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Posted December 13th, 2012 in Top Stories

First-Year Associate Takes Driver’s Seat, Scores Win in Lemon Law Trial

Unique victory underscores ACC Value Champion Nilan Johnson Lewis’s commitment to top-notch litigation through flexible rates and arrangements

MINNEAPOLIS (December 13, 2012) – Many lawyers go their entire career without taking a case to jury trial. For Ben Johnson, a 27-year-old associate with Nilan Johnson Lewis (NJL), it took just one year. In fact, not only did he arrive for his inaugural day of trial by himself, when he left; three days later, he’d scored a complete defense victory for his client.

In the case Block vs. Ford Motor Co., Johnson served as sole trial counsel for his firm’s longtime automotive client. He managed every aspect of the trial, from arguing pre-trial motions, through trial proceedings, including voir dire, opening statements, direct and cross examinations, and closing arguments. Providing support to Johnson behind the scenes was a team of experienced NJL litigators offering guidance and strategy for conducting this jury trial.

“Today’s cases rarely go to trial, so this was a tremendous opportunity for someone at my level to gain valuable trial experience” said Johnson, who received his J.D. from Hamline’s School of Law in 2010 and, after completing a judicial clerkship, joined the firm in 2011. “Our firm is full of veteran trial lawyers who are great about passing along their knowledge and providing opportunities for younger attorneys. I’m grateful for the constant support and encouragement from the firm’s shareholders.”

When a husband and wife duo that owned a Ford truck brought suit under the Minnesota lemon law and the federal Magnuson Moss Warranty Act, Ford decided to stand behind its product and take the case to trial. Johnson had demonstrated tremendous value to Ford handling its Minnesota lemon law cases since he joined NJL in 2011. Accompanied by a Ford representative and arguing in front of a seven-person jury against two of Minnesota’s most experienced lemon law attorneys, Johnson was able to shoot down the breach of warranty and lemon law claims, demonstrating no defect in the vehicle, and ultimately prevailing with his first victory in the courtroom.

“This work provides our young associates excellent training, including the opportunity to try cases, while also providing some budgetary relief for companies trying to deal with industry-wide skyrocketing litigation costs and requests for more certainty in litigation budgeting,” said Sheila Kerwin, shareholder and Nilan Johnson Lewis relationship manager for the Ford warranty work. “We’re able to provide excellent and cost-effective service to our client, while at the same time growing and developing our deep bench of trial lawyers.”

Earlier this year, Nilan Johnson Lewis was inducted into the inaugural class of “Value Champions” by the Association of Corporate Counsel for its willingness to work creatively and cooperatively with national clients to establish alternative fee arrangements and other methods to control legal budgets. In 2011, NJL posted a string of 11 defense verdicts, and in early 2012, it scored a trifecta of trial victories in a 10-day period, results that relied on the strength of the firm’s veteran litigators while also providing ample opportunity to grow its associates. This trial victory for Ford was another example of the firm’s creative and cost-effective staffing approaches that deepened the firm’s already massive bench strength.

About Nilan Johnson Lewis
Founded in 1996, Nilan Johnson Lewis has built its reputation by putting clients first, building a practice centered on excellence and value, defining the next generation of law firm. The firm’s practice focuses on five areas: product liability/mass tort litigation, commercial litigation, labor and employment, health care and business law.

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