Partner, The Evans Law Firm in San Francisco
Area of Practice: Civil Litigation
Year Graduated: 1995
Ingrid Evans is a quintessential plaintiffs' attorney — over the course of her career, she has litigated a variety of civil issues on behalf of plaintiffs, from toxic torts cases to those involving fraud, personal injury, wrongful death, and elder abuse; however, Ms. Evans' passion for justice is anything but ordinary. Her excellent work earned her a spot among the attorneys designated as Northern California Super Lawyers in 2010 and Northern California Super Lawyers Rising Stars in 2009; she was named as a Finalist for the title of Consumer Attorney of the Year by Consumer Attorneys of California in 2009; and she has an impressive AV Preeminent Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Rating of 4.9 out of 5. Even more recently, the Elder Financial Protection Network awarded Ms. Evans the Donald N. Phelps Visionary Leadership Award in commendation of her efforts to protect senior citizens from exploitation.
Growing up, Ms. Evans witnessed the challenges faced by her mentally disabled brother, and she resolved to fight for people who, like him, had a difficult time fighting for themselves. She enrolled at McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific immediately after she graduated from the University of California, Irvine because she "felt that going to law school would be the best way to represent the underdog and take care of people who are voiceless." The school's trial advocacy program strengthened Ms. Evan's litigation skills and provided her with affirmation that she belonged in the courtroom. She remembers, "[Trial advocacy] was really the pivotal moment where it cemented the fact that I wanted to be a trial lawyer." During her time at McGeorge, Ms. Evans was a member of the moot court competition team, and she also interned with the Environmental Protection Agency and worked as a judicial clerk for the California Workers' Compensation Appeals Board.
After law school, Ms. Evans' dreamed of litigating major environmental cases to vindicate the victims of toxic torts (à la Erin Brockovich). However, she discovered that most firms with environmental law practice groups represented corporations rather than individuals, which made it difficult for her to find a job doing what she wanted to do. Eventually, Ms. Evans was able to find work with a firm that represented plaintiffs in toxic tort litigation. That position afforded her a large amount of responsibility; in her first year alone, she conducted over one hundred depositions, made numerous summary judgment arguments, and served as second chair on a jury trial. Although it was a job that Ms. Evans greatly enjoyed, she left it in 1997 to work at another plaintiffs' firm.
Over the next couple of years, Ms. Evans developed an expertise in gun litigation, a field that centers on product liability suits against firearms manufacturers. She assisted in the high-profile trial of a wrongful death case that stemmed from an incident in which a teenage boy was shot by a gun that the defendant was alleged to have defectively manufactured. Ms. Evans' performance at that trial led the San Francisco City Attorney's Office to offer her a position with them. She worked there as a Deputy City Attorney for the next five years. During that time, Ms. Evans did something a little different from most city attorneys, who tend to defend cases rather than prosecute them. She mainly handled affirmative litigation, which means that she helped the City bring public interest cases in civil court. One such case involved a suit against various paint manufacturers to compensate for harm to the public caused by the lead in their paint.
In 2004, Ms. Evans reentered private practice, and once again focused her work on the representation of plaintiffs in elder abuse cases. In January 2011, she founded The Evans Law Firm in San Francisco. Running a law firm, Ms. Evans points out, has its ups and downs. "I love the flexibility of being able to take on any case I want. I find that really rewarding," she says. "The biggest challenge is that I'm not just practicing law anymore. I have to pay bills, make payroll ... I feel like I do a lot of administrative work as well."
Although her firm may be small in size, many of the matters that Ms. Evans tackles are anything but small. For example, in one of her current cases, Ms. Evans has taken on DIRECTV in a class action lawsuit representing approximately one million class members and alleging that the company has illegally collected millions of dollars in early cancellation fees from California consumers. In addition to consumer fraud cases, her firm handles matters involving banking and insurance fraud, elder abuse (both financial and physical), personal injuries, and toxic torts. "I represent victims of injustice in the civil courts and fight for them to try to get either the remedies that they want or compensation to right the wrongs that they've been the victims of," Ms. Evans explains. Most of her time, she says, is spent writing briefs, answering discovery, and appearing in court, but the part of her practice that she most enjoys is "helping victims and creating [a] bond with them."
Ms. Evans suggests that students who are interested in civil litigation take trial advocacy classes and participate in moot court during law school. Although much litigation involves oral advocacy, Ms. Evans stresses that students must not underestimate the importance of strong legal research and writing skills. And while many civil litigators begin their careers as law clerks at firms that specialize in litigation, Ms. Evans — who herself never worked for a law firm until after she finished school — notes that positions at other types of organizations may benefit students as well. "Work for non-profits and government agencies can help you find work in plaintiff's firms because it shows where your passion lies," she observes. Clerkships and internships can also be a great way for students to figure out what areas of civil litigation they enjoy the most.
More than anything else, Ms. Evans recommends that students determine whether they feel more at home with plaintiff or defense work and then join organizations that align with their interest. For example, those who are more interested in representing plaintiffs than defendants can join Consumer Attorneys of California and the American Association for Justice, the state and federal trial lawyers' associations, respectively. Bar associations are a good choice for students who want to do defense work. Most of these organizations, Ms. Evans notes, allow law students to join at a reduced rate, and membership usually provides access to professional listservs and forums, conferences, volunteer opportunities, and networking events. Ms. Evans herself is actively involved in the Consumer Attorneys of California, the American Association for Justice, and the San Francisco Trial Lawyers' Association.
Ms. Evans tells future litigators, "Tenacity is probably the most important [trait for civil litigation]. Be dedicated and don't give up." Through her hard work and leadership, Ms. Evans has demonstrated her dedication to her clients and to justice, and there is no indication that she plans to give up any time soon.