Associate Attorney, Dreyer Babich Buccola Wood Campora, LLP in Sacramento
Area of Practice: Civil Litigation
Year Graduated: 1999
Justin Gingery, like many attorneys before him, first became interested in the law after reading Harper Lee's classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird. One of the novel's main characters, Atticus Finch, is a lawyer and father whose commitment to racial equality subjects him to ridicule and violence in his Southern town. As a result of his perseverance in the face of great opposition, Atticus Finch has served as a model of morality and justice for many, Mr. Gingery among them. "Even though I've read some incredible books, as a child [To Kill a Mockingbird] was the first book that I remember reading and thinking to myself, 'This is what honorable men do,'" Mr. Gingery explains. "My infatuation with the law spawned from this book, and it went from there." Today, as a civil litigator representing plaintiffs in personal injury cases, Mr. Gingery aspires every day in his own practice to be an honorable man by following the professional ideals demonstrated by Atticus Finch.
Mr. Gingery grew up in the Oakland Bay Area and graduated from high school in Sacramento before completing his undergraduate degree in Drama and Religious Studies at University of the Pacific. As the middle child in a family of three boys, he was a natural negotiator. "Everybody in my family kind of saw me as being a lawyer at some point in time," he says. And so, inspired by his family and a widely revered fictional lawyer, Mr. Gingery began his legal education at University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law immediately following college.
During law school, Mr. Gingery played on the McGeorge rugby team and cultivated lasting friendships. "I made some great friends…," he notes. "We cross paths a lot. I've made relationships with these people that I see professionally on a regular basis. It's an automatic camaraderie knowing that we went to law school together." Mr. Gingery also fondly remembers his professors. "There were a few that stand out in my mind as incredible," he says. Brian Landsberg, John Sprankling, and Anthony Skrocki were among Mr. Gingery's favorite professors at Pacific McGeorge. He cites them for their expertise, their ability to make seemingly boring subjects interesting, and their dedication to their students. Mr. Gingery also spent time as a law student trying out different legal practice areas to find the best fit for him. Positions with the Alameda County District Attorney's Office and a family law firm showed Mr. Gingery that criminal and family law weren't for him, but he discovered that he had a knack for civil litigation during an internship at a boutique personal injury law firm.
In 1999, Mr. Gingery graduated with his J.D. and, in line with his interest in civil litigation, began working as a clerk for a medical malpractice law firm in San Francisco. Not long after, he decided to start his own personal injury practice in Chico, California, where he had family. His practice grew quickly, and soon Mr. Gingery had satellite offices in Manteca, Yuba City, and Marysville. At one point, Mr. Gingery partnered up with fellow McGeorge alumnus Douglas Johnson on a jail suicide case that eventually resulted in a seven figure settlement. At the time, it was the largest jail suicide settlement ever recorded.
In 2002, Mr. Gingery joined his practice with that of two of his friends from law school. The three practiced together for five years. In 2007, Mr. Gingery sought employment with a law firm where he could practice with, and learn from, more experienced attorneys. He began working for the Angell Law Firm, a boutique commercial real estate law firm in Walnut Creek, just outside of San Francisco. There he handled a significant amount of law and motion work, representing lenders, property management companies, and owners of commercial real estate in unlawful detainer, leasing, and property management cases. Three years later, Mr. Gingery became an associate in one of Sacramento's most esteemed personal injury law firms, Dreyer Babich Buccola Wood Campora.
As an attorney at Dreyer Babich, Mr. Gingery represents plaintiffs in a wide variety of personal injury actions, from dog bite and wrongful death cases to the occasional class action lawsuit. "This is one of those legal environments where I really actually do everything," he says, noting that among his many tasks are client communication, legal research, law and motion work, discovery, depositions, investigations, court appearances, and participation in alternative dispute resolution. "I make it a point to communicate with my clients on a biweekly basis, just to see where they are in their recovery and to let them know what's happening on our side…. Client communication is key, especially in what we do," he explains. "[Clients] come to an attorney so that they can feel secure in a very insecure environment." Outside the office, Mr. Gingery is an active member of several organizations, including the Sacramento County Bar Association, Consumer Attorneys of California, the Scottish and York Rites of Freemasonry, and Clan Donald (a tribute to Mr. Gingery's Scottish heritage).
Although Mr. Gingery puts in long hours (often upwards of sixty to seventy hours each week) at Dreyer Babich, he appreciates the security of working for a busy law firm and finds the work he does rewarding. "This has been the greatest legal education and the greatest education overall of my life ...," he says. "In the area of law in which I practice, even though it's mainly civil litigation, I think the most rewarding thing is that I'm constantly diving into areas of information and education that I never thought I would. There's not a day goes by that I don't learn something, and a lot of times it has nothing to do with the law." For example, Mr. Gingery has found himself exploring the minutiae of upper ball joints and other feats of engineering and medicine. "I know more about physics than I ever learned in college ...," he remarks. "[Learning] is what gets me up in the morning. That's what makes me feel good when I go home. It just motivates you. It gets your mind spinning."
While Mr. Gingery finds his work rewarding and intellectually stimulating, he notes that his practice does have its downsides. "We provide a very essential service, but at the end of the day, no matter what you do, the client is still incomplete in some way ...," he observes. "I'm never delivering good enough news ... For clients, they would rather change their lives back than have the money." Still, Mr. Gingery gains satisfaction from knowing that he has helped his clients in some way. "You can make sure that [your clients] are being competently navigated through the system," he explains. "You can give them the confidence and security that the best that the law will allow will be done for them."
Mr. Gingery notes that it is important for civil litigators to have good interpersonal communication skills, since they spend a large amount of time interacting with clients. "If you can't keep your clients happy, you can't stay in business," he observes. He also cites the ability to spot issues within a set of facts as crucial. "Civil litigation is filled with issue spotting, things that you don't see on first glance that are quite sensitive," Mr. Gingery explains. "It's difficult because over time you become very jaded. Trying to keep a fresh sense of the facts and being able to issue spot is absolutely pivotal ... I think great lawyers are the ones who spot issues that good lawyers don't see."
Mr. Gingery recognizes that it can be difficult for law students and new attorneys to gain experience representing plaintiffs in personal injury cases, but he points out that there may be more opportunities to learn about civil litigation in the field of insurance defense. Insurance defense work, Mr. Gingery says, can actually be good preparation for a career as a plaintiff's lawyer since it allows new attorneys to learn the law and to understand how defense strategy works. "Learn the ropes in insurance defense, but when you get tired of being the yes man to an insurance adjuster, branch out and go out on your own ...," he recommends. "If there is a door to this area of law, that would be it. It's easier to transition from defense to plaintiff than from plaintiff to defense." Indeed, Mr. Gingery has emerged from twelve years of civil litigation practice with insights into the legal profession that he did not have when he graduated from law school. "Cut your teeth in the insurance world, learn from other people, and when you're feeling confident, then make the move [to solo practice]," he advises.