This article was originally published in The Piedmonter by JM Brown on Friday, October 30, 2009.
Believe it or not, the tall, debonair gentleman on the cover of this summers San Francisco Best Lawyers magazine is the same 65-year- old grandfather of eight who you’re likely to see stomping around Piedmont with The Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin streaming out of his headphones.
Attorney Andy Gillin, a 20-year Piedmont resident who was selected by peers nationally to appear in the 2010 edition of Best Lawyers in America, takes his classic rock almost as seriously as his personal injury law. The Cal grad walks around Piedmont every morning to the beat of his favorite musicians before going to work at the Orinda firm he founded 37 years ago.
“My kids accuse me of having my taste frozen in the 60s” Gillin joked in a recent interview. Gillin, the managing partner of GJEL Accident Attorneys, was featured in the national legal publication to honor his firms nearly 100 percent record of recovering settlements. And to commemorate the award, he and two colleagues– Jim settlement of $111.7 million against Tenet Healthcare Corporation, which also agreed to pay a $54 million fine after a government probe into alleged medical necessity fraud.
Although the case is certainly the biggest feather in Gillin’s professional cap, the Southern California native, who moved to Berkeley at age 18 to attend college, said he is actually most proud of a case he took more than 30 years ago. Al Bigham, a 40-something self-employed construction worker, was injured when a tractor rolled over on him, leaving him a quadriplegic.
After being introduced by a mutual friend, Gillin took Bigham’s case, eventually winning a three-year battle against the tractor’s manufacturer in the early 1970s. “The most rewarding part of that is Al became a lifelong friend”, he said of Bigham, who went on to live another 25 years.
“He was an inspiration. He went from a guy with full health to a guy paralyzed. He never lost his fight or spirit” Gillin, whose law degree is from the University of Chicago, worked with an organization providing legal services to the poor in Berkeley before going into private practice.
Championing the downtrodden led him into personal injury work. “Every client was a real person with real problems”; Gillin said, adding that representing people who couldn’t otherwise be able to afford good legal help taught him about making a human connection.
Gillin formed his law firm in April 1972. Its six lawyers try to limit how many cases they take so they can really “put our full intensity into them” he said. As the managing partner, Gillin jokingly says it’s his job to make sure the Xerox machine works.
But partner Jim Larsen, who joined the firm 21 years ago after working for the public defender’s office, said Gillin’s role is much more critical than he lets on.
Andy Gillin was on the cover of this summer’s “San Francisco’s Best Lawyers” magazine Larsen and Luke Ellis– appeared on this summers cover of San Francisco’s Best Lawyers. He is a very hard worker, and he cares about every single client and making sure we do right by them and for them; Larsen said.
He just leaves nothing undone in any case." Gillin said being included in Best Lawyers in America.
This article was originally published in The Piedmonter.