This month’s spotlighted VADA member is Sam Bernier of Frith Anderson + Peake PC’s Richmond office. Sam is a graduate of Hawaii Pacific University and the University of Richmond School of Law. He also is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and the Hawaii Army National Guard. Sam has served the VADA as Membership Chair, Chair and Vice-Chair of our Medical Malpractice Section, and as a member of our Annual Meeting Committee for 2018, 2020, and 2023. In addition, Sam has authored two articles appearing in The Journal of Civil Litigation and been a frequent speaker and at VADA seminars and workshops on topics germane to medical malpractice defense, his area of expertise.
1. Where were you born?
Charlottesville, Virginia. Growing up, I was one of the few kids in my class who had no connection with UVA. For most of my friends, at least one parent either worked there or graduated from there. But I am a true “townie.”
2. Tell us a little about yourself. Spouse? Children? Pets?
I live in Short Pump with my wife, Alison; our two boys, Charlie (13) and Gray (11); two cats, Max (9) and Maple (7); and our dog, Blueberry (3). Most weekends find me attending—and cheering at an inappropriate volume—ice hockey (Charlie) or soccer (Gray), either in Richmond or some other locale. On non-travel weekends, you will usually find me catching up on yard or housework at the direction of the Minister of the Interior, Housing, Treasury, Intelligence, Health, and Commerce (Alison).
3. What type of law do you practice?
Medical Malpractice Defense.
4. What do you like most about practicing law?
I like the fact that almost every day is different, with different opportunities and different challenges. Likewise, every case is different – there is always a new wrinkle or twist to think through.
5. How long have you been a member of VADA?
6. What have you enjoyed most about your time in VADA?
I enjoy interacting with colleagues, hearing their stories, and telling my own. And, of course, having a few nights a year in a fancy hotel with no kids is nice too!
7. What was your undergraduate major?
8. What was your first job?
Ever? Besides mowing my neighbors’ lawns as a kid, I got my first real job that required an interview to get hired when I was 14. I worked that summer (1990) as a counselor-in-training at Camp Shenandoah, the Boy Scout (now Scouts BSA) camp outside of Staunton. That was my second job as well—the summer of 1991, I worked there as a counselor teaching the nature merit badges.
My first job in the legal world was as the pro se prisoner clerk for (then U.S. Magistrate, now U.S. District) Judge Lauck in the Richmond Division of the EDVA. Because she administered the pro se prisoner docket for the Richmond Division, Judge Lauck was able to hire an extra clerk in addition to her personal law clerk (elbow clerk)—and that was me! I worked with an amazing gentleman and lawyer who was a career clerk for the pro se docket, Tom Hanrahan. Together, we processed and wrote opinions for the vast majority of the pro se prisoner cases on the dockets of Judge Lauck and the four district court judges—Bivens cases, § 1983 claims, and writs of habeas corpus from both federal and state prisoners. Between Judge Lauck and Tom, I learned more about writing that year then I had learned during the preceding 34!
9. What is the last movie or TV show you binge watched?
Sandman on Netflix.
10. What TV or movie line do you find yourself quoting most often?
“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” - Cool Hand Luke, 1967.
11. What is at the top of your bucket list?
Owning an electric motorcycle.
12. When I am not at the office, I like to …
At this point with my boys at ages 13 & 11, I spend most of my non-work time driving them to various activities and cheering them on. Most of the time, I really enjoy it.
13. What was the year, make, and model of your first car?
1985 Ford Escort L – I worked two jobs that summer (1992) and bought it for $1,500 from a used car lot on Pantops Mountain in Charlottesville.
14. If I wasn’t practicing law, I would be …
A state conservation officer or a federal park ranger.
15. What is the one app on your phone that you cannot live without?
16. What would your courtroom walk up music be?
“Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin.
17. What is your favorite travel spot?
Anywhere in the mountains.
18. In what section of a bookstore is someone most likely to find you?
Science Fiction & Fantasy.
19. What quality do you admire most in other attorneys?
20. What advice would you give to someone who just passed the bar?
If you need help, ask for it. P.S. – You need help.