My Toughest Case

Inspired by the “Perry Mason” re-runs she watched as a child with her mother in Shaker Heights, Ohio, Lori Waters has been steadfastly transfixed on a career in law for her entire life. But instead of taking the traditional B.A. to J.D. route, she has forged her own path to practicing law.

While satisfying the requirements for a history degree from Ohio State as an undergraduate, she didn’t have quite enough credits to graduate. Undeterred, the young newlywed left her home state to follow her husband to New Jersey, where she deferred her courtroom dreams to raise their daughter.

Eventually, Waters reenrolled in school to receive a bachelor’s degree in English from Seton Hall. Amidst the throes of divorce, she decided it was time to resurrect her law school ambitions. The man who would become her second husband, a native New Orleanian, inspired her to apply to Loyola University College of Law.

“He was and still is an amazing support system,” she says of her husband, who picked up her daughter from school and helped with homework during Waters’ three years at Loyola.

She supplemented her night classes with a full-time day job as an insurance defense paralegal for Rodney Bordenave Boykin & Ehret.

Waters’ day typically ended at 9:30 p.m., giving her just enough time to say good night to her daughter before hitting the books for the next day’s classes.

“Going to school at night motivated me to get through it, and I think it makes me appreciate it more now,” she says. “When I meet young girls in law school, I tell them, ‘I’ve been through hell and back. If I can do it, anyone can.’”

After successfully passing the Louisiana bar, Waters started her first post-graduate job as a clerk for Judge Rosemary Ledet in the Civil District Court.

She moved on to work as an associate with Lynn Luker in 2007, specializing in toxic tort and product liability. She stayed there for two years and, in ’09, moved on to Boykin, Ehret & Utley. There, she gained experience with insurance defense, personal injury suits and medical malpractice suits.

She joined the Kuchler Polk Schell Weiner & Richeso firm in 2011, when she found her fit. With 24 lawyers, it’s a mid-sized firm and Waters works the docket for Leigh Ann Shell, one of the founding partners, with Michele DeShazo, Thomas Porteous and Sarah Roy. She typically handles between 12 and 15 cases at one time.

She landed one of her toughest in 2010 while with Boykin, Ehret & Utley. A client was rear-ended while in her vehicle, causing extensive back injuries and a close head injury. Close head injuries are extremely hard to prove because nothing is revealed through MRIs, CAT SCANs or X-rays, even though brain damage has been sustained.

“She couldn’t do her job, she had a hard time remembering things and focusing,” Waters says. “It was a huge challenge.”

They settled with the primary liability insurer, then went to trial against the excess liability insurer. The client shut down the case on its last day at court; she was distressed that their efforts in the second trial were in vain and she wouldn’t be awarded any additional funds. A jury poll taken immediately after the trial was called off revealed that the plaintiff would have received a large settlement.

Waters identifies this as one of her most emotionally trying cases due to the unfortunate ending.

“It kind of kicks you in the gut a little bit,” she says.

Separating her emotions from the trials and tasks at hand is something that Waters still works on, and she says it grows easier with more experience.

“When you’re arguing motion and things don’t go your way, you just can’t sweat the small stuff. I’ve had to learn to distance my personal feelings.”

7 years in practice
B.A. Ohio State – 1992
B.A. Seton Hall – 1998
J.D. Loyola University
  College of Law – 2004
Native of Shaker Heights, Ohio