Alumna Embraces Social Justice at Firm that Fights for the Underdog
Jane Abzug ’15 is an associate at Shernoff Bidart Echeverria LLP, a Los Angeles-based plaintiffs’ firm. As a law student, Abzug worked at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Bet Tzedek Legal Services.
How has your Loyola Law School education helped you make a difference in your career?
Loyola places an emphasis on gaining practical experience during law school, and I firmly believe that entering the workforce with five semesters of externship experience set me apart from other applicants; I had one misdemeanor trial in federal court and three preliminary hearings in state court. Not only did I gain court room experience during my externships, but I also made meaningful connections with judges, attorneys and other law school students across Los Angeles.
What was the most pivotal class or professor at Loyola in terms of shaping who you are as a lawyer?
I took away powerful messages from each professor whom I had at Loyola that shaped me into the lawyer who I am. From Professor Levenson in my Criminal Adjudicatory Class, I learned that giving back to people in need would provide me with a fulfilling career that I love. From Professor Susan Poehls in my Hobbs District Attorney Clinic, I learned the value of preparedness, thinking on my feet and confidence when addressing the court. From Professors David Glassman and Stuart Esner in Appellate Advocacy, I learned that a sense of humor is allowed in the legal profession and that a compelling argument starts with thoughtful organization—and a lot of revisions. Finally, from Professor David Fischer in California Civil Procedure, I learned to always be courteous in interactions with opposing counsel, but to never allow opposing counsel to take advantage of your courtesy.
What is the focus of your practice at Shernoff?
My practice focuses on insurance bad faith in the context of health insurance policies and life insurance policies. For purposes of illustration, my firm would handle a case in which a wife paid premiums on a life insurance policy for years to provide a benefit to her husband upon her death. When the wife passed away, the insurance company wrongfully denied the benefit to the husband. The wife could no longer fight the insurance company because she had passed away, and the husband—who just lost his wife—was left in the vulnerable position of trying to put his life back together and survive the financial hardship that accompanies the passing of a loved one. Bills that should have been paid by the life insurance policy benefit remained outstanding, and a grieving husband had to fight an insurance company. My firm sues insurance companies for their wrongful, bad-faith denials.
My practice also focuses on wrongful death, personal injury and products liability law. Recently, we have filed over 30 e-cigarette explosion cases. Our clients have suffered severe and extensive injuries, including lost teeth, a lost eye, an amputated finger and third-degree burns requiring skin-grafting surgery. My firm is identifying all of the manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers and retailers in the chain of distribution of the exploding e-cigarette products and identifying the link between all of the component parts in the e-cigarette products.
What has been the most fulfilling aspect of your work at Shernoff?
I am honored to work at Shernoff Bidart Echeverria LLP because the partners have built the firm on the principal that attorneys are advocates for those who do not have the tools to advocate for themselves. They take difficult, seemingly impossible cases because they want to help people – and consumers – across the nation.
The most fulfilling aspect of my work is when I provide a client with a piece of work product, such as a complaint, demand letter or mediation brief, because it is often the first time that the client is hearing their story as an organized timeline of events told in a compelling manner and supported by legal argument. For a man who is awaiting medically necessary surgery to prevent the imminent progression of a disease, he feels relieved that action has been taken. For a woman who experienced the wrongful death of her husband, she feels validated that someone understands the significance of the loss that she suffered. It is a great reminder at the end of a long day that you are helping people.
How involved to you stay with Loyola?
I stay connected to Loyola by keeping in touch with my professors and classmates and giving back when I can. One of my favorite Loyola Law School events that I have attended since graduation is the Loyola Law School Champions of Justice Tribute Dinner, which in 2015 honored Loyola Law School alumni Amy Solomon and Richard Carroll. It was exciting to watch such distinguished attorneys who graduated from Loyola Law School receive recognition for their accomplishments and contribution to the legal community.
What advice to you have for current Loyola students as they seek to make a difference in their careers?
My advice to students is to seek externship opportunities and to save some bar courses for your 3L year because those topics will be fresher in your mind. When you enter practice, download Evernote. It is a great way to keep track of all of your cases, and it syncs to your work computer, personal computer, tablet and phone.