William B. Strubbe
I grew up in Cincinnati, and attended Walnut Hills High School. I was fortunate to attend the University of Oregon, where I acted in plays and wrote for the student paper. I love Oregon – but this is my home. I came back here after graduation.
In high school and college I worked at a lot of jobs – in a direct mail advertising firm, in a sausage factory in Springdale, Ohio, and driving cabs. I worked for the Mayfield Group – a firm of neurosurgeons – as a “gopher” – one year. I drove linens in Yellowstone Park, and worked in a trade association in Washington D.C. All of these jobs were good – I performed a service, and helped support myself – but they weren’t what I wanted to do.
Like most other lawyers, I grew up on stories of Lincoln, and Clarence Darrow – great trial lawyers, who changed the country for the better. As a boy, the man I respected more than anyone was my father. He became a successful business executive, and a community leader – but he had gone to law school, and worked as a lawyer when I was young. I worshipped his intelligence, his passion and his certainty – and the way he could take any good idea, and use just the right words to make that idea a reality.
I had known since at least junior high school that whatever else I did, I wanted to be a lawyer. In fact, I wanted to be a trial lawyer.
I was accepted into U.C. Law School, where I graduated in the class of 1979. While finding work was a little easier then than it is now, it wasn’t easy to find the work I wanted. I worked for the State of Ohio for a year as a hearing officer, making recommendations whether real estate agents should lose their licenses for unethical behavior. After about a year, I learned that one of my law school classmates had left his current job for work in a larger firm, and that there was an opening in the law office of Edward J. Utz. I called Mr. Utz, and he hired me.
Ed Utz – who died over 20 years ago – was a brilliant trial lawyer. His representation of clients was ferocious. No other word applies. He was the most demanding person I ever worked for – he would call me at three in the morning asking if I had done the required court filings, would yell at me for the smallest omission, and would grill me on nearly insignificant points of law and the most minute facts before I would try a case for him.
I used to joke that I learned how to try cases not in the courtroom, but in his office. I am grateful to him for the standards of representation he passed on. But as you can guess, Ed had other issues. After working for him for a little over a year, I left and was hired by the law firm of Paxton and Seasongood.
When I started there, P&S was the third largest law firm in Cincinnati, with a little over 40 lawyers. I had the opportunity to work with some of the best young lawyers in the city – many of whom are my friends today – and nobody ever called me at 3 AM.
But I was still working for other lawyers’ clients – almost always for companies – and was low on the totem pole. I needed to have my own clients – that was the only way I would be able to do all I could for them. And the only way I could do that was to start my own firm.
In 1985 I started my own law office, sharing three rooms and a secretary with a couple lawyers in downtown Cincinnati. I still have the announcement framed on my wall. My office was the one without a window. I started off representing almost anyone who needed a lawyer. My uncle had recently died, and the insurance company wouldn’t pay my aunt.
After I filed suit, they paid. A woman was accused by her co-worker of stealing a bracelet; the judge told me that although I had tried a great case, he thought my client was guilty – but if I could get the prosecuting witness to drop charges, there would be nothing on my client’s record. That worked.
I took public defender cases for a couple years, representing accused people too poor to pay for a lawyer.
After a few years, I realized that my favorite cases were civil lawsuits, and that I really enjoyed helping injured people recover money from insurance companies. I have represented injured people ever since, and I love it.
Every person who walks through my door presents me with the challenge of doing the most I can for them, of thinking through everything about their accident, their family and their situation to get the best possible result.
After a few more years, I came to a very important realization, perhaps the most important of my professional life; in nearly all cases, I do my client the greatest service not by trying their case, but by settling it on good terms. I like trying cases, and once in a while it is the only way to force the insurance company to pay the money; but my greatest joy is a happy client.
In case you haven’t figured it out, being a lawyer is central to my life. I take every opportunity to participate in bar association activities. I have been a member of the Cincinnati Bar Association Ethics committee for over 20 years, giving lawyers advice on how to fulfill their ethical obligations; a few years ago, I served a two year term as Chair of that committee.
I have served as chair of separate Ohio State Bar Association Committees on Insurance Law and Negligence (or personal injury) Law, where lawyers from around the state meet in Columbus to recommend new laws and new ways to improve our justice system. In fact, the State Bar has asked me to testify – twice – in front of the Ohio Legislature on insurance legislation.
I have given over 25 lectures on trial, ethics, personal injury and insurance law to other lawyers. In 2003, and again in 2005, the Ohio legislature passed new laws which completely changed Ohio’s personal injury law; while I did not particularly care for the changes, I was very proud when the Ohio Judicial Association (the organization of all Ohio judges) asked me to be one of three lawyers to assist in the rewriting of the instructions which are read to the jurors in every personal injury trial. I worked on that project for nearly five years, and enjoyed it.
I cherish the friendship of other lawyers, and the common goals we share.
And I do have a life outside the law. My wife is a brilliant, accomplished woman who runs the entire family in addition to working full time throughout our entire marriage as an accountant. My two stepdaughters have both graduated from college; my son is a freshman at a college in Indiana. My wife and I live five miles from my office, in a condominium overlooking the Ohio River. (She thanks me for it every day.) I enjoy playing golf, helping out with neighborhood and condominium associations, and socializing with friends.
Admitted: 1979, Ohio; 1980, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio; 1985, U.S. Court, of Appeals, Sixth Circuit; 1990, Kentucky; 1991, U.S District Court, Eastern District of Kentucky
Law School: University of Cincinnati, J.D.
Member: Cincinnati (Former Chair, Ethics Committee), Northern Kentucky, Clermont County, Ohio State (Member, Council of Delegates; Chair, Screening Committee, 2005-2006; Former Chair, Insurance Law, Negligence Law Committees), Kentucky and American Bar Associations.