Photo by Ryan Wendler
Kelly Hyman’s career consists of an alchemy of elements and the resulting equation is truly awe-inspiring. Hyman seamlessly utilizes different pieces of her personality and professional prowess to excel in multiple high-level arenas. She is whip-smart, incredibly capable and knows how she wants to show up in the world – and does so brilliantly.
Hyman worked as an actress in the past, is a published author and has future plans for her next book. As for the present – she’s a popular podcast host, a widely respected TV legal analyst and she runs a thriving law firm.
Hyman, founder of The Hyman Law Firm, is a nationally recognized trial attorney who tirelessly fights for her clients by way of leading complex litigation, class actions and mass torts. Hyman has fought and won against some of the biggest and most notorious players in the game – tobacco, water contamination and medical devices. Hyman’s passion for advocating for her clients is palpable. She’s thoroughly committed to seeking justice for the wounded and deeply driven to help her victimized clients to be “made whole” in the process.
Chances are you’ve seen Hyman on the news. She’s famously adept at improvising her way through tricky topics with grace, dignity, intelligence and wit – and all on live TV. It takes a special talent to be able to bob and weave in real time, to answer questions, dodge curveballs and avoid being baited down convoluted alleyways. She thoughtfully responds, never hotly reacts.
In her hit podcast, “Once Upon a Crime in Hollywood,” Hyman marries a myriad of her skills, and the result is undeniable. The storyteller, the litigator, the investigator, the Hollywood insider – all facets of Hyman are at work in this compelling quest to unravel the mysterious death of Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen. The podcast is a must-listen for any true crime lover.
So how does she do it? Meticulously. There’s nothing haphazard about the way Hyman does anything – she plans for success. “As the saying goes, fortune favors the brave,” Hyman says. “But you must have a plan in place for how you’re going to achieve it all in order to be successful.”
Lawdragon: When did you know that law was something you were interested in?
Kelly Hyman: As a kid growing up, I loved games like Clue. I loved trying to figure stuff out, to investigate things, to always look at the story from a new angle. The law was something that I was always very passionate about.
LD: When you first decided you wanted to go to law school, what kind of practice were you envisioning?
KH: I had some interest in entertainment, because of my background in acting; and also international law. I always knew that I wanted to help people and make a difference. I knew that clerking was something that I wanted to do and it was an amazing experience. I got to learn a lot and work with some really great people. I tried different areas of law, and one of those areas was working on class actions and I really enjoyed doing that. Then I got an opportunity to work at a firm on their mass torts litigation and realized that helping people and having a meaningful impact that ultimately changed people's lives was what I wanted to focus on.
LD: Was there a case from early on in your career that was significant for you?
Follow your passion. If you fear doing it, that's only normal. As the saying goes, 'fortune favors the brave,' but have a plan and a strategy in place to achieve it.
KH: Working on the transvaginal mesh cases, representing so many women and having a significant impact on their lives – that was formative for me early in my career. Different manufacturers made different types of transvaginal mesh, which were implanted in women for stress urinary incontinence and prolapse and it caused complications that really harmed a lot of women and had detrimental life effects on them. I represented hundreds of women and spent many years working with them to try and come to a resolution. This started back around 2013, and a lot of them have resolved, but even now many of these cases are still being litigated.
LD: What was the biggest challenge with those cases?
KH: Truly just trying to make sure that our clients were made whole. That's key for the damage and the harm that they went through, to make them complete. These devices had devastating effects on their health as well as their personal lives.
LD: How awful. Can you tell me a bit about what you’re working on currently?
KH: I'm working on the baby formula NEC litigation. The MDL is in Chicago, and I am on the plaintiffs’ steering committee. That litigation is going through discovery right now. I'm also on the CPAP discovery committee –those devices are used by people that have sleep apnea. Additionally, I work on complex litigation cases, often multi-plaintiff, multi-defendant litigation.
LD: Tell us about starting your own firm just a few years ago. What drove that initiative?
KH: It was the best decision I ever made in my life, because ultimately the success or failure of my firm lies with me. With that comes a tremendous amount of responsibility and obligation, but also a tremendous amount of reward from the standpoint of having a work/life balance. I’m able to follow my passion and get the benefit of not only doing what I want and helping people, but also enabling me to work on my passion projects, whether it's the podcast or TV appearances or writing. It allowed me the opportunity to do that, which I am very thankful for.
LD: That's fantastic. It sounds like the perfect balance.
KH: That’s the goal.
LD: We don't see enough women going out and starting their own firms. What advice would you give to lawyers, women in particular, in terms of taking that step?
KH: To follow your passion. That if you fear doing it, that's only normal. As the saying goes, “fortune favors the brave,” but have a plan and a strategy in place of how you're going to achieve it. Create a business plan. I am very fortunate to have amazing friends that are plaintiffs’ attorneys such as Kim Adams, Jennifer Hoekstra, Wendy Flieshman, Katherine Cornell and Erin Copeland. It is important to have a plan in place in order to be successful.
LD: Having that community is so important.
KH: Yes, it really is. A tribe, as we say, right? You have to have people to talk to, to help you orchestrate it. To have people around you who can be supportive and help turn your goals into a reality. To have colleagues and friends who can bring you into the fold, to work on cases. It enables you to succeed. I would not have been the success that I am today without the support of my friends.
You have to have people around you who can be supportive and help turn your goals into a reality. It enables you to succeed.
LD: I love that. You started the firm and then, pretty quickly, Covid happened. How did that impact your practice?
KH: I'll never forget when I opened in December of 2019 and I went to get some office space. I was going to get a really small space, and instead I got a bigger space. Then the pandemic hit, and I didn't go back to the office until later that year. But I was fortunate to have a dear friend, Kim Adams, who was working on the human sex trafficking cases, and she brought me in to work on those cases. Even though there was Covid, cases were moving their way through the court system. So, I was very fortunate to have that work during that time.
LD: Do you envision expanding the firm or do you enjoy having a solo practice?
KH: My business model is to co-counsel and work with other firms. I work in collaboration with them on cases so that I do not work on any cases solely by myself. I have my Florida office and I just got licensed in North Carolina, and I'll soon have an office in North Carolina as well. At some point, maybe I’ll get an office in New York. If the need arises.
LD: How would you describe your style as a lawyer?
KH: I’m a zealous advocate for my clients.
LD: That sounds right to me. Last we spoke, your book, “Build Back Better: The First 100 Days of the Biden Administration,” had just come out. Do you have plans for another?
KH: I do plan to write another book! It is going to focus on working women and empowerment from the viewpoint of someone who's been working since they were five years old. It's a book that will hopefully ignite women and empower them to know that they can achieve anything that they want in life. That has always been important to me and something I've always strongly believed in – empowering women. I write for “Entrepreneur Magazine,” and one of the things that I focus on is women that work.
LD: I want to read that book!
KH: Thank you!
LD: Let’s talk a bit about your work as a TV commentator. You’re so good at it; you’ve been doing it for five years now. What drew you to doing that?
KH: I think that it's important to have discussions, whether they’re political or legal – we can agree to disagree on certain topics, but not be disagreeable. It's important to understand that distinction. I'm doing a lot more legal topics, and hopefully people take away something from it. Hopefully I’m getting people to think and to hear different political views and see things from a different perspective, or even simply to look at things from a purely legal perspective.
LD: Are you seeing any kind of tonal shifts on these shows as the election approaches?
KH: I find it so interesting that different shows focus on different things. It's fascinating, there'll be certain topics that will be on the front page on one network's homepage, and then you'll look at another network and it's not even discussed. What is covered by one might not be the lead story or even covered by a different network.
It's a book that will hopefully ignite women and empower them to know that they can achieve anything that they want in life.
LD: That is interesting. And voters' rights is something that you're passionate about as well. Can you tell us about that?
KH: It's definitely an important issue, especially dealing with redistricting and making sure that the people are properly represented and that they have someone in D.C. that's going to advocate for their interests. And that is why it's so important for people to check right now, to make sure that they are registered and that they make sure that their voice is heard, and their vote counted. It saddens me when you hear that people don't vote, or don't think that their vote matters. In order to bring about change, we have to be able to vote. Voters' rights has always been a passion of mine.
LD: Tell me a bit about your podcast, “Once Upon a Crime in Hollywood.”
KH: It’s a great podcast for true crime lovers. I host the podcast, and we explore the mysterious homicide of Ronni Chasen. I was very fortunate to have the podcast come together. I get to work with amazing people and have iHeart and all the other streamers carry it on their platforms, it’s great. I'm currently working on another six limited episodes as well, which I'm very excited about. I really enjoy doing it.
LD: What drew you to Ronni Chasen’s story?
KH: This case was always of interest to me, growing up in the entertainment industry. Ronni Chasen was someone who was highly regarded in Hollywood as a PR person, well-respected in the community, and she was coming from a star-studded event and was allegedly killed due to a robbery gone wrong.
LD: And what inspired you to turn it into a podcast?
KH: I was on Nancy Grace's podcast and really enjoyed it. I really enjoyed working with her. Before I went to law school, I was a professional actress for many years, and I also did a lot of voiceover work. I was one of the Kit Kat singer voices on one of the Kit Kat ads. I always enjoyed doing it. I thought this would be a really interesting and compelling story, and I thought maybe I could have a meaningful impact.
LD: That’s great. Tell me a bit about what you do for fun outside of work.
KH: Travel. I'm going to Malta and Sicily in September. Hopefully everything's okay with the wildfires. We're going there for my husband's birthday. And then in December, for the holidays, we are going to Uganda and Kenya.
LD: That sounds incredible. Are you big nature lovers?
KH: Yes! We were in Sedona this year and went hiking and it was absolutely breathtaking.
LD: Do you have a favorite place you've ever been?
KH: There's so many amazing places, but I am half Australian, so I'd be remiss if I didn't say Australia – whether it's going into the outback or snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef or climbing up the bridge by the Opera House! It is a truly wonderful experience. Just being there – having my Pavlova or my Lamingtons – is such an exceptional experience. But I've enjoyed every place that I've been to and love traveling.