The NYU School of Law bulletin has published an in-depth profile on Lieff Cabraser partner Robert J. Nelson, an alumnus of the class of 1987, highlighting Robert’s 26 years of experience as a plaintiff’s lawyer specializing in corporate fraud cases.
Twice-named a “California Attorney of the Year” by California Lawyer and current leader of Lieff Cabraser’s False Claims Act practice group, Robert has obtained hundreds of millions of dollars for the benefit of plaintiffs in class actions against tobacco companies, oil companies, and other corporate giants, as well as litigating for whistleblowers in cases where the government has been defrauded.
“My cases are all painful as all get-out during them, because we’re usually going up against the largest companies in the world,” explains Nelson. “Each of these cases is challenging, but they’re also rewarding,” he says, adding that being a plaintiff’s lawyer allows him to advocate on behalf of truly large numbers of people who have been wronged.
The bulletin notes that Robert is willing to play the “long game” in order to win results for his clients, and nowhere has that been demonstrated more clearly than in his firm’s 20-year battle with State Farm Insurance. The case, which began in 1997 as a consumer fraud and breach of contract class action, evolved into a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) case involving dark money paid to the judicial campaign of an Illinois Supreme Court justice who would go on to undermine the billion-dollar verdict in the original case. “That was a particularly long game, hopefully not to be repeated,” notes Nelson.
Robert further explains that his work exclusively on behalf of plaintiffs has made for an interesting career, one that has allowed him to serve the public on a large scale. “I encourage current law students with an interest in public interest work, when they are reading cases, to be thinking about the fact that there’s a lawyer who brought that case, a lawyer who’s representing the plaintiff, and a lawyer who’s representing the defendant,” he says. “Law students should be thinking, ‘Would I… be interested in representing this kind of plaintiff and bringing this kind of case that’s going to have this kind of impact on the law?’… In my opinion, we are out here bringing the most interesting and exciting cases that have the potential to really benefit many, many people.”
About Robert Nelson
A partner in Lieff Cabraser’s San Francisco office and the Chair of the firm’s False Claims Act practice group, Robert has played a leading role in Lieff Cabraser’s qui tam, automotive, aviation, mass tort, tobacco, and consumer fraud cases. He has served as court-appointed Lead or Co-Lead Counsel in numerous state and federal coordinated proceedings and over 35 class actions. Robert was lead trial counsel in a product defect case against Chrysler that resulted in a substantial punitive damage verdict, for which he was a recipient of California Lawyer Magazine’s Attorney of the Year (CLAY) award. He later received a second CLAY award for his work as lead trial counsel in obtaining a substantial settlement against the University of Phoenix, one of the largest ever achieved involving fraud against the Department of Education under the False Claims Act. Robert is a four-time nominee for CAOC Consumer Attorney of the Year. In 2019, Robert was named Public Justice’s Trial Lawyer of the Year for his work on the State Farm insurance fraud RICO litigation.