Spotlight Member Firm: Courington, Kiefer & Sommers (New Orleans, LA)
By Susan Koval, Nemeth Law, P.C., Detroit, Michigan
Courington, Kiefer & Sommers, L.L.C. is a Gulf-South NAMWOLF firm of defense litigators with offices in New Orleans, Louisiana and Ocean Springs, Mississippi. The firm offers services in litigation, mediation, national and regional coordination, and defense of all types of personal injury cases including Workers’ Compensation cases, Jones Act suits, Longshore cases and Mass and Toxic Torts in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas as well as property damage cases.
1. When was the firm founded and who are the firm’s founders?
Courington, Kiefer & Sommers, L.L.C. was founded in 2011 by Kaye N. Courington. Kaye has been a lawyer for 27 years. Her impressive experience includes trying hundreds of claims in seven trials in Louisiana and Mississippi. Six of the trials involved mass litigation of 10 to 129 plaintiffs (the longest jury trial in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana history). In her capacity as National Coordinating Counsel for a major client of the firm, she helps oversee litigation across the country. She has filed amicus briefs on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, the American Insurance Association, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, the Coalition for Litigation Justice and the American Chemistry Council.
2. Who are the firm’s current leaders and how would you describe the firm’s culture and personality?
Under the leadership of Managing Member, Kaye N. Courington, the attorneys and staff of Courington, Kiefer & Sommers all work together to manage litigation and client satisfaction. We also foster and encourage open communications among our employees so they not only value their work but also take ownership of their work. We encourage team efforts to create a familial and productive environment where anyone is willing to lend a hand. The seasoned attorneys also serve as role models and enjoy teaching the ropes to associates. We treat everyone as professionals, knowing they have the ability to succeed. We also promote from within. All this coupled with our promotion of a work-life balance has given us long-term loyalty and stability among our staff and attorneys.
3. What makes the Courington, Kiefer & Sommers team so special?
We go above and beyond and do what is best for our clients. Our hallmark is attentiveness to our clients’ needs. For example, calls are returned on the same business day, and our attorneys’ mobile numbers are known to our clients. Clients notice that the firm’s interest in creating client relationships and strong bonds are genuine. The firm’s attorneys authentically enjoy getting to know people, learning about their businesses, and letting them know how we could help them. We believe that the practice of law is a service profession.
4. What are the firm’s significant areas of practice?
The firm’s significant areas of practice include products liability, environmental and toxic torts, mass litigation, personal injury defense, auto/trucking defense, insurance defense/insurance coverage, construction, Jones Act cases, Longshore, Maritime & Admiralty, and workers’ compensation. The firm also serves as regional and national coordinating counsel.
5. How did your firm become interested/involved in NAMWOLF? Why did you join?
Courington, Kiefer & Sommers prides itself on being a diverse defense law firm handling complex litigation matters for high-end clientele. It is majority woman owned and has African-American, Asian, and Hispanic attorneys, many of whom are leaders in minority attorney organizations. NAMWOLF instantly appealed to us as it understood that high quality representation could be found in minority or women owned law firms, not just at majority firms, and gave us the arena to showcase that. NAMWOLF focuses on the unique talents, experiences and backgrounds of diverse attorneys and really spread the word to the corporate clients that these firms are not just capable, but could really offer newfound perspectives and out-of-the-box ideas to enhance the quality of representation.
6. Why is diversity important to your firm?
We appreciate and embrace the fact that the world is made up of people with different backgrounds and experiences. Recognizing that a diverse pool of talent serves the best interest of our clients and enhances our ability to provide the best legal services, we actively recruit and encourage the hiring and retention of women and minority lawyers. We are committed to diversity in the workplace and recognize that our workforce is our most important resource. We believe law firms should reflect the same diversity as the larger world as well as of modern juries.
Our dedication to diversity is clear in our firm’s make-up. Not only are we a certified woman-owned law firm, but our attorneys come from a diverse array of ethnic backgrounds and serve in leadership positions. In addition to NAMWOLF, we are proud members of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association Affiliate Network, the Woman’s Enterprise Business National Council, the National Association of Professional Women, the Women President’s Organization, the National Black Lawyers Association, the Hispanic Bar Association, the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Louisiana, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, and the Association of Women Attorneys. Our firm has also received a commendation from the Louisiana State Bar Association for executing its Statement of Diversity Principles.
7. What is your commitment to community service?
Through our unique and successful Non-Profit of the Month program, we support community and non-profit organizations serving minority and underprivileged populations in the region and throughout the United States. The firm welcomes client and employee suggestions for charitable causes to be included in the program. The firm makes a monetary contribution to each selected “cause,” and the non-profit is also featured on our website.
We also contribute to micro-loans through the non-profit Kiva. We have encouraged firm-wide participation in events such as the Susan G. Komen Walk for the Cure and the National Heart Association’s Heart Walk. Additionally, through the New Orleans Pro Bono Project our firm has given significant financial support and time to pro bono cases for indigent individuals. We have also “adopted” a U.S. Paratrooper unit stationed in Afghanistan to which we send regular packages. Courington, Kiefer & Sommers is proud that it utilizes its resources to improve the world around us. Some of the non-profits we have supported include the Wounded Warrior Project, ASPCA, Canine Angels Service Dogs, CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates), New Orleans Mission (servicing New Orleans’ homeless population), and Melanoma Research Foundation.
8. CKS has made substantial contributions to NAMWOLF since joining the organization 3 years ago. Please share some highlights of your activities.
Courington, Kiefer & Sommers hit the ground running when it joined NAMWOLF 3 years ago. Our attorneys have been visible at NAMWOLF events and active in giving presentations ever since joining NAMWOLF. The firm is extremely proud to be a sponsor of the upcoming 2016 NAMWOLF Business Meeting in New Orleans. You will find the firm’s members vigorously involved in several Practice Area Committees (PACs), including the Restaurant, Retail & Hospitality PAC, the Insurance PAC, the Products Liability PAC, the Trials PAC, and the White Collar Defense PAC. Kaye N. Courington has been chair in charge of CLEs for the Insurance PAC. In addition, firm Member, Valerie Theng Matherne, is the Co-Chair of the 2016 NAMWOLF Business Meeting in New Orleans, has served on the Diversity Initiative Award Committee and is the current Co-Chair of NAMWOLF’s Restaurant, Retail & Hospitality Practice Area Committee. Courington, Kiefer & Sommers is happy to commit time and resources to NAMWOLF because of the outstanding opportunities and benefits NAMWOLF has given to us.
9. NAMWOLF will be coming to New Orleans for the Business Meeting beginning February 21. What are your recommendations for the “must see” sights or “must do” activities in New Orleans?
It goes without saying that the food is not to be missed. New Orleans has the best restaurants in the world and there is something that will suit everyone’s tastes. The epitome of elegance and culinary traditions could be found in the historic Galatoire’s located in the French Quarter which has been a staple of New Orleans since 1905. Antoine’s, in the French Quarter, is also a famed New Orleans restaurant thick in historical significance and often considered the place to be seen. If you like oysters, don’t miss Drago’s char-grilled oysters located at the Hilton Riverwalk (which is an offshoot of the original Metairie location). Even non-oyster lovers welcome the buttery goodness of Drago’s oysters. A short drive will take you to Dooky Chase founded by Chef Leah Chase who happens to be loved by children as the inspiration for Princess Tiana from the Disney animated movie, “Princess and the Frog”. But Ms. Chase’s role is much bigger than being a princess as her restaurant served as a pivotal gathering location for the civil rights movement. Her restaurant also houses one of the most impressive collections of African-American art. Don’t forget to dine at some of the restaurants of renowned chefs, Emeril Lagasse, John Besh, and Susan Spicer.
You can really get a feel of New Orleans by taking one of its streetcars. There are three different lines, each of which originates downtown but takes you to different parts of the city. The St. Charles route will transport you among the stately oak trees and mansions in the Garden District and Uptown.
For the sports enthusiasts, check out an exciting New Orleans Pelicans game. For historic buffs, the WWII Museum is always expanding its exhibits, including a 4D movie experience in “Beyond All Boundaries”. For the music enthusiasts who want to enjoy traditional New Orleans jazz, check out Preservation Hall, a cornerstone of New Orleans’ music and culture. Frenchmen Street is also the center of live music, nightlife, and culture in New Orleans.
Take a stroll down Royal Street in the French Quarter to take in the sights and shop antique stores, boutiques, fine jewelry stores, and eccentric art galleries. Not too far away is the St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in North American, and stands in front of Jackson Square. Across the street, stop at Cafe’ Du Monde, grab some beignets and Cafe’ Au Lait before partaking in serious people-watching. Take a scenic tour on one of the riverboats and enjoy lively conversation with a cool cocktail.
New Orleans has a vast number of activities for families with children. The Audubon Zoo (located Uptown), Audubon Insectarium (on Canal Street), and the Audubon Aquarium provides endless entertainment for little ones. Audubon Park, which is across the street from Audubon Zoo, is a wonderful place to enjoy family time and recreation. City Park, which is a short drive from the French Quarter, offers a miniature golf course, an amusement park, and its fairy-tale themed play area called Story Land all nestled under the branches of long-standing oak trees. There is also the Louisiana Children’s Museum (located in the Warehouse District) with hands-on exhibits that will surely mesmerize kids and adults alike.
Please feel free to contact Valerie Theng Matherne for more information on the sights and sounds of New Orleans at email@example.com or 504-524-5510.