Unlike many of you, I came to public service later in my career. I spent almost 20 years in private practice, leading a wide variety of complex civil cases for public and private clients.
The 2016 election ushered in a new era of public litigation, and the Attorney General’s tenacious advocacy for the people of Washington inspired me to make a change. In January 2018, I left my multinational law firm to join the Office of the Attorney General of Washington. It has been one of the best professional decisions of my life.
I originally joined the AGO’s then-newly formed Complex Litigation Division. In early 2018, there were only three complex lit attorneys in the Seattle office, with another four in Olympia. It was an exciting time – the division handled many high-profile cases with our small but scrappy teams, and we grew rapidly over the following years (the Seattle unit now has more than a dozen excellent attorneys). Sometime later that year I was promoted to section chief, continuing to carry a full caseload while supervising a group of other lawyers. I loved the work and the people and enjoyed playing a meaningful role in the division’s growth. Not having any obligation to generate new clients or worry about where the next case would come from, I could spend more energy mentoring talented junior lawyers, undoubtedly one of the most fulfilling aspects of this profession.
Over time, opioid litigation became an increasingly larger part of my caseload. I worked on our case against Purdue Pharma, the first of what would turn out to be many major lawsuits by our office against the opioid industry. We were a couple of months from trial when Purdue filed for bankruptcy. I joined the trial team for the case against opioid distributors McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp. shortly afterward, working almost exclusively on that case for several years. Our team tried the distributor case in state court over the course of almost six months amidst the COVID-19 pandemic – which posed a variety of novel challenges for the court, the lawyers, and the witnesses.
The distributor case ended in April 2022, and I assumed my current role that May. Fortuitously, that was also the period when our office reopened, and people began to return to in-person work. The AGO offers significant flexibility for remote work, and most people in the division have some sort of hybrid schedule. Shifting from litigation to full time management has definitely been a change (and people in consumer protection are still adjusting to my enthusiastic use of puns in the workplace) but we’re making progress on all fronts. I love the challenges that managing a division of more than 100 people presents and am extremely fortunate to have a talented management team that keeps me on task.
We grew and restructured in 2022 – Washington’s Consumer Protection Division currently has more than 40 exceptional litigation attorneys, many of whom joined the office as part of a significant expansion over the past year. Those lawyers are complemented by an equal number of talented professional staff and investigators. Our cases run the gamut of consumer protection issues – for example, we’ve taken on government imposters, high tech companies, student loan servicers, fraudulent charities, hospitals that failed to provide charity care, patent trolls, and COVID cure scammers. As our caseload continues to expand, I rely heavily on our attorney managers to ensure that each case gets the attention it merits. Our litigation is overseen by two seasoned litigation section chiefs and nine attorney team leads, many of whom you already know from our NAAG multistate work and other cross-state collaborations.
Our division is not solely case-driven: Our Consumer Resource Center and program staff handle roughly 30,000 customer complaints a year. The efficiency and impact of those programs are amazing, returning more than a million dollars a month to consumers. Our Public Counsel Unit advocates tirelessly for utility customers before the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, and our charities/nonprofit team reviews a host of transactions every year. As I write this, we are on the cusp of the legislative session, which brings new and interesting opportunities to advise on bills and work with stakeholders to promote meaningful change for consumers.
When I am not waxing on about my job, I hang out with my cute husband of almost 20 years and spend as much time as they’ll permit with our two glorious teenage daughters. We are currently in the early construction stages of a big home remodel, and that project is about as fun as you’d expect. I anticipate the New Year with enthusiasm and look forward to seeing many of you at the Spring conference. Until then, please let us know if you’re headed to Seattle – we’re hiring!
Other articles in this edition include:
- Attorney General Consumer Protection News: December 2022
- Center for Consumer Protection 2022 Year in Review
- Federal Agency and Other Consumer Protection News: December 2022