Photo by Rory Earnshaw.
Consumer safety and wrongful death attorney June Bashant values trusting, personal relationships with both her clients and her colleagues. A partner with Rouda, Feder, Tietjen & McGuinn, Bashant came to plaintiffs’ work because she wanted to represent families and individuals who experienced a sudden traumatic loss. Her goal is to ensure that preventable catastrophic events do not threaten the stability and security of a family. She has protected families and individuals for the last 23 years with incredible success. She and fellow partner John Feder recovered $20M in a premises liability case when a young professional was exposed to a virus while he was on vacation and died. No stranger to large corporate defendants on the defense, Bashant has recovered millions in negligent security cases involving gun violence. She has tried, mediated and resolved many cases with multimillion-dollar results against nationally recognized defense firms and large corporations.
Bashant stays involved outside of the courtroom, as well. She is a member of the San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association, the American Association for Justice, Consumer Attorneys of California and several women-centered trial groups. Bashant has worked with the Concord Family Justice Center, and supports FESCO, a family emergency shelter in the Bay area.
Lawdragon: You started at Rouda Feder just a couple of years after you came to the Bay Area. What made you decide to join this firm and stay for the last 23 years?
June Bashant: I started out doing defense work, but I didn’t find it fulfilling. I would finish a day and be congratulated for billing hours even if the work I was doing had no substance at all. I was sent to depositions where no questions were required, or I traveled somewhere to stand around all day as a placeholder. I might bill 12 hours and be congratulated for my time, not for the substance of my work. That bothered me on a number of levels.
JB: On top of that, the insurance companies would audit the bills. Attorneys were required to get approval before they could engage in discovery, depositions, or even settlement evaluations that fell within our expertise as lawyers. The insurance company didn't care about my case evaluation or advice – it was all about how much money they could save.
So, after doing that for about three years, I had a case against my current firm. I drafted a motion for summary judgement that my current firm thought I might win. They were concerned, and settled the case. My instincts to file the motion were proactive, creative and strategic. I think my current firm recognized that, and because of my work on that one motion, they inquired about hiring me. It’s important to put your full energy and effort into everything you do. You never know what opportunity might be around the corner. I am passionate about every case, and getting the best result for my clients.
LD: What did you enjoy about that shift to not only plaintiffs’ work, but specifically personal injury and wrongful death matters?
JB: Oh, it was a complete shift. Every one of my clients is depending on me for their future security. The client relationship is both personal and professional. I care deeply for the families and individuals that I represent, and who are experiencing dire circumstances. When I meet clients, it’s because they have experienced a sudden and shocking catastrophic event. Without my work, their future is at risk. I take that very, very seriously.
In doing this kind of work, I need to protect my clients to ensure they will have a stable financial future in light of the severe injuries they, or a family member, have sustained. That’s the difference.
LD: Do you have any stories from cases where you formed a particular bond with a client, or where their case especially moved you?
JB: It's hard to pick just one. Unquestionably, my clients become my friends and family. I know so much about them, and the bond is unmistakable. I tend to represent families in wrongful death cases. I can relate, because I have two kids of my own and my husband passed away unexpectedly. This makes me uniquely qualified to understand the profound loss my clients experience from the moment of the event, and how that loss continues to manifest itself in their daily lives.
I know the resources available. I know what to do in the immediate aftermath of tragedy. I can compassionately counsel and console through the excruciating process of grief. Those are the cases that stay with me.
LD: It’s wonderful that you have that kind of bond with them.
JB: I learn so much from my clients. I ensure my clients understand the legal process, but at the end of each case, I am sure to share with each client what I’ve learned from them, and the legacy of their loved one.
Each family dynamic, each person passes wisdom to me that I incorporate into my practice. It’s so moving that my clients invite me in to understand their loss. I visit their homes and schools. I speak directly with their treating doctors to understand the detail of the injuries or the ongoing effects of the loss. And, at the conclusion of the case, I always follow up to thank my clients for sharing the intricate and complex tapestry that conveys the story of their family.
LD: Tell me about working at Rouda Feder. What are some of the advantages of working at a smaller, boutique firm?
JB: I was able to build a practice from the ground up. I knew very little about the details and strategy of plaintiffs work when I came here, but I was meticulously trained. The attorneys at my firm were not only my colleagues and mentors, but they turned into my law partners, and became part of my family. Every time I did something, they cared enough to show me how to do it better. It’s all about the grit you put into learning every detail. You need that passion to put in the time that is necessary on each case to get the best result. And, you need to know the people who are working around you, support you, and have your back all the time. All of those were advantages that allowed me to build a practice within a small boutique firm.
LD: Did you have any mentors when you were becoming a lawyer?
JB: My mentors included Ron Rouda, John Feder, Tim Tietjen & Cynthia McGuinn. Each of them took the time to teach me. That is a rarity. I shadowed them at trial, arbitration and mediation. They meticulously corrected my writing, and taught me the skills necessary to properly evaluate the liability and damage side of cases. Ron Rouda in particular taught me to keep asking the questions necessary to drill down on the key issues. Each of my mentors encouraged me to attend conferences and educational seminars for professional development. And, they gave me enough space to make mistakes and learn from my failures.
LD: As a female lawyer, which is a rarer combination than it should be, did you have any women who were particularly helpful in mentoring you, or did you have to find your own path?
JB: I was given the gift of my colleague, Cynthia McGuinn. Cynthia is an incredible communicator, writer and trial lawyer. There are few people who have the ability to connect with a jury like Cynthia McGuinn. I have looked up to her for many, many years, even before she joined Rouda, Feder, Tietjen & McGuinn. Cynthia can communicate the single most important issue in the case with absolute precision. The take away is that my ability to accurately and credibly communicate with attorneys, mediators, judges, and juries, helps to get cases resolved for the benefit of my clients.
In terms of style, every woman has to have her own style. The tone that works for one, may not work for another woman. I can’t just assume another woman’s style – it’s very individual.
One thing I have learned as a female attorney is that you must know your case better than the defense. Another strategy I impart on young law students and attorneys is to prove yourself indispensable. As a woman, you need to be prepared and you must get it right. Be the attorney in the case who the judge, other lawyers, and clients turn to for leadership and credibility.
LD: What would you say your style is, as a trial lawyer?
JB: I'd say that I'm meticulous with detail, and a bit of a control freak. I am critical and self-aware which keeps me motivated to improve. And, I hope that I display an understated confidence. My strength is taking depositions. My listening and communication skills push me to always ask the question that some might stop short of posing.
LD: Tell me about some of your memorable cases. Which of your cases have made an impact on you?
JB: Oh, so many. I settled a case against a major online retailer that involved a dangerous product that was ultimately removed from the market. In these consumer product cases, it is so important to send the message to the global market place that no matter how big you are in market share, you cannot place a harmful product in the stream of commerce at the expense of your customers. Profit should never trump safety.
There have been so many more. In one case, a grandmother was killed in a crosswalk by a truck driver. She was active and loved walking every single day. Her life was so rich as a physician and single mom who had raised two daughters. At the time of her death, she was enriching the lives of her five grandchildren. An untrained truck driver failed to stop an adequate distance from a crosswalk. As a result, he could not see my client over the top of his truck. It was heart wrenching that she was out doing what she loved to do, and that her life prematurely ended so senselessly. This collision was absolutely preventable.
There have also been the cases involving a lack of adequate security, where my clients have lost family members as a result of gun violence.
LD: That’s heartbreaking. But you’ve been able to get justice for so many of these victims and their families. To what do you credit your success?
JB: I think it comes down to a strong work ethic and grit. I put my head down and just keep digging to find out the truth. I am so passionate about my cases, and the people who I represent, that I keep pushing until I get all of the information necessary to properly evaluate my cases. There is no quick settlement, only cases that are methodically worked up to determine fault, and the full extent of harms and losses.