Alum Offers Student Scholarship and an Insider’s View of Plaintiffs' Law

Matthew McNicholas ’97

Among the many scholarships Loyola Law School, Los Angeles offers its students, the Trial Advocacy Scholarship raises the bar. In addition to providing help with tuition, the scholarship also awards its recipient a prestigious summer job with a leading Los Angeles plaintiffs’ law firm, McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP.

Loyola Law School alumnus Matthew McNicholas ’97 created the annual scholarship more than a decade ago to interest top law students in contingency fee work, his firm’s area of practice.

McNicholas has been a seasoned and well-known plaintiffs’ personal injury and employment attorney for more than 20 years, with a reputation for securing multimillion-dollar verdicts for clients. He knows the work can be both challenging and rewarding.

“Generally, students at the top of their class aren’t exposed to this type of practice,” he says. “I wanted to give those students some exposure to it and maybe steer a few of them to this type of work.”

McNicholas became familiar with contingency fee work around his family dinner table. “I grew up in a house of trial lawyers,” he says. After graduating from Loyola Law School, McNicholas spent a year as a clerk to a federal district judge in Los Angeles and then joined the family business himself. His father, John, also a Loyola alumnus, and brother, Patrick, formed McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP in 1993. His sister Courtney is also an attorney with the firm.

In the years since starting the firm, McNicholas has represented plaintiffs in major catastrophic injury, wrongful death, product liability and employment cases, including securing an $8.5 million settlement for 26 tenants against a slumlord – the largest settlement of its kind in Los Angeles history.

A fierce advocate for public service workers, McNicholas also regularly represents police officers and firefighters in whistleblower and retaliation actions against their departments. His LAPD clients have included the first African-American member of the bomb squad, the first African-American and the first Asian-American members of the canine unit, he says.

McNicholas selects recipients of the Trial Advocacy Scholarship from among the top three or four students in first-year torts classes, as identified by Professor John T. Nockleby, who directs Loyola’s Civil Justice Program. One student is chosen each year.

“Our firm currently has 11 lawyers, so one clerk is perfect,” McNicholas says. “Otherwise, they could get lost in the shuffle. The point of the experience is for the students to learn, not merely to provide us work product, so we give them as much of a hands-on experience as possible.”

Winners of the scholarship spend the summer between their first and second law school years working directly with attorneys on the firm’s cases. “They do anything and everything. They work on oppositions, sit in on depositions, go to court appearances, help write motions and help with trial prep,” he says. “By the time they’re done with their summer, they’ll know what it’s like to be a trial lawyer.”

McNicholas also keeps in touch with the firm’s scholars when they return to school and after they graduate from Loyola. As top students, many have gone on to judicial clerkships and then large, commercial law firms.

But after a few years in big firms, several have opened their own shops doing contingency work, he says, which is rewarding. “I am working on cases with a couple of them now.”

Want to make use a JD to make a difference? Learn more about Loyola’s Trial Advocacy Scholarship.