Fifteen attorneys join McAfee & Taft’s Tulsa office

October 10, 2011

McAfee & Taft, the state’s largest law firm, has announced the addition of 15 attorneys to its Tulsa office following the acquisition of the boutique litigation firm Eldridge Cooper Steichen & Leach. Joining the firm are Ruth J. Addison, Brita Haugland Cantrell, Mary Quinn Cooper, Ellen Cordell, Fred C. Cornish, Travis G. Cushman, Jessica L. Dickerson, Richard M. Eldridge, William S. Leach, Andrew L. Richardson, Vani Singhal, Michael F. Smith, Thomas E. Steichen, Alison A. Verret and Harold C. Zuckerman.

Ruth Addison is a trial lawyer whose practice focuses on the areas of products liability, complex litigation, white collar criminal defense and family law. Prior to entering private practice, Ruth served as an assistant district attorney for the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office, where she tried in excess of 20 jury and non-jury trials.

Addison received her undergraduate degree from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa in 2004 and her Juris Doctor from the University of Oklahoma in 2007. In addition to her litigation practice, Ruth serves as an adjunct professor of Paralegal Studies and Criminal Justice at ITT Technical Institute in Tulsa. She is also a frequent speaker to youth in the community on careers in the law and the importance of seeking higher education.

Brita Cantrell is a trial lawyer whose practice is focused on products liability defense and family law litigation. In addition to her civil litigation and counseling practice, she also frequently handles pro bono litigation, has been a volunteer advocate for Legal Aid of Oklahoma, and has served by court appointment as a guardian ad litem.

Cantrell’s legal career spans both the private and public sectors. She previously served as assistant attorney general for the State of Oklahoma from 1989 to 1994 and was the state’s lead environmental attorney, specializing in environmental law litigation in administrative proceedings, state courts and federal appellate matters. She is a graduate of the National Institute of Trial Advocacy (NITA) and the founding chairman of the Environmental Law Section of the Oklahoma Bar Association. She is currently serving her second five-year term as a member of the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality Board. During this tenure, she has been elected twice to serve as chairman of the board.

Mary Quinn Cooper is a nationally recognized trial lawyer who serves as national trial counsel for major corporations and defends products liability claims and class actions across the country. For the last 25 years she has represented Ford Motor Company and General Motors nationally in challenging cases with high exposure. Mary has also tried cases for various other manufacturers and Fortune 500 companies and has defended clients in professional malpractice matters.

In addition to her private practice, Cooper was selected by the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma to chair the admissions and grievances committee. She also received a mayoral appointment to serve as a civil service commissioner. She is a frequent speaker locally and nationally on trial practice issues. She served as a faculty member for the 2005 International Association of Defense Counsel Trial Academy at Stanford University, the Oklahoma Trial Lawyer Association’s 12th Annual Oklahoma College of Advocacy, and the Oklahoma Association of Defense Counsel’s Products Liability Seminar.

Ellen Cordell is a trial lawyer whose practice is concentrated on the resolution of complex business disputes with an emphasis in defending large-scale local, regional, national and international manufacturers, distributors and sellers in products liability litigation nationwide. Her clients include leading companies in the automotive industry. She earned a Certificate in Native American Law and Juris Doctor from the University of Tulsa College of Law and devotes a portion of her practice to the representation of Indian tribes.

Prior to entering private practice, Ellen worked as the exhibits registrar for the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History where she was in charge of project management of in-house and traveling exhibits, including exhibit design and preparation, conservation, and monitoring of environmental controls. She also participated in consultations regarding the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) with Native American tribes and presented papers for professional conferences on NAGPRA.

Fred Cornish is a veteran lawyer whose practice is focused on the litigation and transactional needs of businesses of all sizes and whose broad career experience and knowledge base has qualified him to serve like outside general counsel for numerous local and regional clients. In addition to having extensive experience as a commercial litigator in state, federal and appellate courts, he has developed special expertise in the niche areas of higher education law and forestry-related litigation. Most recently, he has served as lead litigator responsible for protecting the forestry operations in southeast Oklahoma of Weyerhaeuser Company and Oklahoma Timber, LLC.

Throughout his long and distinguished legal career Fred has served as the Oklahoma commissioner to the National Conference on Uniform State Laws (1986 – 1995), as chairman of the Oklahoma Board of Mental Health (1980 – 1982) and as a temporary appointed judge to the Oklahoma Court of Appeals.

Travis Cushman is a trial lawyer who concentrates his practice in the areas of products liability, employment law and complex business litigation. He has handled cases in 10 states and four federal circuits representing Fortune 100 companies.

After graduating from the Washington & Lee University School of Law, Cushman worked as an associate attorney with the Cato Institute, where he assisted with the editing and publication of the Cato Supreme Court Review. He also researched legal theories and generated arguments for amicus briefs to the Supreme Court involving the Constitution, civil rights, bankruptcy, contracts and property rights. He previously also worked in private practice at a Virginia-based law firm on a variety of complex commercial litigation disputes.

Jessica Dickerson is trial lawyer whose practice is concentrated in commercial litigation, complex litigation and insurance defense, representing both plaintiffs and defendants in a variety of cases, including claims for breach of contract, products liability, personal injury and professional negligence.

Dickerson graduated from the University of Tulsa College of Law with highest honors. Prior to attending law school, Jessica worked as a journalist with the Oklahoma bureau of a news agency.

Richard Eldridge is a veteran trial attorney with more than 36 years of valuable courtroom experience both in front of and behind the bench. His vast career experience includes serving as a former special district judge for Tulsa and Pawnee counties in Oklahoma, as a former judge for the Oklahoma Temporary Court of Appeals, and as a litigator with over 30 years of trial experience, including more than 150 jury trials, to his credit. He also maintains an active mediation practice and routinely counsels clients on how to minimize or avoid costly litigation. Much of his notable experience and expertise is concentrated in the areas of product liability defense, mass torts and other complex civil litigation.

In addition to his litigation practice, Eldridge counsels clients on related business matters such as trade secret protection, employment issues and contract negotiation and provides general business advice as needed to business owners and management. He is also a frequent author and speaker on litigation-related topics, particularly those involving the pharmaceutical, medical device and manufacturing industries.

Bill Leach is a nationally recognized veteran trial lawyer who has tried more than 90 cases to verdict, successfully representing clients in the utility, trucking, securities, general business and product liability fields. He regularly practices before all state and federal district courts in Oklahoma as well as in state courts in Kansas, Arkansas, Texas and New Mexico and several federal district courts in Texas. He has argued numerous appeals in the Fifth and Tenth Circuits, as well as several courts of appeal in Texas and the Supreme Court of Texas.

In addition to his litigation practice, Bill serves as an adjunct settlement judge in the Eastern District of Oklahoma and as an adjunct professor of trial advocacy at the University of Tulsa College of Law. He is a frequent speaker and continuing legal education teacher on trial practice and multiple substantive topics.

Andrew Richardson is an experienced trial lawyer whose practice is primarily focused on representing manufacturers and distributors in products liability litigation and other complex business disputes. He has particularly extensive experience in the representation of automotive and transportation-related manufacturers and suppliers, as well as insurance clients, in a wide variety of tort and contract cases, including those involving class actions. He has actively participated in the successful defense in numerous jury trials in state and federal courts and has defended manufacturers in litigation throughout the Midwest and Southwest.

A native Tulsan, Richardson is an active supporter of several nonprofit organizations within the community and has served as counsel to nonprofit organizations in the Tulsa area. He regularly volunteers his time for youth soccer programs and has served as a tutor at Crossroads Academy and as a volunteer for the Simon Estes Educational Foundation, a multiracial nonprofit organization committed to providing higher educational opportunities for graduating high school seniors.

Vani Singhal is a trial lawyer whose practice is focused on mass torts litigation, product liability defense, healthcare-related litigation, multidistrict litigation, class actions and other complex litigation in state and federal courts. She has done extensive work in mass torts litigation, specifically in the areas of asbestos and medical device and pharmaceutical litigation. Her clients have included numerous manufacturers and distributors of commercial and consumer products, pharmaceutical companies, healthcare organizations and providers, physicians and dentists, and manufacturers and distributors of medical devices, including prosthetics and cardiac and respiratory devices.

Prior to joining McAfee & Taft, Singhal worked as a trial lawyer at two other Oklahoma-based law firms and the Chicago law office of Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney. Active in the Tulsa community, she volunteers for her daughters’ school as well as Tulsa Lawyers for Children, Girl Scouts, Women Impacting Tulsa and Tulsa Children’s Museum.

Michael Smith is a trial and appellate lawyer specializing in defending manufacturers and other suppliers and distributors of products, including automobiles, cranes, forklifts, pharmaceuticals, and implanted medical devices. He has also defended accounting firms and law firms in professional malpractice actions.

Smith has represented clients in state and federal trial and appellate courts throughout the United States. He is particularly regarded for his expertise with appellate practice and procedure in the Oklahoma Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit and has had primary briefing responsibilities on a broad range of cases, including those involving products liability, professional malpractice, employment and environmental matters.

Active in the community, Smith serves as general counsel and chairperson of the trustees committee for Oklahomans for Equality, a nonprofit organization which seeks equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals and families through advocacy, education, programs, alliances, and the operation of the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center.

Tom Steichen is a highly respected trial attorney for his knowledge and experience in medical matters and the defense of multi-district medical product litigation. He has successfully defended numerous medical and pharmaceutical clients in lawsuits alleging claims involving manufacturer’s product liability, failure to warn, negligence and fraud.

Steichen has been actively involved in both the Tulsa County and Oklahoma Bar Associations and previously served as chairman of both organizations’ workers’ compensation sections. He has been a featured speaker at the American Conference Institute’s Medical Products Seminar in New York City and has made presentations on the topics of ethics, Daubert challenges and workers’ compensation law at continuing legal education seminars for the Oklahoma Association of Defense Counsel, Oklahoma Bar Association and Tulsa County Bar Association.

Alison Verret is a trial attorney practicing in a broad range of civil litigation with an emphasis in research and writing in complex litigation. She has handled research and writing tasks in many types of cases, including automobile product liability, medical device product liability, employment, commercial and asbestos litigation. Her briefing experience includes submissions to courts at all stages of litigation, including appellate submissions to the Oklahoma Supreme Court and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Harold Zuckerman is an experienced trial lawyer whose practice is focused on business litigation with an emphasis on product liability defense. He has actively participated in numerous jury trials in state and federal courts in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Florida and Pennsylvania for manufacturers and has defended product liability matters throughout the region. He is particularly regarded for his expertise in taking and defending depositions of plaintiffs and expert witnesses, as well as taking the depositions of fact witnesses, law enforcement personnel and medical witnesses in products liability cases for Ford and General Motors as well as many other automotive manufacturers. He has also taken and defended depositions on behalf of major national pharmaceutical companies.

Zuckerman’s litigation experience includes representing companies and individuals in cases involving wrongful death as well as serious catastrophic injuries, defending numerous national insurance companies in cases involving allegations of bad faith, and representing clients in cases involving wrongful termination. He has also tried cases involving the alleged wrongful dispensing of drugs by pharmacies as well as dozens of premises liability lawsuits for large retail chains and grocery stores.