Fidelma Fitzpatrick of Motley Rice.
Fidelma Fitzpatrick of Motley Rice. (Peter Goldberg)

Motley Rice has made it to the top by helping underdogs. The firm played a key role in a monumental California state court ruling in January that three companies must pay $1.15 billion in lead-paint abatement.

The 72-lawyer firm has evolved from an early focus on families of Sept. 11, 2001, terror attack victims into a myriad of case types, including environmental; medical device and pharmaceutical; and financial.

Experience opposing corporate clients helped Motley Rice ace the co-lead trial counsel role in the lead-paint case, partner Fidelma Fitzpatrick said. “It’s understanding how to bring a complex issue to a court or trier of fact and try it in the most streamlined way you can,” she said.

“She did some great cross-examination of the defense experts,” said Nancy Fineman, a partner at Burlingame, Calif.-based Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, whose firm also acted as co-lead trial counsel.

During the overall case, the two firms teamed with Mary Alexander & Associates of San Francisco, Milwaukee lawyer Peter Earle plus various California county and city attorneys’ offices as co-counsel.

The lead opposing firms, including representatives of two companies whose claims were dismissed, declined to comment or did not return calls. Among those firms were Arnold & Porter; Skad­den, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; and Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott.

Securities work also played big for Motley Rice last year. As co-­counsel, the firm helped lead counsel Kirby McInerney of New York finalize a $590 million settlement with Citigroup Inc. Plaintiffs claimed that the company deceived shareholders about subprime investments.

The firm played a leading role in confidential negotiations in the estimated $9.6 billion settlement with BP PLC for economic claims stemming from the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

FIRM FACTS

Founded: 2003
Based: Mount Pleasant, S.C.
Total No. of Attorneys: 72
Partners: 27
Associates: 43

TRIAL TIPS

► Don’t file a case unless you’re prepared to try the case. —Joe Rice, managing partner
► You have to develop a storyline and a communication style with the jury that is your own. —Rice
► Trials are marathons, not sprints. The failure to devote time and effort to a case at every step of the litigation process undoubtedly will adversely affect your trial. —Fidelma Fitzpatrick, partner
► A successful trial requires an ability to be critical of your own case. —Fitzpatrick