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WJA 2022: Ashlea Schwarz

Ashlea SchwarzPaul LLP

In her practice of law, Ashlea Schwarz attempts to make change for large groups of people. She works to improve the quality of life for many people rather than just for the parties in one litigation.

Six years ago, Schwarz and Rick Paul founded Paul LLP to handle complex commercial disputes. At age 38, she was named managing partner. Her JD is from the University of Kansas School of Law.

Schwarz’s first case with the firm was also the firm’s first big case. She represented the family of an air ambulance nurse who was killed when a plane was misfueled and fell out of the air. Five people died in the accident.

“For my clients, the lawsuit wasn’t about the money,” Schwarz says. “They wanted the defendants to be sorry and say that their daughter mattered. They wanted to make sure this would never happen again. I had to explain to them that the world doesn’t work that way. We had to go through the litigation process to get closure for them.”

During nine months of discovery, she took 15 depositions and amassed thousands of documents in the case. Ultimately, they obtained an eight-figure settlement. In addition, the company agreed to send all of its employees and every new hire to FAA training, and to do random inspections of all its facilities every year. Schwarz still remembers calling the family and sharing the news with them.

“The philosophy of our firm then became that we do more than just recover money,” she says. “We want to make industry-wide change so the same bad acts don’t keep happening.”

Today, Schwarz’s civil trial practice involves complex litigation focused on commercial, agricultural, personal injury and consumer litigation. She has tried six cases, serving as first chair for two, and has overseen the day-to-day management and litigation of nearly 100 complex, multi-party actions. Her practice is nationwide and includes multi-party and multi-district litigation. She specializes in cases involving highly complex, often novel scientific and medical issues.

“I like to be in the courtroom, and I love doing trials,” Schwarz says. She recalls a case in which they represented a small business owner who had gotten himself into a bad business deal and needed help.

“We were on the defense side,” she says. “We took the case because it was the right thing to do. There was very little written discovery, and we didn’t take any depositions. We just went to trial. It was an uphill battle. We won a defense verdict and also won a counterclaim for the other side to pay the attorney’s fees. That case took a lot of lawyering and a lot of skill.”

In 2021, Schwarz was able to settle a case on behalf of brain-damaged babies and recovered life-changing money on their behalf. “No one was watching out for the moms, and their babies were really harmed,” she says. “We set up special needs trusts to take care of them for their whole lives.”

Women's Justice Awards 2022