Growing up in Nashville, Ga., Ranse Partin had two competing dreams for a legal career: to work on important cases at a big Atlanta law firm and to be like Atticus Finch.
He achieved the first, joining King & Spalding in 2000 after a clerkship for U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Thrash Jr.
He has quickly made inroads toward the second since starting his own plaintiffs shop in December 2010. Last year he joined two established plaintiffs' lawyers, Cale Conley and Richard Griggs, to form Conley Griggs Partin. Veteran plaintiffs' lawyer Andrew Scherffius also joined the firm as of counsel.
Partin and Conley won a $10 million jury verdict in March for the survivors of a Mexican man, Florentino Hernandez, who was pressed to death by lumber mill rollers. They sued the defective machinery's manufacturer, Hi-Tech Engineering Inc., which offered $20,000 to Hernandez's survivors before trial.
Partin says the courthouse in Louisville, Ga., looked just like the courthouse in To Kill a Mockingbird. The moment the jury announced it had reached a verdict, after only 38 minutes, is one Partin will remember for his entire career. "An unbelievable silence filled the courtroom," he says.
Then the jury announced the $10 million plaintiff's verdict, finding the equipment designer 100 percent liable for the accident.
Griggs says he and Conley made Partin their partner because "we learned very quickly that this guy would be an asset to someone—and someone other than us, if we did not make him our asset."
Partin says a pro bono case at King & Spalding whetted his desire to represent real people. A jailed man was denied treatment for an abscessed tooth in Lanier County, one county over from where Partin grew up. The pain was so bad that the man, John Hooker, finally pulled the tooth himself.
Lacking even a high school education, Hooker spent three years pursuing a pro se suit against the Lanier County sheriff for denying him medical treatment. The case was going nowhere when King & Spalding's pro bono partner, Bill Hoffman, heard about it from a Macon judge.
Partin says he jumped at the chance to take the case. After he filed a motion to reopen discovery, Lanier County's lawyer quickly called, wanting to talk settlement. Partin says the small sum he obtained for Hooker gave him money with which to re-start his life when he was released from jail.
From that, Partin learned that "90 percent of being a good lawyer is being there."
Conley Griggs Partin is working on a putative class action against Mercedes-Benz USA, alleging fuel tank leaks. The firm is co-counsel on a bellwether personal injury case against Toyota over sudden acceleration, set for a November trial. The carmaker settled a class action for economic damages last year in the sudden acceleration cases for about $1.3 billion.
Partin is working on several cases with Bobby Lee Cook. He was co-counsel with Cook on a suit against the Chattooga County sheriff for allegedly forging a warrant to search the home of a couple who owned a local pawnshop. The case settled in January, on the eve of trial, for $300,000.
Partin isn't representing only the little guy. He won a $500,000 settlement for C.W. Matthews from Butch Thompson Enterprises in a dispute over nonpayment on asphalt deliveries.