The authors of the Semmes Litigation Update sat down with the firm’s chairman, Thomas McCarron, to discuss his personal and professional life, from what inspired him to go down the legal path to his thoughts on emerging trends in the industry.
Q: Can you tell the newsletter a little about yourself and your background?
McCarron: I was born in Maryland just outside of Washington, D.C. My father was an attorney in Prince George’s County. My mom was a stay-at-home mom until I was a teenager, when she went back to school and ultimately became a dietitian. I have a younger brother who now works in television news. I was very much into sports, playing for the Boys and Girls Club “year-round” in each of the major sports growing up, and especially liked baseball. I went to Catholic school for high school (where I met my future wife) and college, attending Villanova University.
Q: What inspired you to pursue the field of law?
McCarron: My dad was a lawyer, a real estate lawyer, so I grew up around the practice of law and worked for him during the summers. I also was interested in debating and writing – and I demonstrated little aptitude in the sciences – so law seemed the logical place for me.
Q: What made you originally join Semmes?
McCarron: In 1989, I joined the summer associate position in Melnicove, Kaufman, Weiner & Smouse P.A., but as soon as I joined, the firm collapsed around us. So, they circulated my resume to other firms around the city, and mine came to Semmes. Halfway through the summer I joined the firm. It was a great fit. I enjoyed the people most of all and the practice. I then started as an associate in 1990 once law school was completed.
Q: Any words of advice for a new attorney?
McCarron: First, take one step at a time in your career. Do not get ahead of yourself. To be a lawyer, you need the basics: reading, writing, creating arguments, putting an analysis together for cases before jumping into depositions and trial. If you do the fundamentals well, you can move on to a different phase of your career in trying cases and courtroom advocacy.
Obviously, law is demanding, it takes a lot of time, so you have to put in the hours. You must have some passion for the work.
Q: What is your biggest achievement to date, personal or professional?
McCarron: Personally, my biggest achievement, if I can call it that, is my family. My son works for CBS Television in D.C. My daughter just completed her master’s degree and may want to go to medical school. My wife is a healthcare communications specialist. I am proud of them and what they have accomplished.
Professionally, the achievements of which I am most proud are obviously being the chairman of this great and historic firm followed by being nominated and elected as a fellow to the American College of Trial Lawyers.
Q: What three words would you use to describe your role as chairman?
McCarron: Listen. Facilitate. Lead.
Q: What are your biggest professional challenges?
McCarron: Keeping up with everything, the practice and administrative part here at Semmes. Balancing those.
Q: Are there any memorable lessons or experiences from your career that have had a significant impact on you?
McCarron: There are so many to choose from; however, one case stands out. I did not think the case was going well but we ended up winning. It taught me a lesson of persevering through a case. With every trial I have had, I’ve learned something new, even through opposing counsel.
Q: What motivates you professionally?
McCarron: I very much enjoy working with clients, and personally with individuals who work for or manage clients, to try to find ways, often short of litigation, to efficiently solve their legal problems. When litigation becomes necessary, I remain motivated to find an efficient means to resolve disputes in the appropriate case, but also to zealously and professionally advocate for my clients through pleadings, motions, discovery (including depositions), and, if necessary, trial.
Q: How would you describe your practice in two to three sentences?
McCarron: My practice encompasses various aspects of civil litigation, and I also represent three municipalities, a self-insurance pool of public entities, transportation companies, and contractors. My civil litigation practice focuses on personal injury and other types of insurance defense, insurance coverage, construction defect litigation, and defense of trucking companies and their drivers. I also render legal advice and handle litigation for clients in the areas of insurance coverage, municipal law, and construction law.
Q: What is your vision for the future of Semmes?
McCarron: It’s a work in progress. We want to grow the firm in a gradual way, including with respect to attorneys through our summer associate program and lateral hires. We have identified a handful of practice areas that we want to strengthen as we move forward.
Q: What is your favorite part of working at Semmes?
McCarron: I think above all else, the people at Semmes. I like the collegiality of our firm. The attorneys here hold an open door to each other to collaborate in the representation of our clients. The greatest resource that Semmes has is its people, and not just the attorneys but also our tremendous staff who go above and beyond the call of duty to assist in the representation of our clients.
Q: Can you provide any insight into the trends or developments that you can see emerging in the legal industry?
McCarron: Certainly, there is automation and technology, including the more prevalent use of AI, which itself presents as many challenges as it does advantages. A lot of secretaries and legal assistants are being employed as hybrid paralegals and legal assistants these days.
The post-pandemic hybrid workplace is something that the legal industry is still navigating. Hybrid is here to stay and is probably a key tool in recruiting people, but I also think it will need to be properly managed.
For better or worse, there are fewer cases that are going to trial these days. Cases are being resolved more in an alternative dispute resolution setting, something that I expect to continue.
Q: In your opinion, what are the key skills or qualities that have contributed to your success?
McCarron: I would say dedication, working hard, and learning everyday on the job.