With decades of experience, Jim represents people in complex damages cases involving unsafe products, unsafe equipment, oil field matters, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries resulting in quadriplegia and paraplegia, burns and birth injuries. He practices in the areas of Products Liability, Workplace Liability, Medical Malpractice, Personal Injury and Wrongful Death.
Jim’s trial record includes numerous multimillion dollar jury awards and several records for jury verdicts and settlements on behalf of his clients. Jim has been trial counsel in nearly half of the million dollar verdicts in the history of Wyoming.
Jim is a member of several prestigious invitation-only trial lawyer organizations. These include the American College of Trial Lawyers, the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, the International Society of Barristers and the Inner Circle of Advocates, an organization limited to 100 of the top plaintiffs lawyers in the country. Lawyers cannot just apply to join these groups. They must anonymously – without knowledge – be nominated by peers and recommended by Judges.
Jim has made more than 100 presentations on various trial topics to members of the trial bar throughout the United States. He is one of a distinguished group of attorneys who have been listed in Best Lawyers in America for twenty years or longer.
Jim graduated from the University of Wyoming in 1969, served in the military in Vietnam and then earned his law degree from the University of Colorado.
1975, Wyoming and U.S. District Court, District of Wyoming; 1976, U.S. Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit; 1979, U.S. Supreme Court; 1993, Colorado; 2001, U.S. District Court, District of Colorado
Wyoming State Bar; American Association for Justice; Wyoming Trial Lawyers Association; Inner Circle of Advocates (President, 2000 to 2001); Colorado Trial Lawyers Association; American Board of Trial Advocates; International Academy of Trial Lawyers; American College of Trial Lawyers; International Society of Barristers; National Board of Trial Advocacy; The American College of Board Certified Attorneys.
The Best Lawyers in America, 1987 – Present
Mountain States Super Lawyers, 2007-Present
Lawdragon 500 Leading Plaintiff Lawyers in America
The Courage to Try the Case
Trial Excellence: Volume 9, Number 5, May 1997
Question: Tell me a little about your background, how long you’ve been doing what you’re doing.
Answer: I worked my way through the University of Wyoming, served in the military, then went to the University of Colorado Law School on the G.I. Bill and graduated in 1975. I became interested in trial practice while I was in law school and clerked with a trial lawyer in Denver. I was asking myself, “What’s law school all about? What’s the point of this?” Then when I wound up doing some work with him, the light bulb came on and I said, “Oh, this is why I’m going to law school. I love this work.”
He was trying cutting-edge product liability cases. I helped him with the clients and ran errands during the trial. One case involved a young man who had lost both hands in a large paper-roller machine. The lawyer told me it was a tough case because he was basing it on what were then new approaches in product liability. I was just completely fascinated by the prospect that could actually help injured people with trial work against large corporations. So, after law school, that’s what I did.
Question: In terms of learning how to do trials, it sounds to me like you’ve had a little bit of mentoring but basically learned it on your own.
Answer: Well, I got training in seminars and various trial lawyers schools. I attended both the basic and the advanced National Institute for Trial Advocacy courses and was invited to be an instructor for a number of years in the Denver Regional NITA Program. I attended numerous Association of Trial Lawyers of America Seminars. I continued my association with ATLA by being an instructor in the National College of Advocacy.
I went to a school at the University of Wyoming called the Western Trial Advocacy Institute, it had a lot of really good lawyers on the faculty. Later, I attended the Trial Lawyers College and joined the faculty. Over the years, I’ve worked with a lot of fine lawyers and I call them and brainstorm about cases. So while I haven’t had a direct mentor in my office, I haven’t been shy about using people as mentors.
Question: What were some of the early lessons you learned stepping in front of a jury?
Answer: The earliest lesson I ever learned was: Do the field work. Go to the scene. I learned I needed to get out of my office. Cases are not won in the office. They are won out in the field with thorough investigation. They’re won with meeting the people who become witnesses and getting a thorough understanding of the case. For example, in a wrongful death case, I need to know who the person was and what he or she meant to the family. That’s something you’re not going to learn from any interview in the office. I go to the house, to where he worked, if possible, and where he spent recreation time.
I have a picture on my wall of a lawyer named Gus Kolius because he said to a friend of mine, who passed it along to me, “You don’t win cases in the office.” So I have his picture on my wall by the light switch. I see it on my way out the door every night. It reminds me to get out there, meet the people, figure out the case, and learn the facts firsthand.
Question: How about the differences between picking a jury 20 years ago as opposed to today? Do you notice any marked differences in the attitudes of jurors?
Answer: Absolutely. Jurors are frequently hostile now to the claims of injured people. Some of them are almost bitter. Some of them do their best to get seated on the jury so they can affect the verdict. So I spend time trying to bring that information out, in Jury selection where we can deal with it in the open. Citizens are entitled to a fair jury.
Jim Fitzgerald is also a member of several prestigious, invitation-only trial bar associations. Jim is one of 36 attorneys in the nation to be a member in each of the Inner Circle of Advocates, the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, the American College of Trial Lawyers, and the American Board of Trial Advocates.
Inner Circle of Advocates (President 2000-2001)
This is an invitation-only group. Prospective members must be nominated by the current members, pass a background and experience investigation, including reviews by leading lawyers and judges, and meet the rigorous requirements for membership.
Here is the Inner Circle’s description on the web: “The Inner Circle is an invitation-only group, limited to 100 lawyers of excellent character and integrity, representing people throughout the United States. To qualify, members must have tried at least 50 personal injury jury trials and at least 3 verdicts in excess of one million-dollars or 1 verdict in excess of ten million-dollars. Most of our members have won many multimillion dollar verdicts for their clients.” Jim is Wyoming’s only member.
International Academy of Trial Lawyers
This, too, is an invitation-only group. Prospective members must meet the requirements for membership, stated as follows by the Academy:
“Membership in the International Academy of Trial Lawyers is limited to attorneys who have been admitted to the practice of law for a minimum of twelve (12) years and must be principally engaged in trial and appellate practice. Attorneys admitted to fellowship in the International Academy of Trial Lawyers must possess, to an exceptional degree, superior skill and recognized ability in trial and appellate practice; services rendered in promoting the best interests of the legal profession and the highest standards and techniques of advocacy; excellent character and absolute integrity.”
To ensure candidates meet those requirements, they must pass a background and experience check, including reviews by leading lawyers and judges. The number of Fellows in the International Academy of Trial Lawyers is limited to five hundred (500) active Fellows. Jim is one of two members from Wyoming.
American College of Trial Lawyers
The College description is as follows: “The American College of Trial Lawyers is composed of the best of the trial bar from the United States and Canada. Fellowship in the College is extended by invitation only, after careful investigation and peer review by other lawyers and judges, to those experienced trial lawyers who have mastered the art of advocacy and those whose professional careers have been marked by the highest standards of ethical conduct, professionalism, civility and collegiality. Lawyers must have a minimum of 15 years’ experience before they can be considered for Fellowship. Membership in the College cannot exceed 1% of the total lawyer population of any state or province. Fellows are carefully selected from among those who represent plaintiffs and those who represent defendants in civil cases; those who prosecute and those who defend persons accused of crime. The College is thus able to speak with a balanced voice on important issues affecting the administration of justice. The College strives to improve and elevate the standards of trial practice, the administration of justice and the ethics of the trial profession.
International Society of Barristers
Its description is: “The International Society of Barristers is an honor society of outstanding trial lawyers chosen by their peers on the basis of excellence and integrity in advocacy. Membership is limited and members are elected by the Society’s Board of Governors on nomination by a Fellow and after inquiry directed to other Barristers in the nominee’s region and to judges before whom the nominee has tried cases.”
Jim is also a member of the following:
- American Association for Justice (Formerly American Trial Lawyers Association)
- Wyoming Trial Lawyers Association (past president)
- Wyoming chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates (founder and past president)
- Colorado Trial Lawyers Association
- National Board of Trial Advocacy
- Million Dollar Advocates Forum
- Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum
- Irish Legal 100
- The American Collage of Board Certified Attorneys