CHUCK RICHARDSON CARRIES ON HIS FATHER’S LEGACY
By Jonathan Widran
Charles L. “Chuck” Richardson credits his father, Gary, for instilling in him a lifelong passion to help those that have suffered at the hand of Big Business. It was that passion Chuck brought to his stints as a prosecutor and his tireless work as a personal injury attorney. “Dad’s background explains a lot of where his own desire to look out for the little guy comes from,” he says. “He was a sharecrop farmer’s son in Rio Hondo, Texas, and his bedroom was a screened in back porch. In that humble environment he saw the iniquities done to the ‘have nots’ by the ‘haves’, and cultivated an innate desire to rise up and make a difference. Most of our family members were preachers and farmers, and dad’s was the first generation to go to college opening opportunities for the future.”
While attending Tulsa University School of Law part time, Chuck worked full-time for the Tulsa County District Attorney’s office as a Legal Intern and later received his Juris Doctorate from T.U. in 1989. After receiving his license, he was appointed Assistant District Attorney and served until 1991. During that time, Richardson lost only one case and assisted in forming task forces to assist the Tulsa Police Department in prosecuting burglaries and armed robberies.
Mr. Richardson decided to take Governor Frank Keating’s appointment as District Attorney in the late 90s, in part, to establish a strong identity of his own, and show his diverse talents beyond the long shadow of his renowned father. It was a familiar place to apply his vast legal expertise. He attended Baylor University and the University of Oklahoma where in 1986 he received his Bachelor degree in Business Administration.
In the seven months during 1998-99 that Chuck Richardson served as Tulsa County D.A., the versatile attorney implemented key policies such as increasing the recommendation on criminal sentencing and implemented policy to better evaluate the filing of criminal charges. He advocated being tough on crime and compassionate for victims, survivors, and their families. His focus included more severe sentences and/or lengthier sentences for crimes involving violence, children, the elderly, drugs, robbery, and burglary. Successfully securing death penalty and life sentence verdicts in multiple cases, Richardson compiled a 100% conviction rate and his office had a conviction rate in excess of 95%.
In 1999, however, he decided to return as Senior Partner to the firm now known as Richardson Richardson Boudreaux to help carry on the legacy of his father, Gary, who founded the firm in 1985 after a stint as U.S. Attorney in Eastern Oklahoma, appointed by President Reagan. Serving now as the Managing Partner, Richardson is the ultimate legal multi-tasker, currently working 125 cases. His areas of specialty include medical malpractice, defective products, personal injury, class actions, pharmaceutical, brain injuries, bad faith claims against insurance companies, surgical injuries, and discrimination with an emphasis on litigation.
The firm’s team of nine attorneys, led by Chuck Richardson and his partners, includes lawyers who have been voted Oklahoma Super Lawyers, members of the Oklahoma Lawyers Million Dollar Club, members of the Oklahoma Lawyers Multi-Million Dollar Club, and others included on the Who’s Who Among Lawyers. They have collectively won over a dozen eight-figure verdicts and settlements, and hundreds of six and seven-figure awards. One $58 million dollar verdict was, at the time, the largest-ever award in the history of the United States for defamation. The RRB firm is currently the largest plaintiffs’ law firm in Oklahoma.
“What I love most about my work is having the opportunity to have influence in a person’s life at what is perhaps the lowest point they have experienced,” Richardson says, “and help them through the process.” It’s not only about obtaining for them what they are entitled to financially, but also connecting with them emotionally, finding out what’s going on with them, and understanding the challenges they are facing in their life because of what has happened. To represent the client fully, I have to fully understand them and what they are experiencing. Many lawyers don’t get to know their clients on this level, but to me and everyone else at our firm, it is the only way to fully represent someone. The better we understand clients, the easier it is to help the adjuster, other attorneys, and a jury understand what has happened to them.
“Of course when we’re successful, it’s the equivalent of creating lifelong friends,” Richardson adds, “and that’s because our ultimate goal is collecting the amount they need, achieving victory for them, and making it easier to move on with their life by putting this chapter behind them.”
“The first client I ever met, when starting with the firm, was a distraught mother,” Richardson says. “Her ex-husband had taken her son away, and she wanted to know what we could do to help her. My dad told her, ‘unless you know where your son is, it wouldn’t make any sense to hire us.’ After the lady left, I shared with my father my desire to provide her with the money needed to hire an investigator to find her son. Dad told me that was the passion needed to succeed in this business. He pointed out that we cannot help everyone and must use wisdom when determining which cases to handle. We don’t take cases just for the money. In fact we work with a lot of clients who can’t afford our services, therefore, most of the cases we take are on a contingency basis.”
Sometimes the firm takes cases based on the concept of doing the right thing, where a moral victory is as important as any potential financial settlement, as in the case involving Robert Tilton. Robert Tilton was a TV preacher in Texas who began verbally abusing and harassing people who stopped sending him money. Richardson took the case and spent money and time on behalf of those who felt they had been victimized by Tilton. A jury awarded a large sum of money that was later overturned by an appellate court based on “freedom of religion”. The law firm did not profit, but they proudly represented their clients and stopped further abuse by Tilton. The ultimate result was that Robert Tilton left his TV ministry.
Richardson estimates that the firm’s caseload is 75 percent local clients and 25 percent clients throughout the U.S. He personally did ‘two rounds’ of pharmaceutical litigation in the famous Phen Fen anti-obesity medication case, which wound up incurring legal damages of over $13 billion for Wyeth. He filed on behalf of 200 clients, 100 in Texas, and 100 in Oklahoma. In the second round of litigation, over 100 cases were filed in Philadelphia.
Richardson also handled an anti-trust case against Ford Motors on behalf of a clients who operated a limousine manufacturing company. The small company was owned and operated by a father and son team in Springfield, Missouri. The issue involved Richardson’s client creating custom limos which were different in appearance and specifications from the usual ones manufactured by large companies and marketed at trade shows. Concerned about this small manufacturer taking a bite out of its dominant market share, Ford conspired with other manufacturers and two trade companies to run the limousine builder out of business.
Other cases against massive corporations include one against the Pepsi Corporation, settled before trial, and several medical device cases which Richardson settled in the mid six-figures. Sometimes, as in the case of an individual lawsuit against a large retailer for breach of contract, the settlements can be several million dollars. Chuck has shown that he doesn’t back down from any challenge.
Chuck’s father, Gary, still works for the firm handling the same kinds of cases as his son, but also taking the role of an overseer. As such, he has tremendous influence on how every case is strategized, as Richardson says, he “can best strategize the cases we are working on.”
Richardson, too, has learned to pace himself, and has mellowed a bit with time. He says when he was younger he was like the proverbial bull in a china shop, but now believes he’s more like a warrior that understands the system and how it works so that he can best prepare a client’s case to maximize their recovery. Over the years he has been blessed with the wisdom and insight to understand why those he files lawsuits against do the things they do. He is able to see through what their surface answer is to understand their real motivation so that in deposition and trial he can cut to the heart of the true issue rather than simply deal with the way they are presenting their side.
“It could be as simple as the fact that they’re a selfish, greedy person because they had things taken away from them as a kid, so they feel they deserve things now,” Richardson says. “That’s the psychology behind being an effective attorney. My goal is to get to that level of why someone does what they do so I can zero in on the truth of what has happened and resolve it more efficiently. All of this ties in with my vision of what it takes to be successful. It can only happen by identifying and defining your purpose, and then pursuing that purpose with great passion and influencing every person you touch in a positive way. In the end, that focus must be more on the effect you have on others and not the cost to yourself.”