Roman Silberfeld '74: Groundbreaking Plaintiffs' Attorney Takes Time to Give Back
Not many people can say they always knew what type of career they wanted to pursue. But it’s easy to see after talking to Roman Silberfeld that he had a passion for the law from a young age, and that passion was focused on litigation. And litigation is exactly where Silberfeld has excelled.
Silberfeld’s multifaceted career includes cases spanning several industries: business and technology, healthcare, entertainment and media, and life-sciences intellectual property, just to name a few. And as a leader in his field, Silberfeld said, “My preparation began at Loyola, my top choice when looking at law schools, because I was determined to be a trial lawyer focused on torts, and Loyola had the best reputation for training top trial lawyers.”
As a student, Silberfeld was motivated to work hard and take on the challenges of law school and working in the legal field prior to graduation. He credits his classmates for supporting and challenging each other to do their best. “I have so many successful people who were my classmates, and each of them had an amazing work ethic that really inspired each of us to keep pushing through.” Silberfeld stayed busy during law school as a member of the staff for the Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review and worked at a law office during his second and third years. Silberfeld found this on-the-job experience critical to his success in the early years of his career. He also credits professors like Bob Sulnick, who was Silberfeld’s Torts professor, for providing a solid, practical education and the guidance he needed to be ready for the real world.
Early in his career, Silberfeld was able to fulfill his passion of taking on challenging lawsuits. He worked successfully on several plaintiff mass torts asbestos cases, carrying on this work from 1976 through 1992. During the same period, Silberfeld was also a lead counsel in several suits involving Diethylstilbestrol (DES), a drug given to pregnant women that was later found to cause significant adverse medical complications to women and their children, leading to litigation in both California and New York. In 1995, Silberfeld once again took on a new leadership role, opening the Los Angeles office of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, L.L.P. And his leadership didn’t stop there.
Silberfeld was part of the Robins, Kaplan team that took on the tobacco industry. They were the first firm in history to take on the industry independently, instead of through a joint suit with other plantiffs’ firms. The result of their hardwork produced a $7 billion settlement and paved the way for other firms to take on this bold approach. This was an exciting win for Silberfeld. It fueled his passion to look for tough cases that spanned industries he was yet to touch. Following the settlement Silberfeld switched gears toward cases in the entertainment industry, which led him to representing the production company Celador International in Celador International, Ltd. v. The Walt Disney Company, a groundbreaking case focused on profit sharing, and Disney’s responsibility to deal fairly and in good faith with Celador. This case truly exposed the longtime practice of “Hollywood accounting” and illustrated that when cases like this go to trial, it is unlikely for a jury to believe that popular, long-running television shows do not generate a profit.
But lawsuits aren’t Silberfeld’s only passion. He has always felt that public service is important for everyone in the community. “At Loyola, I felt the school really instilled the importance of public service in all of us as students, and I took that spirit with me into my career.” As managing partner of the Los Angeles office for Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, L.L.P., Silberfeld has made it a priority to create a culture of volunteerism, and the firm has the numbers to back this up: The firm is among the “Top 10 Law Firms” in The American Lawyer's 2011 Pro Bono Survey. Beyond leading a culture of public service, Silberfeld walks the walk through his many volunteer activities, including serving on the advisory board for Loyola’s newly launched Advocacy Institute.
He was excited to get involved with the Advocacy Institute because he recognizes that while cases are different in each of the many industries with which he has worked, no matter what the case, trial skills are needed. “It’s really tough for new grads to excel and distinguish themselves, and the Advocacy Institute helps them to do just that.” Silberfeld enjoys serving on the board and finds it a great way to reciprocate for all that has been given to him and to fulfill the responsibility of preparing Loyola students for the legal profession. And it doesn’t stop here; this great multitasker even manages to get away every once and while for some work on the side: woodworking at his workshop at Big Bear Lake and thinking over what his next great challenge will be.