FROM THE CANNERY TO THE COURTROOM

Montana attorney Lisa A. Speare found her calling in medical malpractice

Published in 2013 Mountain States Super Lawyers — July 2013

For Lisa A. Speare, an attorney out of Billings, Mont., the human impact of her work is key. Every single case is very personal to someone, she believes. No matter what kind of case it is.

At the Speare Law Firm, which she and her husband Bill founded in 2011, Speare’s practice focuses on defending health care providers accused of malpractice. While her clients have often been stereotyped as unfeeling, she dispels the myth.

“There are many sleepless nights for these doctors accused of malpractice, even when they’ve done nothing wrong,” she says. “They go to school to help people.” She has had many meetings where doctors end up crying in her office.

Growing up on a farm in Roundup, Mont., Speare’s first exposure to law was through her father, Roy C. Rodeghiero, who worked as a solo practitioner, county attorney and district judge. While her interests originally tended toward medical school, Speare started to realize she was headed for law work, just like her father. This realization started to dawn on her during summers in Alaska, where she and her older sister Diana worked at a fish cannery to pay for college. She remembers the INS coming through to see if everyone was legal. She remembers seeing work injuries, bad workplace accidents.

She took the LSAT, and she and Diana both graduated with law degrees from the University of Montana in 1995. After graduation, Speare immediately knew she wanted to work for Brown Law Firm medical negligence defense attorney Richard Cebull, who had inspired her during a speech at her high school senior banquet.

In 1996, she became an associate at the firm, eager to work with Cebull. “He started letting me tag along … he was very generous in taking me to hearings,” she says of her former boss, the now-retired chief judge of the Montana district court. “I got to watch him and learn from him.”

Over time Speare learned to become comfortable in trial. “I remember the moment in trial when I finally … was like, ‘Wow, I’m just thinking and working. I’m not completely stressed out,’” she says. “It was not right away for sure, but it was a nice feeling when [it] finally came.”

Today she practices with her husband at their two-lawyer firm. She also enjoys practicing in Montana. “It’s fun to know the attorneys on the other side and get to go against good attorneys,” she says. “I remember having an adjuster from out of state wanting to do something in a mediation that was not right. … I had to put my foot down.

“I had to say, ‘You can do that in your big cities, but you can’t do that here, and I’m not going to do it.’ … The fact is we do see these people again. You can’t practice like that and expect to be here successfully for the long term.”

Currently, she represents doctors in several birth injury cases and a wrongful birth case that involves issues under debate in the Montana Legislature. “There was a baby who was born with cystic fibrosis, and the claim is that the defendants should have screened for it and discovered it, basically so the parents could abort,” she says.

Even in her defense-focused work, Speare works hard to see both sides of her cases. “I have kids of my own,” she says. “I can try to understand what it’s like to parent the children who are being described in a parent’s deposition.”

She also feels one of her primary roles is as a guide through the daunting realm of litigation for her often sleepless clients. “You’re helping them personally get through this very, very difficult situation,” she says. “I just find it such an honor to be the one assigned to assist doctors trying to maneuver through this legal world.”

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