jury trial. At the conclusion of the trial, Callahan approached the judge with an idea to bring all 16 jurors back to read the verdict together. The judge surprisingly agreed.

“After the $934 million jury verdict was read, I invited all the jurors and everyone from my team over to my house to celebrate,” Callahan says. “I had limos pick them up and they came over to my house where we were all able to speak with the attorneys and witnesses alike.”

In Neria v. City of Dana Point, two young mothers were involved in a tragic accident that left both women quadriplegic. The clients had been turned down by several other highly rated plaintiffcounsel because the women were hit by an uninsured drunk driver. The man, who had mistaken the bicycle lane as a traffic lane, was detained and sentenced to four years in state prison. The biggest issue for the two women, however, was finding a viable defendant that could compensate them. In the beginning, the women didn’t receive any recovery.

When approached by the clients, Callahan took a different approach. “It was my belief that the city of Dana Point had improperly designed the roadway so as to entice a driver to mistake an overly wide bike lane for an actual driving lane,” he says. “Despite the defense of government immunity, I prepared a municipal liability road defect case for trial.”

Armed with skillful depositions and expert opinions, Callahan settled the case for $50 million on the first day of trial. To this day, this result is the largest personal injury settlement in the history of the United States.

“It was an accomplishment,” he says. “Not only for the history books, but for those families. They were given the compensation they needed to face a very different life.”

Lastly, in Gonzalez v. Freedom Communications, Callahan obtained a record breaking class action recovery. The class action actually arose from a case where a man was struck by a newspaper carrier delivering the Orange County Register while riding his bike. The personal injury case brought by Callahan resulted in a multimillion- dollar personal injury settlement, but it sparked a chain reaction. Callahan then brought a class action suit on behalf of all the newspaper carriers for the improper classification as independent contractors. It took five years and a two-month trial, but Callahan ultimately obtained a $38 million victory for the group.

“One week before the payment was due, The Register filed for bankruptcy and I was forced to fly to Delaware to make sure the carriers received their just compensation,” Callahan says. Though he had to pay half a million dollars out of his own pocket to battle in a bankruptcy court, the result was well worth the money spent.

“Subsequently, we have brought similar claims against other leading newspapers for these unlawful practices and have won each time.”

Hope for the Future

Although he approaches each case with a fierce drive, he leaves the bridges intact. His sincerity and work ethic have left him respected by peers and opposing counsel alike. Callahan describes himself as sociable, taking a keen interest in people from all walks of life. Both in his personal and professional life, he brings respect and kindness to every interaction.

“I love learning about people’s interests,” he says. “I have found that if you have a friendly personality, some charisma and modesty, people will be drawn to you. I enjoy helping others and I know that if you’re genuine, people generally will want to help you in return.”

Beyond his partners and the whole team at Callahan & Blaine, Callahan credits his wife, Maureen, as the greatest influence in his life. “She is the reason I have found success,” he says. “She has provided me with so much insight and unconditional love and encouragement.”

When he’s not in the office, Callahan spends his time with the family, including his two children, Caitlin and Michael. “I love watching them excel,” he says. “I try to help them in any way I can.”

While he has no plans to slow down anytime soon, Callahan hopes to continue to groom the next generation of Callahan & Blaine attorneys.

“The best way I have found to build my business is to take the business I already have and win,” he says. “Regardless of cost, I always do everything to the best of my ability. Over the years, I’ve found this keeps new clients coming in.”

Elizabeth Morse

Elizabeth Morse is a former assistant editor with Attorney at Law Magazine. As a part of her role, she specialized in interviewing and profiling attorneys and law firms.

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