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Partner Melissa Crowe Schopfer joined Simmons Hanly Conroy in 2005 as an asbestos and mesothelioma attorney. In November 2012, she became an asbestos trial team leader, where her responsibilities include managing a team of attorneys and legal staff. She has worked on over 500 cases in the past 10 years and helped recover over $100 million in settlements and verdicts on behalf of individuals and families impacted by mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. She has represented clients who live in nearly every state.
A veteran litigator and team leader, Melissa oversees the team’s case load and aids in readying cases for trial, which entails coordinating discovery, experts, motions, witnesses and overall case strategy. This is in addition to her caseload and taking depositions.
“When we get a new case, our team immediately begins investigating potential sources of asbestos exposures,” Melissa said. “We research all relevant sources of documents and set up a meeting with our client and his or her potential co-workers. Once the case is on file, we move quickly on getting a trial setting and preserving our evidence.”
“Asbestos lawsuits are often more complex than other types of lawsuits because asbestos diseases do not develop until many years after exposures to asbestos have occurred,” Melissa said. “This means that we are often looking back in time and trying to pinpoint exposures from more than 20 years ago.”
Melissa has worked on cases encompassing a wide variety of asbestos exposure. She regularly travels to visit her clients. Though her main office is at the firm’s headquarters in Alton, Illinois, she’s just as likely to work from a client’s dining room table, a hotel room, airport waiting areas or somewhere even more unusual. One of her more unusual visits found her meeting with a client in a Nevada rock quarry.
Melissa describes her clients as hardworking men and women, who dedicated themselves to providing a better life for their families. Through no fault of their own, they came into contact with an invisible poison. When they receive a mesothelioma diagnosis, most of her clients feel overwhelmed, and it takes a lot of their time and energy to deal with the costly treatments and doctor visits. Melissa strives to help her clients navigate the legal system so they can focus on their health.
Melissa believes it is her team’s job to simplify the legal process and be available to their clients to answer questions and inform them of the case progress. They give out their cell phone numbers and are available any time, weekends and evenings included.
“Mesothelioma is a preventable cancer that never had to happen to anyone, and a mesothelioma diagnosis is emotionally and financially crippling,” she said. “The dangers of asbestos were known to these companies for decades, and they did nothing to inform or protect people.”
“My clients get the best of both worlds at Simmons Hanly Conroy with the experience, resources and knowledge of a large firm available to clients,” Melissa said. With the organization of trial teams, clients get the personal touch of a smaller firm and can expect to be on first-name basis with each member of their legal team. She is also proud to work at a law firm that is dedicated to giving back to research and treatment for asbestos-related diseases.
“We helped fund a cancer center here in Illinois and host an annual 5K race to raise awareness and funds for a cure,” Melissa said. “This means that we are dedicated to fighting both the legal fight and dedicated to supporting our clients as they fight against this cancer in their doctors’ offices.”
Besides working at a law firm that gives back to the community, Melissa also belongs to various community organizations, including: Friends of Wings, St. Louis, Queen of Peace, St. Louis and Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition, St. Louis.
Melissa graduated in 2005 with her Juris Doctorate from St. Louis University School of Law after completing her undergraduate degree from Western Illinois University in McComb, Ill. In 2011, she presented at the Plaintiff’s Asbestos Litigation Seminar in Nevada on “Asbestos Exposure in Aircraft Cases,” and in May 2015, she presented “Handling Discovery Disputes with a Special Master” at a United States Arbitration and Mediation Continuing Legal Education Program.
She lives in the St. Louis area with her husband, Hank, and they are the parents of twins. She enjoys spending time with her family outside of work as well as her involvement with charity organizations.