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New Beginnings

Michael L. Kirby and Jason M. Kirby usher in a new era with Kirby & Kirby LLP—built on decades of success in San Diego.

Among legal circles in Southern California, it’s impossible to speak of successful trial lawyers without mentioning the name Kirby. Michael Kirby has been one of the most recognized names in the San Diego legal community since his arrival and has been a constant presence in courtrooms throughout Southern California. Just over 15 years ago, he and his oldest son, Jason Kirby, started practicing law together. With over 50 years of courtroom experience between them, this father and son team have prevailed for their clients time and again in countless bet-the-company cases, business disputes, real estate disputes, and most every kind of complex litigation case in between. Indeed, when it comes to civil litigation, the Kirby name has been synonymous with success for both plaintiffs and defendants in San Diego for more than four decades.
“We are often brought into cases when other attorneys need an ally who has substantial trial experience, particularly in business litigation” says Michael, who has been trying and winning cases in San Diego since his early years of practice at Luce Forward. In just the first half of 2016, “I’ve been in trials in five different cities across the U.S.; going to trial is definitely one of my favorite aspects of being a lawyer,” he says.
Likewise, Jason inherited his father’s passion and has spent years developing his skills. “It’s definitely a different world for getting trial experience than it used to be, but it’s the one thing that delivers the highest job satisfaction,” says Jason, co-founder and managing partner at the newly launched KIRBY & KIRBY LLP.

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New Lease on Law
Though neither Michael nor Jason are strangers to the courtroom, they are technically venturing into new territory, with the launch of their new firm. Jason explains, “We had operated internally as a team for years within Kirby Noonan Lance & Hoge, LLP. But as the firm’s lease approached its end, the firm amicably decided to split into five new firms and we are one of them.”
“We wanted to start our own firm where we alone would be responsible for hiring new associates who we think will become great trial lawyers,” Michael adds. “We also brought invaluable members of our team with us, as we have all worked together for many years. We are continuing with our same team approach we’ve found to work to the benefit of our clients, and we are continuing to focus on our favorite aspect of law: being in the courtroom.”
That team includes associate Heather Schallhorn, longtime paralegals, Katherine Dillon and Susan O’Keefe Head. Michael said, “When we win, we win as a team. And we are going to keep doing the same thing going forward.”
In addition, the powerhouse duo moved into a new office on West Broadway, close to the courthouses, which has infused their team with a renewed zest for their work. “There is an energy and vibrancy here. We are all enjoying the new office and being back by the courthouses; it has injected new life into everybody,” Jason says.
In spite of launching a new firm, in a new location, neither Michael nor Jason plan to adhere to any kind of ‘out-withthe- old-in-with-the-new” firm philosophy. If anything, they are more committed than ever to staying the course of what has proven so successful for both of them—that is, working hard to win.

Foundation of the New Firm: Experience as Building Blocks
For his part, Michael began building his reputation as one of the best trial lawyers in the country more than 40 years ago, due to his dedication to clients and the legal community, his willingness to try new things (including cases others wouldn’t), and unmatched trial skills. In fact, after just four years cutting his teeth at Luce Forward, in 1976 he and three others founded a trial-focused firm, Post Kirby, Noonan & Sweat, where he would remain a partner for over 35 years.
Michael has obtained total recoveries valued in excess of $275 million as lead counsel in a multitude of practice areas. He has also made a marked impact on the San Diego legal community through being one of the founders of the Association of Business Trial Lawyers of San Diego, and serving four years as a Southern District of California Lawyer Representative to the Ninth Circuit. He’s been an active member of ABOTA for more than 20 years, serving on its national board of directors. Similarly, he is a master in the American Inns of Court—William B. Enright Chapter.
As the result of his involvement and successes, Michael has been the recipient of a slew of awards and accolades over the years, including multiple Outstanding Trial Lawyer awards from Consumer Attorneys of San Diego. He is also listed in Best Lawyers®—the leading rating of U.S. lawyers—for Bet The Company Litigation (San Diego Lawyer of the Year 2015), Commercial Litigation and Securities Litigation for multiple years. He has been listed as a Super Lawyer for nearly a decade—an honor given to no more than 5% of attorneys. Michael was also recently selected as one of the Top 100 Attorneys in all of Southern California.
Interestingly, despite his enviable victories in trial, Michael wasn’t always so sure of his career path. After growing up in a small Iowa town, he graduated from the University of Iowa with both his B.A. and law degree yet initially, he had no idea what kind of law he wanted to practice. “The joke has been that I didn’t take the trial practice class in my law school, but I’ve overcome that,” Michael says with a laugh Jason Kirby appears to be following the example set by his father quite closely. However, that wasn’t always the case. “I was convinced I was going to do something different,” Jason admits. Instead, he completed his business degree at the University of Arizona and went to work in business after college.
“After working for three years in Los Angeles and San Francisco, I was contemplating going back and getting my MBA but I still didn’t have a clear direction on whether I wanted to focus on accounting or finance, and so I thought, why don’t I go to law school? At the time, I figured that a legal education would serve me well even if I later decided that I did not want to be a lawyer. But as soon as law school started, I loved it. It had real substance. I went down the rabbit hole and I’ve never looked back,” he jokes.
While in law school, Jason took the trial classes and then served as a full-time law clerk for the Honorable J. Richard Haden, which cemented his choice to follow his father into civil litigation. “Before that, civil litigation was still kind of a mystery. As I came to understand better what my father actually did and how the Court process worked behind the scenes, I saw that it really appealed to me. I could not have asked for a better first mentor than Judge Haden,” he says.
After graduating from California Western School of Law, Jason was able to gain valuable trial experience early on. He joined Post Kirby in 2001, and says much of his success as a trial lawyer can be directly attributed to working with his father and a firm full of exceptional trial lawyers. Some of his first solo civil jury trials were the result of Michael being double booked for trial. Jason recognizes the gift of experience he was given, which he explains, KIRBY & KIRBY LLP will continue to offer its associates. Associate Heather Schallhorn already benefitted substantially from serving as second chair for Michael’s three-week jury trial earlier this year in San Diego.
More than 15 years later, Jason has certainly earned his own stripes in Southern California as an outstanding lawyer. He has obtained millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements for his plaintiff clients, including a $2.3 million jury verdict that included over $1 million in punitive damages. In addition, Jason has successfully defended his defendant clients against millions of dollars in damage claims, including multiple complete defense verdicts.
All told, Jason has at one time or another been involved in almost every type of civil case. His clients have included Fortune 500 companies, financial institutions, banks, utilities, partnerships, corporations, officers, directors, trustees, and individuals. He is rated AV Preeminent® by Martindale-Hubbel®, and has been consistently listed as one of the Top Lawyers for Business Litigation by San Diego Magazine.
Together their varied experience allows KIRBY & KIRBY LLP to take on all types of cases in different areas of civil litigation. Michael explains that this is actually one of the most interesting aspects of their practice. “Every client and case is unique. The only thing that our clients have in common is that they need a lawyer that has successfully tried cases.”

Forging a Formidable Firm for the Future
Even with their years of courtroom trial experience, and an enviable record of success, Michael and Jason know one thing to be absolutely true: trial attorneys cannot afford to rest on their laurels. “I’ve never won a case based on my reputation; it’s based on hard work and the team working together,” Michael explains. According to Jason, over 50 percent of their cases have always come from referrals from fellow attorneys.
The volume of referrals makes sense, when considering the victories Michael and Jason have secured for their clients. For example, one of their notable cases involved a national real estate developer and an easement dispute. The developer had an option to purchase property in Sorrento Valley to build the new FBI building. However, the parcel upon which the building would be built had a long-time easement running through it that was held by the neighbor who was less than thrilled to have the FBI as his new neighbor. “Through the litigation, we were able to convince the neighbor to abandon the easement. We were invited to attend the grand opening of the FBI facility and were publicly thanked by our client for clearing the way,” Michael says.

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An example of the type of trial victories secured by Michael include substituting into a defamation case where a prominent San Diego physician was sued for $3 million in damages. He was able to secure a defense verdict for her, and recovered a verdict for the physician on a defamation cross-claim for $250,000 in compensatory damages and $2.5 million in punitive damages. A more recent example is coming into a case in Los Angeles representing a bank, replacing a prior law firm for the bank. His team was successful in getting a $21 million cross-complaint dismissed on summary judgment, and then prevailing on the bank’s damages claims at trial, including a finding of fraud against the borrowers/guarantors.
In addition to their trial experience, another cornerstone of the firm’s foundation is rooted in Michael and Jason’s willingness to go above and beyond, including taking over cases at the eleventh hour when their expertise is requested. Jason explains, “We will take on a case at any stage of litigation, even on the verge of trial or an arbitration hearing. We have achieved remarkable results for our clients when doing so.” Continuing he says, “On multiple occasions, Michael has stepped in to take over a case as lead trial counsel within days of trial (once 7 days before a jury trial in Florida), having never worked on the case before— and he prevailed in those cases.”
Likewise, Jason has had similar experiences. He and his former partner, Greg Post, stepped in to defend a multimillion wrongful death case just days before the trial readiness conference in a case where years of litigation had preceded their arrival and the trial court had refused any further trial extension. He and Post achieved a complete defense verdict from the jury for their client. “I’ve never been so challenged,” Jason says.
In addition to tackling cases on a tight timeframe, Michael and Jason take pride in seeing their clients’ cases all the way through. “We have represented our clients and taken their cases forward even when they have lost the financial ability to continue with litigation because we believe the client had a meritorious claim or defense,” Michael says. Jason concurs, saying “Civil litigation can become cost prohibitive for clients and sometimes that’s the defense strategy. I have taken great pride in the ability to tell clients that I would not let the other side crush them financially and that we are in this together.”
This willingness to go to extra lengths to help others Left to right: Maria Arreola, Tho Pham, Susan O’Keefe Head, Ashley Suarez, Jason Kirby, Michael Kirby, Katherine Dillon, Heather Schallhorn, Carfelyn (“Lyn”) Asanas Attorney Journal
extends to KIRBY & KIRBY’s dedication to and involvement with the community of San Diego as well. They will continue to do work with wounded veterans associated with the Purple Heart Foundation of the Marine Parents Organization. “When I first got involved in helping injured soldiers and marines, we started discussing how to pay for their meals; I presented the idea to other San Diego attorneys, and what started off as an effort to get enough funds for one meal a month expanded to 36 meals in one year through an endeavor we called ‘Lawyers Care.’ It was such a generous response from the San Diego legal community,” Michael says.
As KIRBY & KIRBY forges ahead with their new firm and their new office location, one thing remains the same. “Being a trial lawyer is one of the few professions where somebody wins and somebody loses. We hate to lose and rarely do. Any client that comes to us on their own, or is referred here by one of our peers, will be in excellent hands,” Jason says.
As far as specific plans for growing the firm, Michael says there is no plan to grow just for the sake of growing, but he expects it to happen as the result of a need for additional attorneys. “Our goal is to keep turnover low, but bringing in new attorneys is exciting. Watching them develop into outstanding trial lawyers brings a lot of energy into a firm. We both enjoy mentoring, and are looking forward to adding to our team.”

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MICHAEL KIRBY» EDUCATION

  • University of Iowa, J.D. – 1970
  • University of Iowa, B.A.

» AWARDS

  • SuperLawyers, 2007-2016
  • San Diego Metro – Best Attorneys – 2009-2016
  • Best Lawyers – 3 Categories – 2007-2016
  • Best Lawyers – Lawyer of the Year – 2015
  • Consumer Attorneys of San Diego –Multiple Outstanding Trial Lawyer Awards
  • San Diego Source – Top Attorney Finalist – 2014

» PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIPS AND ACTIVITIES

  • American Board of Trial Advocates
  • State Bar of California, Litigation Section
  • The Association of Trial Lawyers of America
  • Consumer Attorneys of San Diego
  • Fellow, Litigation Counsel of America
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JASON KIRBY» EDUCATION

  • California Western School of Law, J.D. – 2001
  • University of Arizona, B.S.

» AWARDS

  • Martindale-Hubbell – AV® Preeminent™ rated
» PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIPS AND ACTIVITIES

  • Consumer Attorneys of San Diego
  • San Diego County Bar Association
  • American Inns of Court
  • Association of Business Trial Lawyers
  • Federal Bar Association, San Diego Chapter

Contact:
KIRBY & KIRBY LLP

Michael L. Kirby
Mike@kirbyandkirbylaw.com

Jason Kirby
Jason@kirbyandkirbylaw.com

501 West Broadway Suite 1720
San Diego, CA 92101
Telephone: 619-487-1500
www.kirbyandkirbylaw.com

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