I had the privilege of sitting down and talking with Matthew J. Adair, an asbestos litigation attorney here at Cooney and Conway to ask him some questions about how he started his career in asbestos litigation.
Scott Bernstein: Why did you pursue a law degree?
Matthew Adair: Both of my parents are lawyers and they actually met at Loyola Law School where I also went to law school. So I grew up in a household where they were both practicing attorneys and I saw what they did for a living. My dad is a criminal defense attorney, and he works to stand up for the guys that most everyone else in our society has given up on. He spent his career making sure those individuals get not only a voice but a fair voice. I think what stood out to me from my mom’s experience is that she spent a large part of her career working for a small company where she had a lot of responsibility and used her brain to think critically and problem solve. I think growing up in that kind of environment, you really respect what your parents do. It rubs off on you and it motivates you. You think “I want to be a problem solver too and I’d like to help people out like my parents do.”
S: How long were you a law clerk at Cooney and Conway?
M: I started clerking at Cooney and Conway the summer after my first year of law school and continued to clerk throughout law school. I clerked part time during the school year and full time in the summer and continued that until I graduated. Once I graduated and received my law license, I received an opportunity to clerk at the Illinois Appellate Court. It was one of those opportunities that I knew would be a great learning experience and all the attorneys here at Cooney & Conway encouraged me to take the job.
S: When did you decide to pursue a career in asbestos litigation?
M: Working here during law school was my first exposure to asbestos litigation. It was not something I was familiar with growing up, but I quickly realized that many of the buildings we’re in and out of every day were built by our clients. You also have the men and women who worked in the mills, the refineries, and the power plants. I began to understand how much these people did for us and recognized that the one devastating result of their hard work was this horrible disease. Once I started meeting with some of my clients-- sitting in their living rooms, having a cup of coffee, and talking to them about their lives and their careers, I found out how much asbestos exposure truly changed their lives. When you realize that retirement, something these people looked forward to their whole career… while working and breaking their backs in the field… all of a sudden gets drastically cut short, it really motivates you to get them exactly what they deserve.
S: I understand that you teach law classes at Loyola, what do you teach?
M: I teach two courses now, the first is a mandatory writing class for all second year law students called Appellate Advocacy. I have been teaching that class for five years. The students learn about the appellate process, how to write a brief for the Appellate Court, and how to give an oral argument in front of the Appellate Court. The second course I teach is an extension of the Appellate Advocacy course. It is an honors course for second and third year law students that have been identified as advanced students, selected for moot court teams. So as part of their participation in the moot courts teams, we have class every week and we teach them some of the more advanced and nuanced techniques for both writing and presenting an oral argument.
S: What do you like to do in your free time outside of work?
M: I try to stay active during the week as much as possible. My two brothers are both lawyers in Chicago, and fortunately have similar work schedules to mine, so we get together in the morning and work out before work. I also like to attend sporting events for my favorite local teams. I also don’t mind sitting down, relaxing, and reading a new book. Since I enjoy reading up on American history, a goal of mine is to read an autobiography of every U.S. president to date starting with George Washington. So far I have gotten through the first four presidents-- wish me luck.