Each month, we like to feature one of our attorneys to help you get to know our team better. We sat down with one of our Houston attorneys, Mark Linder, to talk about his background in the legal field and what he is currently working on.
What led you to a legal career?
I graduated from college with a bachelor’s in English, which is a polished way of saying that I did not emerge with a well-defined “career plan.” I spent time working as a Congressional aide and later for a nonprofit. The work was meaningful, but there came a point when I realized that what I wanted more than a job was a trade. I always felt the practice of law was really a trade and a craft. Carpenters use tools and precision to turn raw wood into furniture; writers use words and ideas to create visions; and lawyers use law, facts and creativity to build a case.
It didn’t take much time in law school to see that representing people in court would be the most direct way of applying my trade to benefit victims of wrongdoing, and that’s all I’ve done for the last 12 years. When you start practicing as a young lawyer, it’s a heavy feeling to take someone’s pain, loss and hope on your shoulders and try to bring them accountability and peace. But when you keep doing it, it makes you proud to do it, and you know you’re in the right place. And representing our clients continues to make me proud.
What has been your most interesting or memorable case and why?
That’s a hard one to narrow down! Every lawyer has highs and lows in their practice, and, high or low, they all stay with me. But I’ll tell a short story of one of the highs, which involved the first talc case I ever handled. Unlike my prior cases, this one involved absolutely no exposure to “conventional” asbestos products. My client had handled gobs and gobs of industrial talc while working as a paint mixer at a large paint manufacturing plant in the Midwest. One of the challenges of the case was to educate not only myself but also the court regarding the asbestos content of talc, the scientific evidence of asbestos-talc deposits, how asbestos-talc causes disease, not to mention the unique ways that talc defendants try to defeat you in court.
Shortly before trial, the lawyers showed up for a big hearing where we argued a bunch of different motions. This was what is referred to as a “cattle call” hearing, with a room full of lawyers from all different firms taking turns arguing motions for a bunch of different cases. When the court called my case, it was me — a junior associate at the time — against a couple of partners from the talc defendant’s law firm, and they took turns trying to kill my case from all different directions (in front of a room full of nosy observing lawyers!). Statistically, I assumed that the court would grant at least one of the defendants’ motions, but the court sided with me at every turn. After all of the defense lawyers’ motions were denied, I started to argue one of my motions, which sought to limit the talc company’s trial defenses. The court started granting my motions up to a point but denied my last few requests. Surprised by the sudden turn, I calmly reminded the judge that he had just granted a virtually identical request on identical grounds moments earlier. The judge looked at me as he leaned back in his chair, somewhat amused, and told me, “Listen, you gotta let them have something,” an instruction that earned chuckles from the onlookers in the peanut gallery.
When I tried to leave the courtroom later, I had other lawyers pulling me aside wanting to talk to me, asking me questions and patting me on the back. Those are fun moments. It was also fun when we finished that trial six weeks or so later. The defendant — which had refused to make a single settlement offer — decided to settle about 15 minutes after the jury started deliberating.
What litigation are you currently working on?
I work full-time in the Lanier Law Firm’s asbestos department. I have represented victims of asbestos for 12 years, and as much as asbestos is often considered a “mature tort,” I learn something new in each case.
What are one or two things about you that most people don’t know?
In my spare time, I am a wealth of useless information about rock ‘n’ roll trivia. It’s a complete waste of cognitive capacity, but I love it.