There’s quiet power in being the person that no one sees coming. At the start of her career, Randi McGinn was continually underestimated, but she never let it deter her.

At the time, McGinn was one of about a dozen female graduates of her law school – all of whom aside from her, would soon give up the dream of being a trial lawyer. She didn’t have much in the way of a roadmap. She couldn’t point to a female model or mentor who was doing what she knew she could do. She could dream it, but she didn’t see a whole lot of it.

McGinn never subscribed to the doctrine that she had to wear a severe suit and adopt an aggressive tone in order to be successful. She opted rather to harness her invisibility cloak and turn it into fuel as she mapped her own route.

Once she had a few favorable verdicts under her belt, the game changed. The suddenly visible McGinn soon became known for her ability to obliterate her opposition in the courtroom. In one account McGinn, dressed like a schoolteacher – comfortable, feminine and unassuming – pressed so hard on a government informant during a cross-examination that he vomited on the stand. The truth came out in more ways than one and the industry could no longer dismiss the indomitable attorney. Ordinary, comfortable clothing and all.

These days, McGinn has her Goliath-toppling sights set on the trucking industry and the corporatization of hospitals. Making headlines recently, she co-led the team representing the family of the late cinematographer Halyna Hutchins who was killed by a prop gun on the movie set of “Rust,” which announced a settlement on confidential terms last year. And, as a co-founder of Athea Trial Lawyers, McGinn was part of the celebrated female trial team that won $10.5M in a wrongful death case for the family of Ugandan activist Essie Nakajjigo, who was decapitated at Arches National Park in Utah.

Underpinning all her work is an ethos deeply rooted in justice and humanity, which extends to her leadership at both of her firms.

“At McGinn, my three women partners and I all have kids,” says McGinn. “There's no penalty for having children. We are a collaborative firm – as opposed to the eat-what-you-kill male model of practice.”

McGinn focuses on celebrating the ways that being a woman in law can offer advantages rather than dwelling on the obstacles. In a Nevada Justice Association annual course called “Find Your Inner Badass,” McGinn teaches young female lawyers how to tap into their innate senses and uncover their authentic selves to connect with a jury and achieve results. Part of that work, if you ask McGinn, is learning how to fail.

“You've got to understand that sometimes you're going to lose,” McGinn says. “You still have to be brave enough to take your heart out of your chest and set it on the jury rail with the understanding that the jury can stab it rather than accept what you're asking them.”

McGinn holds an astounding 95 percent trial success rate and was the first ever female president of The Inner Circle of Advocates. She is a member of The Lawdragon 500 Leading Plaintiff Consumer Lawyers and The Lawdragon Hall of Fame.

Lawdragon: Your book, “Changing Laws, Saving Lives: How to Take on Corporate Giants and Win,” was published in 2014. What can you tell us about the current corporate giants you are tackling?

When you start practicing law, you have to get this lawyer image out of your head so that you can be yourself.

Randi McGinn: The two big ones that we’ve got our sights on this year and that we’ve already had some success with are the trucking industry and corporate medicine.

LD: Let’s start with trucking.

RM: We're really learning about the dark side of overnight delivery. Something that is so convenient for everybody, but people don't think about what it takes to get that done. What's happening is there aren't enough people driving trucks so huge companies like Amazon, FedEx and UPS are hiring truck drivers who don't know what they're doing – and then making them work as independent contractors. These companies are pushing them to get things delivered right away, and they're not following basic rules, like how much sleep they have to get. They're doing drugs to stay awake. Then those drivers are running over people, killing and brain-injuring people – these cases are just horrific. It's the worst thing that can possibly happen to a family.

LD: So as independent contractors, the drivers don't technically work as employees of the companies?

McGinn with co-counsel for Halyna Hutchins' family: Brian Panish, Kevin Boyle and Jesse Creed of Panish Shea.

RM: Right. They set it up that way on purpose. If somebody wrecks, they claim it’s not their fault because it was an independent contractor. We've been pretty successful at holding these companies accountable because they have contracts that require certain things of their drivers. We say these companies are still on the hook because they have the ability to control these drivers. We look at it as negligent hiring. These big companies should do their due diligence before they hire this fly-by-night company to drive. They always try to get out of it. So far we've been pretty successful because the judge and the jury understand that these companies are sloughing off their responsibilities and trying to avoid liability.

LD: And what’s the work you’re doing with corporate medicine?

RM: Across the country national hospital chains are buying up all the smaller hospitals. In New Mexico, something like 80 percent of our hospitals are no longer owned by the communities, they're owned by national hospital chains based in Nashville, some are in California. In New Mexico, when the hospital in a little town gets bought up by some national corporation, they think, "Oh good, we're going to get good medical care," and it's the exact opposite. The national hospital chain buys these little, small-town hospitals because they get instant money from the federal government as soon as they buy them – but then they hire the cheapest people they can. Often they get nurses from overseas to come work. No doctors want to come to these small-town hospitals so they hire doctors that have drug problems or have some kind of issue where they can't practice in a more reputable hospital.

Then it's all cost cutting. It's all about how much money they make. They will come into an emergency room, start advertising the ER, but then cut the number of doctors in the ER. They hire male nurses and put them in a white coat with a stethoscope and people assume if they've seen a man in a white coat, they've seen a doctor.

LD: That's so scary.

RM: They're doing it completely on purpose. We have client after client come to us and say, "Well, I saw the doctor and they told me this." We get the records and they haven’t seen a doctor at all. It was a male nurse.

For many years, maternal and fetal deaths had gone down because of the innovations in OB/GYN care. All of a sudden, in the last three years, they've started going up. That is a complete function of corporate medicine taking over. They’re just trying to get people in the door. Then they set quotas on the doctors – they have to see so many patients an hour, and if they don't meet the quota, they're going to get fired. Now, rather than hiring doctors, they're saying, "You put together an emergency room group and we'll hire your group as an independent contractor to come in and use our facility. But if you screw up, it's on you and not us."

As a woman, you can either try to play within that system and try to conform yourself to this image of what guys think female lawyers should be, or you can go off and start your own practice.

LD: So they're also using independent contractors to create that distance in liability?

RM: If you ever want to find out why bad stuff is happening, you just follow the money. When you follow the money, you realize that's why medical care is getting so bad. It's frightening. Even nonprofits. We have a nonprofit hospital here in Albuquerque, they get the break of being a nonprofit hospital, but they have all these subsidiary corporations where the same people that run the hospital are on the boards of the subsidiary for-profit corporations – including insurance groups. They make money from all these different groups and still pretend to be a nonprofit. It's so corrupt. I'd like to bust up this whole system and take a look at the entire thing.

Probably half of our current practice at the firm is medical malpractice cases. We're finding with this corporatization of medical care, it's almost always about the money. The poor doctors who used to be the king of the hill in medicine, they're all screwed by this too. A lot of doctors are giving up medicine because they can't make a living. It's like working in the mines going into work for a hospital – they've got all these requirements not based on quality, just on how much money you can make them. The doctors don't get that money, they get a salary, and all the money goes to the corporate actors out of state.

LD: Can you talk a bit about the course you teach at The Nevada Justice Association, “Find Your Inner Badass”?

RM: Absolutely. I think everybody has imposter syndrome and law school only makes that worse. In law school they tell you that you've got to be this certain way, which is often the male lawyer model. The truth is – you don't. The truth is the people that do the best, particularly in the courtroom, are those who are the most authentic. When you start practicing law, you have to get this lawyer image out of your head so that you can be yourself. That's very difficult when you first start because you're trying to learn the rules and you're imitating other lawyers. When I started, there were only male role models. The course is really encouraging people to be their authentic selves and to not be afraid of that. It’s teaching women that not only can you do this stuff, but you can do it better than the guys can do it.

“Find Your Inner Badass” essentially teaches trial skills. It gets people up on their feet and shows examples of women that have actually done it. If you can see it, you can be it. But you have to see it. For years, women haven't seen it. All the people who were talking at seminars for were all guys in suits. I don't wear suits in the courtroom for that very reason. I don't wear suits because I want them to connect to me on a human level. I don't want to look like the lawyer in the courtroom – the lawyers that they don't like. We teach things like that.

We've been teaching “Find Your Inner Badass” for six years now, and the most encouraging thing is that a bunch of the women that came initially have since left their male-dominated firms and started their own firms and are doing really great. The idea of Athea Trial Lawyers was to encourage women to know that they can do this too – they don’t need to have men involved if they don't want to. When women come up to me and say, "I own my own firm and things are going great," that's the most fulfilling for me.

LD: What’s your style at the negotiating table?

RM: When I was a young lawyer getting underestimated a lot, I would say in my little pip squeak voice at the mediation, "Well, I'll just take you to trial." They would then say, "Okay, sounds good, because you're nobody." Then I started hitting some big verdicts, and that tune changed. Now I'm not in any rush to settle. If we settle, great, but if not, even better, because I'm going to get more compensation for the client if we go to trial. Now, it's easier for me because I’ve punched some of these big corporate actors.

I don't wear suits because I want juries to connect to me on a human level. I don't want to look like the lawyer in the courtroom.

You have to try some cases, you can’t be afraid to go to trial and you must be willing to lose – which women have a difficult time with. For the women that I came up with, the only place that we competed was the classroom where, if you worked hard enough, you got an A. If you lose, so many of them internalized it and said it was somehow their fault. There were about a dozen of us, when I went to law school, women who were going to be trial lawyers. I'm the only one who became a trial lawyer, and most of them are not practicing law anymore. Most of them quit doing trial work the first time they lost a case, because they internalized it.

LD: They say law school tends to push people towards Big Law. Would you agree that’s not always historically a great place for women?

RM: The problem in many big firms is that the culture was created by men and is not female-friendly. The same traits that they respect in a man, they find grating in a woman – that they are too aggressive. If a guy was doing the same things, they would be encouraging them. As a woman, you can either try to play within that system and try to conform yourself to this image of what guys think female lawyers should be, or you can go off and start your own practice – and that's better, I'd say. Find a different way of practicing law.

For example, at McGinn, my three women partners and I all have kids. We are a collaborative firm – as opposed to the eat-what-you-kill male model of practice. So when somebody would decide to have a kid, the rest of us would step in and take over their cases so they could have their child and be home with their child for three to six months. Here at our firm, family always comes first. We all understand that if you have family obligations, that comes first. You go take care of that, and we've got your back. We'll take care of your stuff while you're gone. There's no penalty for having children. It is the exact opposite. It's a different gestalt.

LD: Your success at McGinn is also proof that this ethos doesn’t negatively affect the bottom line.

RM: Right. Truly. I think women overall, as a group, are better lawyers than men. They’re better in the courtroom than men, because all the stereotypes that cut against us are our strengths in court and in this profession. You've got to understand that sometimes you're going to lose, and you still have to be brave enough to take your heart out of your chest and set it on the jury rail with the understanding that the jury can stab it rather than accept what you're giving them. You have to be brave enough to do that.