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Brandi and Arns Named Alumni of the Year

March 10, 2010

Renowned trial attorneys Robert S. Arns '75 and Thomas J. Brandi '72 were named USF School of Law Alumni of the Year for 2009 during the annual Holiday Luncheon Dec. 2.

Alumni of the Year Robert S. Arns '75 (left) and Thomas J. Brandi '75.

More than 250 people, including law school alumni, faculty, staff, and students and friends, family, and colleagues of the honorees, attended the event at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco.

The Hon. Robert Dondero, associate justice of the California Court of Appeal for the First District, called it a "high honor" to be introducing Arns and Brandi. Describing them as "giants of our legal community and model graduates of USF," Dondero said it is a professional pleasure to work with them on a case. When they are litigating in his courtroom, "you know the package will be well prepared and presented...and there is a strong likelihood that the jury will begin to see things from the perspective of the plaintiff."

Arns is founder of The Arns Law Firm, a seven lawyer plaintiff's firm with offices in San Francisco and Reno. He specializes in plaintiff class actions and representing families who have endured catastrophic events, including serious injuries and death caused by defective products and construction site incidents. He has argued before appellate courts, including the California Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and has resolved more than 200 seven- and eight-figure cases by verdict and settlement.

Brandi is founder of The Brandi Law Firm and also a recognized plaintiff's attorney with numerous significant verdicts, including 13 ranging from $1 million to more than $1 billion. He has been elected to membership in the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, the American College of Trial Lawyers, and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), among other organizations.

With a combined 71 years of practice, Arns and Brandi have received a host of honors and awards for their trial skills and service to the profession and are listed among the top 100 "Super Lawyers" in Northern California. They also serve as adjunct professors at the USF School of Law, co-teaching Trial Practice each fall. Arns and Brandi "enjoy the rarified air of being at the top of their profession," Dondero said, yet they return to USF to teach students because they "appreciate the fact that there is room at the top for those who care about justice."

Students enrolled in Arns and Brandi's course this fall attended the event and testified to the impact they make as teachers. "Being in your class has taught me to talk like a lawyer, think like a lawyer, and even sit like a lawyer," said Allison Low 3L. "We started in August as students and in November we left as professionals."

Brandi called teaching at USF "one of the great thrills of our professional lives. It has made me a better lawyer. It has been a treasure I didn't see coming." Arns added that "youth will always conquer and we're looking forward to our students becoming the next great judges and great lawyers."

Both men are active in professional organizations, including the San Francisco Bar Association, Consumer Attorney's of California, the California State Bar Association, the American Association for Justice, the American Board of Trial Advocates, and the Commission for Access to Justice.

"We honor you today because you manifest the kind of skilled, courageous, and compassionate lawyers the law school seeks to nurture and that the world so desperately needs," Dean Jeffrey Brand said. "You have tirelessly fought those wreaking havoc in our society and inflicting tragic injuries and death. Your fights...have brought relief and dignity to consumers and working people. We also honor you today because of your passion for the law school, your commitment as legal educators, and your faith in the ability of our students to make our mission a reality."

In accepting the honor, Arns and Brandi thanked their families and colleagues, saying those individuals have played a central role in their professional achievements. They also credited their success to the inspiration they receive from the families they represent. "We've been blessed with a rare privilege and awesome responsibility to represent those who are unable to speak for themselves and have been taken advantage of by corporate criminals," Brandi said. "The families inspire us so much that we play well beyond our abilities."