[Reprinted from the Hunton & Williams Reporter]
Taking the “Big Firm” Approach to Personal Injury
Like many law students in the late 1980s, Rob Stoney (Richmond 1987-91, Fairfax 1991-94) thought that when he went to work for the “big firm” he would do a year or two stint and then move on. “When I joined Hunton & Williams, I was prepared to work hard and to defend big corporations,” Rob explains, “what caught me off-guard was that I found I liked it.”
Although Rob had always envisioned a career focussed on individuals in personal injury cases, he found the atmosphere and challenges of the firm extremely rewarding. “Advocacy at Hunton & Williams is practiced at the highest level. The creativity, intellect and integrity of its litigators sets them apart from most other law firms.”
In early 1994, however, with the birth of his first daughter Rob realized that he had to make a fundamental choice either to stay with the firm or to follow his original dream. It was not until a fortuitous opportunity came to join the Fairfax firm of Blankingship & Keith that he made that decision. “It was very difficult to leave Hunton & Williams,” Rob confides. “I began my career there and they taught me how to practice law. The prospect of practicing in a small firm with Hugo Blankingship and John Keith, however, was just too great to pass up.”
Blankingship &Keith is not a typical personal injury firm. Only two of its ten partners do any plaintiff’s work. The other lawyers in the firm specialize in virtually every other aspect of civil law including complex commercial litigation, trusts and estate, zoning and condemnation, commercial transactions, and domestic relations. The other personal injury partner at Blankingship & Keith, coincidentally, is Hunton & Williams alum Pete Everett (Washington 1979-84).
Rob and Pete model their practice on the experience and training they received at H&W. They only work on a relatively few cases at a time and devote the time, attention and creative energy to each that lawyers at H&W devote to their major cases. “Simply stated, we prosecute matters for our clients in the same way we defended our clients at Hunton,” Pete says. “We obsess on the details and leave nothing to chance.”
As Rob puts it “one thing I learned working with Tom Cawley (Mclean) and Stephen Sayers (McLean) is that there is a smoking gun in every case – it’s just that sometimes you don’t find it. Well, we try to find it in every case.”
Rob and Pete’s connections with H&W have not waned since they left the firm. They have been hired by H&W as personal counsel for officers of H&W’s clients; H&W lawyers have referred various matters to them; they have litigated cases against H&W lawyers; and they have hired H&W as appellate counsel.
Rob recalls one notable case against Jack Wilson (Richmond) that was resolved in mediation days before trial. “I was struck by Jack’s soft touch,” Rob notes. “He took one of the most subtle and effective depositions I have ever seen, and remained a gentleman throughout. That turned out to be critical in resolving the case.”