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John Simmons founded the firm in 1999 with seven employees and a focus on asbestos litigation. Under his leadership, the firm has expanded to more than 250 employees, including more than 80 attorneys, spread between six offices in Alton, St. Louis, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
John has overseen some of the biggest verdicts and settlements in the history of asbestos litigation. The firm’s first trial involved a roofer and former Shell Oil employee diagnosed with mesothelioma. John helped secure a $34.1 million jury verdict, then considered one of the largest jury verdicts in the history of the litigation. That record stood for only a short while before the firm obtained a $250 million verdict on behalf of an Indiana steelworker.
The firm’s track record of success continues today, not only in mesothelioma litigation, but also in other areas of complex litigation including dangerous drugs and devices, prescription opioid litigation, sexual abuse litigation, environmental litigation, personal injury and other mass torts and class actions. Since that first case, the firm has recovered more than $7 billion in settlements and verdicts for thousands of clients nationwide under John’s leadership.
“The best part of my job is meeting with prospective clients,” John said.
Simmons Hanly Conroy is one of the leading national law firms in complex litigation for several reasons, according to John. These reasons include its trial team structure, its extensive document libraries, its expertise in dealing with Medicare liens and other archives that expedite the discovery process, just to name a few.
“Not many firms have the legal resources dedicated to the mesothelioma and asbestos litigation process we do. We have amassed an extensive library since 1999,” he said.
The firm’s infrastructure has been leveraged to help clients in its Complex Litigation Department, where the firm has recovered more than $800 million in verdicts and settlements.
In addition to getting results for clients, it is the firm’s deep commitment to personal attention that John values most.
“You’re not just a number. We’ll know your name. Someone will take your call and someone will call you back,” he said. “We even place calls to our clients long after their case is resolved to make sure they’re doing OK.”
Following high school, John married his high school sweetheart and joined the Army. After serving as a combat engineer for two years, he returned home to East Alton to work with his father building houses. John’s father inspired him to become a lawyer; and within months, he enrolled at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville as a political science major. He graduated a short time later with honors and went on to earn his J.D. from Southern Methodist University School of Law in Dallas while working part time representing nonprofit organizations and churches.
In 2006, following the early success of the firm, John was recognized by the St. Louis Business Journal as one of St. Louis’s 40 Under 40. The award honors 40 early achievers based on accomplishments in their careers and work in the St. Louis community. He has also been selected as one of 40 Illinois Attorneys Under the Age of 40 to Watch by the Chicago Lawyer Magazine and is rated as one of the Top 100 Trial Lawyers.
John recently received an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell. An AV rating, which identifies a lawyer with very high to preeminent legal ability, is a prestigious peer-reviewed analysis of John’s expertise, experience, integrity and overall professional excellence.
The final piece of John’s vision of the firm as a national first-class plaintiff’s firm was realized in 2011 with the grand opening of its national headquarters in Alton, Illinois. The six-story building consolidated the firm’s employees from eight buildings around the Madison County area into one central location, for the first time since the firm started.
John formed the firm because after years of working for management, he believed he could provide a higher level of legal care to clients by combining legal expertise with service-minded values.
That vision expanded when John and the firm made a joint $10.2 million donation to build the Simmons Cancer Institute on the campus of Southern Illinois University in Springfield. The cancer institute is a community-based patient care, research, education and outreach program created to improve cancer care for the citizens of Central and Southern Illinois.
“It’s just the right thing to do,” John said about his charitable work. “I believe you should always do the right thing, even when you think no one is looking.”
Motivated by John’s core belief of giving back to the community, firm employees, through the SHC Employee Committee, have donated more than $1 million to local charities since 2004. In addition, the firm has donated more than $20 million to cancer research, through its support of the SHC Meso Committee, the Simmons Mesothelioma Foundation, Miles for Meso 5K races, the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation and the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization.
“We’re starting to see hints of progress in the research being done for mesothelioma treatments. I know it’s not good for business, but I’m looking forward to the day when the firm no longer handles mesothelioma cases because it has been cured,” John said.
* Please note that recovery results vary per client. The recovery amounts in each case reflect the specific facts of that case. Further, recovery amounts in past cases are not a guarantee of future results.