Trial lawyers have long served on the front lines of American justice, their work as champions of civil rights and safety regulations reverberating throughout the country.
And among the top trial lawyers across the nation stands Denver attorney Michael Burg. In his 40-year career, he has tried more than 185 cases, secured more than 15 verdicts in excess of $1 million, and founded Burg Simpson, a firm of 60-plus lawyers whose client recoveries exceed $1 billion. Burg’s success in the mass tort arena is also legion; his recent role as co-lead counsel in the Ortho Evra and Yaz/Yasmin litigations resulted in settlements of more than $3 billion to more than 10,000 injured women.
So it is no wonder that this past year the National Trial Lawyers inducted Burg into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. With this honor, he has taken his place among an impressive group of honorees, including such legendary trial lawyers as Clarence Darrow, Thurgood Marshall, Melvin Belli, and Johnnie Cochran.
“Part of what inspired me to become a lawyer was finding a biography of Clarence Darrow on my parents’ bookshelf at a young age and reading about how trial lawyers have changed the world for the better,” says Burg, who in 2013 received the Clarence Darrow Award, one of the most prestigious awards given to trial lawyers. “It’s humbling now to be recognized by my peers as being part of that important tradition.”
Recently, Burg released a memoir of his own, Trial by Fire: One Man’s Battle to End Corporate Greed and Save Lives, which quickly became an Amazon bestseller. In the book, Burg chronicles his distinguished career from his time starting out as a solo practitioner to his work taking on some of the most powerful corporations in the world. Among many notable achievements, Burg recovered $6.4 million in a gas explosion case that prompted dramatic safety changes to a city’s pipelines. More recently, he fought an eight-year battle against UBS on behalf of investors and filed a sweeping action against 18 California wineries to stop them from selling arsenic-contaminated wine.
“We take a team approach here, and I think that has helped in creating a family environment at the firm.”
In addition to his Yaz/Yasmin and Ortho Evra leadership, Burg has achieved many other high-profile leadership appointments by federal judges throughout the country. He was on the state liaison committee for the Vioxx litigation and on the executive committee in the Zyprexa litigation, which received a global settlement of more than $1 billion.
“It’s been quite a journey, and that’s a message I found myself returning to in the book,” says Burg. “Law practice has never been drudgery to me, and I think that’s because the main goal in my practice is to help people.”
Burg credits the firm’s success to the many other award-winning trial lawyers in the firm’s five offices, as well as the next generation coming up whose talent and tenacity help the firm continue to grow. “We take a team approach here, and I think that has helped in creating a family environment at the firm,” Burg notes. The family environment is literal as well: Mike’s brother Peter has helped lead the firm’s growth, and both have attorney sons there. “Much of our success stems from the fact that we’re all working in the same direction, always with the goal of helping people as our driving motivation.”