Attorney at Law Magazine sat down with Loyd Bourgeois to discuss his nontraditional path from an engineering undergrad to the founder of his own firm handling personal injury and disability cases. Bourgeois shares how one case can truly shift a legal career.
AALM: Loyd, tell us about your path to becoming a lawyer?
LB: My path was a little nontraditional. I have always wanted to help my community and early in life I wanted to help by protecting the coastal environment we live in here in south Louisiana. I attended college to become an environmental engineer because I hoped to design and implement projects to help the Louisiana coast, and in turn my community.
In engineering school, we were mostly working on making the environment cleaner through solutions at chemical manufacturing facilities or oil refineries. As an upperclassman, I worked internships at some of these facilities. And while an intern, I realized anytime changes needed to be made to process equipment – the engineers would say – well, we have to check with the lawyers to make sure it fits our permits first. So – I figured, “why not just become the lawyer?” I went to Tulane Law School with designs on becoming an environmental lawyer and graduated with honors and an environmental law certificate. I entered the legal world.
AALM: How has your engineering degree played into your legal career?
LB: Engineering is a great degree and mindset for lawyering. At their most basic levels, engineers and lawyers both are problem solvers. Having rigorous training in the mathematical and scientific processes used to solve engineering problems is the perfect training for the skills necessary for great lawyering. Taking often wide ranging facts and circumstances and distilling them down to their root, and figuring out what went wrong and who is responsible – this is a good description in my mind for both. And this is essentially what we do every day.
AALM: Tell us about a case that shifted your perspective on the practice of law.
LB: I don’t know about a perspective shift because I’ve always been a helper, but there was a clear case which inspired me to get back to my roots – helping people.
I was practicing for about four years doing mostly insurance defense and environmental litigation defense – not real glamorous work. And I get a call from my grandmother. She starts telling me how my cousin (her niece) was getting the runaround on a long-term disability case and because of this she may have to sell her house. She asked if I could look into it for my cousin. So – I called up my cousin and asked her what was going on. She had a hard time explaining it. You see, she had brain cancer and had undergone many treatments. This was someone who I had known my whole life and during the course of this call and others after, she kept asking me my name because she couldn’t remember it – truly heartbreaking. I finally was able to piece together what was happening and found her insurance company denied her ongoing benefits because it said she could do her old job – which was high volume, company-wide, health insurance sales. So, I could see in front of me a loved one who sometimes couldn’t remember my name but this insurance company is saying, “yeah but, you can still sell insurance.” This made me very angry and determined. I poured myself into helping her, eventually getting her benefits reinstated and helping her family have some financial security through some very difficult times.
For me personally – this experience awakened my purpose – helping regular folks (like my cousin) against those trying to take advantage of them (insurance companies). I was always the kid on the playground not afraid to speak up, stand up, and oftentimes get roughed up. I knew I could handle it but also knew others sometimes couldn’t. The case gave me the same feeling – speaking up and asking questions about the whole process, standing up for my cousin when she could not do it herself, and getting roughed up because this was a big insurance company throwing plenty of money, documents, and lawyers at just me.
When we prevailed, I knew – this was all I was going to do for the rest of my career – help people. Whether it’s an auto case where an insurance company is holding financial ruin over a client to save some money for their executives and shareholders, or disability case where regular working folks who have paid for benefits with the promise of the safety net having it taken away when they need it most. This one case really has been the bedrock of what we built and continue to grow.
AALM: What compelled you to launch your own practice?
LB: The big reason I launched my own practice was I wanted to help people. I was working doing mostly property insurance defense claims (this was after Hurricane Katrina) and environmental defense litigation related to oil field waste, and it just didn’t fit who I was. I was not helping people, so I was not fully engaged or happy. Then I worked on my cousin’s case, and everything changed. I knew I wanted to help others. Plus I had a wife and two kids and one more on the way. I knew I also wanted to be there for my family. I decided opening my own firm was the best of both worlds – helping people and allowing me to be there for my family. So, two months prior to child three being born, I set off on my own.
AALM: Tell us a little bit about your team and the culture you’ve tried to create in your firm.
LB: Our small team has a great mix of age, personality, and strengths, and above all we all care about helping people. And helping people is not just our clients – it’s each other, it’s our community, and of course, our clients. One of our core beliefs is to make a compassionate difference every day in someone’s life – we strive to do this each day.
AALM: Tell us about your life outside the office?
LB: Married for over 20 years to my beautiful wife, Lindy, and we have three children, Preston, Sophie and Reid. All our kids are (or were) involved in sports and other extracurriculars throughout school so we are always on the go to a game, practice, a competition, or some other event. I’ve coached soccer and baseball since Preston started playing (he just graduated high school) and just wrapped up a baseball season with Reid’s team. I love helping and teaching the kids about sports, sportsmanship and life – and while sometimes it’s tough in the moment, it is all worth the effort. Beyond that, our family are huge LSU fans. We try to make as many games as possible and often have watch parties at our house or in our neighborhood.
AALM: How are you involved in the community?
LB: I’ve been a board member of our local United Way for a number of years, including a secretary/treasurer and finance committee lead. During my tenure, the organization has grown from about $1.2 million in donations to close to $5 million. In that time, we’ve funded the startup of a local community college for our area and started a school lunch back-pack program for children in economically disadvantaged areas to have food on the weekends and during school breaks, plus many more. Our office participates in a number of charity events including cookoffs to help community programs and members, and we sponsor quite a few school programs (sports teams, dance teams, robotics teams, academic teams, etc.).
AALM: Looking back on your career so far, is there anything you’d change?
LB: There’s always going to be some Monday morning quarterbacking, but I wouldn’t change anything really. Those learning moments have helped our team become stronger and made us the firm we are today. We view things as opportunities and not regrets.