Photo by Laura Barisonzi.
From CO2 emissions to auto defects to false advertising, Ari Basser has built a thriving practice around protecting consumers.
A San Diego native who graduated from Santa Clara University School of Law in 2010, Basser is part of a newly minted consumer class action division in Pomerantz’s Los Angeles office. In just over three years, Basser and his colleagues have grown the Los Angeles division from the ground up into a thriving practice with over 25 currently active cases.
It’s a natural fit for Basser, who was inspired at a young age to practice law by watching his father, a successful plaintiffs’ class action attorney.
Basser is a cerebral lawyer, most in his element while steeped in the mechanics of litigation: building the case, working up the discovery and teeing it up for certification. He also has a collaborative nature, building good relationships with clients and colleagues, as well as his opponents on the other side of the “V.”
“While I want to get the best results for my clients,” he says, “being an amiable and cooperative member of the Bar is important, too. I like to foster good relationships to make the practice of law as enjoyable as possible.”
Lawdragon: How did you decide to focus your practice on representing consumers?
Ari Basser: Since taking a consumer protection course in law school I've been passionate about protecting consumers. When consumers who are in the market for goods and services have perfect information, it enables them to make the most informed purchasing decisions possible.
LD: What sorts of cases are on your plate these days?
AB: Our primary focus right now is on enforcement of the California Emissions Warranty. We've identified certain major auto manufacturers that are not complying with the California Emissions Warranty law because they fail to cover all the emissions-related parts for the extended warranty period for which they're required to cover those parts. Our cases seek to compel those manufactures to reimburse consumers for their out-of-pocket expenses paid to repair those parts, and cover those parts on a going-forward basis consistent with the Emissions Warranty.
LD: Emissions is such a critical issue.
AB: We’re proud of those cases. California has a significant interest in protecting the environment. After all, it has the largest population of any state in the U.S. – it could be its own country. And it has an equally large number of cars on the road, which means that protecting the environment is supremely critical for regulators, and for residents. We're helping to do that. We're stepping into the shoes of regulators and prompting this change.
LD: They can only do so much.
AB: That’s right. Regulators don't have unbridled, unlimited resources and time. By stepping into their shoes, we're helping to ensure that manufacturers follow the law.
LD: What else is keeping you busy these days?
AB: We also litigate automotive defect matters and cases alleging false advertising claims brought pursuant to the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act and Unfair Competition Law.
LD: Are you happy at your current position at Pomerantz?
AB: I love it here. Pomerantz is full of brilliant, experienced, knowledgeable, sophisticated practitioners. Being in this environment is tremendously inspirational. It’s a wonderful opportunity to be part of such an incredibly diverse and talented pool.
LD: That must be exciting, to be building a new division there.
AB: It really is. It's been a wild ride, for sure. Generating something from nothing is hard work, but it's rewarding. We built a dedicated, full-service, exclusively consumer class action division in Los Angeles that we started from the ground up over about three and a half years. We generated a book of business from scratch and have accumulated more than 30 cases in that time, at least 25 of which are active now.
LD: Congrats, that is impressive! So, it sounds like a lot of your cases at Pomerantz are still underway. Do you have an interesting or particularly satisfying case from your prior firm that you could tell us about?
AB: One of the first cases I sought to certify on a class basis was in employment law. I represented a small class of truck drivers who drove bakery goods hundreds of miles a day, in gridlocked traffic, throughout the Los Angeles and Riverside area. They weren’t provided sufficient meal and rest breaks pursuant to California employment and federal motor vehicle laws.
Teeing the case up for cert was a fire drill. I was a young associate and in order to meet the firm’s impending deadline, I had to pull all of the materials in support of certification together within a matter of weeks.
The drivers were almost exclusively Spanish speaking. I knew a little Spanish, enough to collect information from them, to converse with them and get to know them well. I remember thinking to myself through the process that I was representing a class of people who really embody the American dream. They work extremely hard for long hours, and grueling conditions, to support themselves and their families. They deserve the best working conditions possible. They are good and honest blue-collar people that make up the fabric of our nation.
I felt proud of helping to improve their working conditions. We ultimately certified that case on every claim and settled it for tremendous value to the settlement class. It felt really good to bring that kind of justice.
LD: That’s what it’s all about. How did you first decide to become a lawyer?
AB: I credit that to my father. He's a brilliant, talented and highly successful plaintiffs’ side trial attorney. I went with him to court as a child. He was and still is my inspiration.
LD: That’s beautiful. What advice do you have for recent law school grads who might be interested in a similar career path?
AB: Above all else, it is critical to choose a path that puts you under the wing of the right people and gives you exposure to brilliant, talented legal minds. In those infant stages of your career, soak it up like a sponge. Throw yourself into the fire and learn the tricks of the trade via a clerkship, or through working in a law office under a talented senior attorney. The more people you can expose yourself to who know the legal practice inside and out, the better you’ll be able to refine your craft.
LD: What you do for fun when you're not at the office?
AB: I love to hike. I escape to Mammoth and hike in the Eastern Sierras at least twice a year.