Photo by Justin Clemons.
In her 28 years as a trial lawyer, Dallas attorney Charla Aldous has earned just about every type of distinction and award in her line of work. And for good reason. She has tried nearly 200 cases for injured clients and their families with verdicts totaling in excess of $750 million, easily making her one of the most successful plaintiffs’ lawyers of her generation. Aldous of Aldous Law Firm is a member of the prestigious Inner Circle of Advocates, which is limited to 100 of the best plaintiff-side lawyers in the nation, and was recently given the Compassionate Gladiator Award by the Florida Justice Association.
The 1985 graduate of Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law takes pride in getting “emotionally involved” in the cases of her clients, whom she considers “like family.”
Lawdragon: What made you decide to strike out on your own and hang up your own shingle despite the fact that you were already a very successful plaintiffs’ attorney at a much larger and well-established firm?
Charla Aldous: Before joining a large firm I had my own practice. I went to a large, national firm to be trial counsel. It didn’t take me long to realize that I missed the one-on-one contact and the deep personal relationships that I have with my clients when I have my own firm. So I went back to my own practice so I could choose who to fight for and have those personal connections with the clients.
LD: What was the biggest hurdle for you when you opened your own practice?
CA: The biggest drawback for me to having my own practice is the business aspects of practice management. I love my clients and my cases. And I especially love taking on causes. But I don’t enjoy the business side of the practice, such as having to deal with insurance, office leases, equipment, and the like.
LD: It’s still pretty much a man’s world in law, but more so in your field of practice. What were some of the more blatant and frequent prejudices you’ve had to deal with in your career and how have you overcome them?
CA: Before the start of a jury trial in East Texas many years ago, the elderly male judge asked me if I “was one of those lady lawyers with a chip on my shoulder.” I had to really weigh what I wanted to say versus what was best for my client. My response was, “I don’t think so, but if I am, I suspect you might just knock it off.” We won the case so I guess the compromise was worth it.
LD: In your field, you’ve had to deal with all kinds of difficult stories involving people and their families. Is there one case in particular that you’ve handled in your career that you can say has shaped your career or your own personal life in some way?
CA: I have the luxury of being able to take only the cases I believe in and representing only the people I want to represent. My clients are like family to me, and I have a deal with each of them that at the end of a case, they have to give me a personal memento. This started with the first plaintiff’s case I ever tried, which was also the first MTBE water contamination case in the country. I represented 128 trailer park residents whose well water had been contaminated by a powerful oil company. The second day of trial my clients gave me a gift – a gold plated guardian angel lapel pin. I have worn it in every trial since. It reminds me of why I do what I do and encourages me that I can make a difference in people’s lives.
LD: You’ve been in front of a jury nearly 200 times. Does that ever get old? How do you prepare?
CA: After 28 years, I still love being in front of a jury. I would rather be in trial than doing anything else. Even my children can tell when I need a “trial fix.” Trials are tiring because I prepare by working my tail off. But when it begins, and I am standing in front of our citizens fighting for the right cause, it makes all the work worth it.
LD: if you could tell people one word to describe yourself as a lawyer, what would it be?
CA: Passionate. A defense lawyer once told me that I get too emotionally involved in my cases. I told the lawyer that when I stopped being emotionally involved in my cases is when I needed to stop practicing law.
LD: What was your favorite class in law school?
CA: Trial Advocacy. And it remains my favorite part of law.
LD: What do you do for fun?
CA: Other than trying cases, my favorite thing to do is to just spend time with my four children. I have been blessed to have children that I actually enjoy being around and with whom I have great fun. My other releases are working out and taking my dogs to the dog park.