It’s not every day you hear about a successful lawyer taking an 18-month hiatus to focus on a different kind of practice: yoga. But that’s just what James Gotz did, and he came back swinging. He now co-chairs the Mass Tort practice at Hausfeld in Boston, and brings his mindfulness practice to work as he develops overarching litigation strategies for complex tort and mass tort cases in the pharmaceutical and health care industries. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan and Suffolk Law School.
Lawdragon: Will you describe for our readers the mix of work you do within your practice?
James Gotz: I co-chair Hausfeld’s Mass Tort practice group, which concentrates its work in representing catastrophically injured victims of drugs and medical devices, developing those individual cases for trial or resolution, and performing leadership-level common benefit work in any related Multi-District Litigation. My daily responsibilities range from administrative management and oversight of my group’s work, to business development, to litigation strategic analysis, to active participation in our individual cases and MDL leadership-level common benefit work.
LD: What first led you to develop a medically focused mass tort practice?
JG: I was fortunate, just four years after law school, to join as an associate the plaintiff team representing the first-filed fen-phen wrongful death product liability case, before the creation of the Diet Drug MDL. My colleagues and I were in a position to develop this case fully and in parallel to the MDL track, all the way to trial (the case settled during plaintiff’s case-in-chief). As a result of that experience, I was given an opportunity to participate in common benefit work in the related MDL, and observe the process from inside the tent. So, at a relatively young age, I became immersed in the world of drug and device product liability MDL litigation, and its unique challenges and complexities. I knew it was the right place for me.
LD: What are some aspects about this work that you find professionally satisfying or exciting?
JG: Leading, or working with a group of leaders to develop and constantly refine the overall litigation strategy for an entire MDL (or otherwise consolidated) litigation is the most exciting job description I could seek in my professional practice, and consumes most of my time currently. Every day is a new challenge, a new twist, and a new move on the three-dimensional game of chess to consider from every angle before identifying the best path forward. It often seems -- and sometimes is the case -- that the success of the entire litigation is at stake with each and every decision.
Similarly, I appreciate and find deeply satisfying the opportunity to participate in efforts to protect access to justice on behalf of all current and future drug and device victims, working with other plaintiff leaders in addressing potential changes to applicable federal rules or statutes to ensure, in particular, that the MDL litigation process is fair and reasonable to both sides of the “v.”
LD: Out of all the work you’ve done in your career, is there one that stands out as particularly interesting or memorable?
JG: One of my most recent matters is also the most interesting for me personally. At the end of 2011 I decided to take a sabbatical, which started as a one-year plan but lasted into the first half of 2013. During that time, I put my legal career on hold to pursue a long-standing interest in teaching yoga. Suffice to say, a very different job description and way of being. I returned in 2013 to an opportunity to help lead an MDL based in Boston (GranuFlo). After dusting off some cobwebs, I found a way to apply core principles of teaching yoga to my work helping to successfully lead a litigation involving some 12,000 plaintiffs. I’d like to think that yoga teaching’s effect upon my analytical approach, as well as my interactions with colleagues and opposing counsel, allowed for a more mindful and successful path to resolving the litigation (as well as the day-to-day battles and challenges typical of any MDL).
LD: That is quite a shift! What has your career path been like since you rejoined the law post-yoga?
JG: In the fall of 2016, I was honored to join the partnership at Hausfeld LLP, opening our Boston office and continuing to help build the firm’s Mass Tort Practice Group. I joined my career-long friend and now practice group co-chair Richard Lewis, who I’ve long admired for his kindness, respect for others, humility and passion for improving public health. To be able to continue to learn from our stalwart and law firm founder Michael Hausfeld, constantly inspires my practice. I was also re-teaming with my former law partner and decades-old friend Steve Rotman from our days together on the diet drug team, one of the finest science-and-Daubert-focused mass tort lawyers I have ever known.
LD: As co-chair of Hausfeld’s Mass Torts group, can you share some strategic plans for your practice or firm in the coming months or years?
JG: Hausfeld is a global law firm, and for years now has enjoyed the reputation of leading from the tip of the spear in the space of claimant-side competition law in the UK and EU. Our mass tort practice group sees the UK and EU as forums where we too can successfully extend our experience, skill sets and pursuit of public health justice on a global scale.
LD: Do you still find time to practice yoga?
JG: When I’m not exploring the outdoors at play with my three-year-old daughter and one-year-old son – or finding the fun in cleaning, feeding, or otherwise trying my best to manage and referee them – I try to find a window, usually a small one, for my yoga and mindfulness practice.