Steven R. Young

Episode 001

Steven R.

Firm: The Law Offices of Steven R. Young

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Show Notes

In this episode of “Celebrating Justice,” Steven Young shares the stories of his family’s activist past in the mining industry and during the Depression that inspired him to fight the biggest battles and start his journey into trial law. 

Encouraged by his mother to pursue his passion in law, Steven has gone on to build a successful career emphasizing personalized connection with juries using psychological methods of engagement. Listen as he shares the story of a case he embarked on to help an immigrant family gain justice for damages incurred, his first ever trial that made a mark on him and motivates him to this day.

Steven has created a niche practice specializing in “last minute trials.” His trial experience covers all areas of law from class actions to a first in the nation trial against a hedge fund over municipal bond arbitrage derivatives to bad faith to business disputes to personal injury. He has spent years studying the art of persuasion, including storytelling, deep metaphor, painting word pictures, neurolinguistics and behavioral and relationship psychology, to find the most compelling ways to “stage” the drama that is trial.


1:13 – Why did you want to become a trial lawyer?
14:08 – What makes you unique?
18:39 – A case that matters.
31:26 – Steven’s “Closing Argument”

Key Takeaways

  • It doesn’t always matter how personally capable the individual is, the cause for which they are fighting holds much more weight in the outcome of their movement. 
  • Make an effort to engage the jury personally and psychologically to improve their engagement with the case.
  • Ensure you connect with your client and really empathize with and believe their story. This connection guarantees you can touch the jurors and present an extremely compelling case that can change someone’s life for the better.


[Theme Song Plays]

Steven Young: There was a scream in the courtroom. Edgar not only kicked their asses all over the courtroom, he kicked their asses all the way to the airport. I learned from my father that it doesn’t matter how big the man in the fight is, all that matters is what is he fighting for?

Narrator: Welcome to Celebrating Justice. Presented by the Trial Lawyers Journal and CloudLex, the next gen legal cloud platform built exclusively for personal injury law. Get inspired by the nation’s top trial lawyers and share in the stories that shape our pursuit of justice. Follow the podcast and join our community at Now here’s your host, editor of TLJ and VP of Marketing at CloudLex, Chad Sands.

Chad Sands: Welcome back, friends, to Celebrating Justice. In this episode, we welcome the astute mind of Stephen R. Young, a last minute jury attorney. Attorney Young has been at the helm of high stakes litigation for over four decades, and he’s got some entertaining stories to share. As always, I asked him, why did you want to become a trial lawyer?

Steven Young: Imagine yourself talking to your dad and he starts telling you stories. One story he’ll tell you is about his friend Edgar Danny, who was a lawyer that he used to play golf with. My dad wasn’t a lawyer. He never graduated from high school. Edgar Danny represented three employees of U.S. Steel. And my dad would tell the story of when the day for trial came, and he was representing these three gentlemen who had been fired just before they reached retirement age, and U.S. Steel said “no pension for you because you didn’t work until it vested.” And Edgar Danny sued because he said they were stealing the guy’s retirement. Day of trial arrives, and a whole cadre of attorneys from Philadelphia show up to beat up this backwater attorney in Salt Lake City, Utah. So my dad used to say, Edgar not only kicked their asses all over the courtroom, he kicked their asses all the way to the airport. And it instilled in me this idea. At the time, U.S. Steel was the biggest corporation in the world. And this little attorney with great courage took on the biggest corporation in the world, and won. And I never realized it until I got older. But my dad spun another story repeatedly for me, almost like a bedtime story. It was from his history. His father was a coal miner. His father was the president of the Coal Miners Local in a little backwater Ozark town in Oklahoma, meaning my grandpa would work the mines all day and would do union business at night. He wasn’t one of these guys that sat behind a desk. After World War One, the price of coal plummeted. It was the major energy resource for the world. And because of the end of the war, the owners of the mines dropped the amount that they would pay the miners for coal. And miners were the ultimate entrepreneurs. They had to buy all their own tools. They were paid on tonnage, not on salary. And if they couldn’t work, they didn’t make anything. And if they send a part of coal out of the mine and the superintendent said, oh, there’s too much slag in that and he rejected the whole card and then took the coal that was in it, there was no recourse. So my grandpa, as president of this Coal Miners Local, all of the miners went on strike across the country because they couldn’t afford to live on the amount the owners were paying. So the owners, including the owner of Republic Steel, went to the president of the United States and convinced him, you know, coal is so important. We’ve got to open up these mines, send the army in. And the president said, Okay, he sent the army in. What they do is they would go into a mining area, and they would open the mine forcefully at gunpoint, and then they’d go up into the hollers and find all the miners that were up in the hollers, hiding, and forced them into the mines to go to work. And they were doing this all around the country. My grandpa called up the union together. And he said, all across the country, miners are running away from the army. And I’m not sure that that’s how I want to handle this. And they had a lengthy discussion about it and a vote, and they voted. We’re going to stand on the railroad platform when the Army comes in. And so the day comes, I don’t know if you know, but on the train you had porters who were also union people. They telegraphed ahead to these towns when the army was coming. That’s where everybody headed for the hollers. So the message comes into McCurtain, Oklahoma, and my grandpa assembles the union on the railroad platform. Every store in the town closes. All of the farmers leave the fields. It’s going to be a problem. And the farmers and the storekeepers go and stand on the railroad platform with the miners. Why would they do that?

Chad Sands: They’re standing up? Joining together?

Steven Young: Well, every Christmas that union threw a Christmas party. Santa Claus came, and every child received an apple, an orange and a little trinket for Christmas. And for most of them, it was the only Christmas they ever received. And my grandpa had the vision of doing this for everybody in the town. They were actually taking money that the miners had accumulated for strike fund and using it to take care of everybody in the town, so every child had a Christmas. Even though my dad complained that they didn’t get Christmas in his house. So when the miners were in their deepest extremities, facing their greatest threat, the town came together to support them because the Union had loved the town first. So the train pulls into the station and the army is on the train. The doors open and with bayonets on their guns, their rifles. The army surges out of the train. The miners are on the platform with whatever they had. Guns, rakes, pitchforks, shovels, spades. They’re fighting with everything that they have. Men are dying on the platform. It is horrific, the way my father described the scene. The doors of the train close and the train pulls out. The army was on the train and the miners were still on the platform. My grandfather’s little union was able to negotiate a contract that they would accept because not only they, but the whole town, had stood up against the most powerful corporation in the country. I learned from my father, who grew up in the Depression on a farm with 11 brothers and sisters and a coal miner father who during the winter never saw the sun. But it doesn’t matter how big the man in the fight is. All that matters is what is he fighting for? 

He told me a story of a cousin of his who, during the depression at age 15, supported his whole family as a bar fighter. He was only 160 pounds, and he and his father would go into bars. And he’d pick a fight with the biggest man in the bar. And they’d go to it. The big guy would keep hitting my dad’s cousin and scoring and everything like that. My dad’s cousin was looking around as to what his dad was doing with the bets and when his dad had signaled, “I got all the bets,” my dad’s cousin would then proceed to absolutely tear the big man apart. I asked my dad, how did somebody so small who was getting beat up, turn these fights around and win? My dad said, well, the problem is, he was so fast that these hits that the big man was supposedly making were only glancing blows because he turned with the punch, so he wasn’t getting hurt at all. And when the time came, he was 160 pounds of pure rope wire, which is a metal cable. My dad was describing how sinewy and strong he was. He says, he’s one of the strongest men I had ever seen, and so fast you couldn’t touch him. And he didn’t care if he hurt you or killed you.

It was a brutal, brutal life. He supported the whole family on these bets during the depression. The extremity of necessity. And that’s what we as attorneys deal with every day. We have to be that 150-pound person who takes all the blows so that we can position our client to prevail and survive in the end.

The actual decision for me to become an attorney, though, wasn’t my father. It was all the stories he told that enraptured me and gave me this desire to fight the biggest battles. But I wanted to be rich. My mother was a nurse. We always discussed medicine. So of course, what did I major in when I went to college? I started in pre-med. Unfortunately, I had a horrible high school chemistry teacher, and no matter how hard I studied, I could never get higher than a B in chemistry. My mother, as a nurse, was going for an advanced degree at the same university, and I was complaining one morning. I don’t know how I’ll ever make medical school with B’s in chemistry. My mother, who was the smartest woman in the world, wicked smart. And so this woman who lived medicine and was so smart, hearing my complaints and not having the confidence to think I would make medical school, says to me, Stephen. You’ve always wanted to be a lawyer. Why aren’t you majoring in English? Going to law school and doing what will make you happy? And all the stories, of editor Danny, and the coal miners on the platform, my dad’s cousin, just sort of faded as the strobe light went off in my head, going, That’s exactly right, why can’t I see this? I changed my major that day, and my mother was so right. I hear attorneys complain about law all the time. I love law. I love what I do. I love talking to juries. And I love when I lose, and I really love when I win. She was so right. That’s how I became a lawyer.

Chad Sands: And now, years later, you are known as the ‘Last Minute’ trial attorney. Is that what makes you unique in what you do?

Steven Young: No. I know that there are attorneys out there who do ‘Last Minute’ trials. I’m not the only one. People come to me for help. But that’s not what makes me unique. Most attorneys spend so much time in their head, are so analytical, are so left brain, that they are never able to cross the chasm and metaphorically sit in the jury box with their arms around the jurors and relate to them and invite them to help. One of the questions I ask in jury selection of all of the jurors, “By show of hands, how many of you feel like you are a helpful person?” How would you respond to the question?

Chad Sands: I would raise my hand.

Steven Young: Can I ask you to raise your hand. What does it do? There are a couple of things at work here. Anytime you have two jurors, make a physical movement in response to a question. You have now involved central spine and the nervous system in responding, raising that hand. The other thing that you’re doing is you are tying that to a neural network that you have just created of ‘helpful.’ With cognitive ease and neural networks, you can pattern how the jury can and will respond to what you’re doing. There’s a book that I encourage everybody in our business to read. It’s called Pre-suasion. And it talks about this type of stuff not for trial lawyers. It’s a general public read type book. Psychologically interesting for trial attorneys. I suggest that it is required reading and then will give phenomenal insights because he talks about how ordering the way you ask the questions changes the ultimate answers and response you get. He talks about how asking these questions like, are you a helpful person? For example, he describes it in the book as survey takers found that the people willing to answer survey questions went up astronomically when the survey takers asked the question, could you help me for a moment? And I translated that into, how do I use this for jury selection? Oh, how many of you consider yourself a helpful person, show of hands? It’s just a small piece. It’s not going to win the case, but it’s the type of thing that I think makes me different.I am very sensitive, as I said, type stuff. I am an improvisational type of person. I live in my heart. I can analyze stuff, but if I get stuck in my head, it erects a barrier because people don’t want to come into my head. People want to know my heart. So if I’m in my head, I’m not isolating myself. If I’m open with gestures, with statements, with the emotion that I share that invites people in, which is the first step to persuading them to help. Which is why you want helpful people on your jury.

Chad Sands: It’s so good. I mean, you want to have this connection with the jury.

Steven Young: We talk about forming tribes, when Jerry was teaching, and that’s what you’re doing. You’re putting people into a group that they have never met. Trying to help them assimilate. Be somebody in the group, feel comfortable with the group and work together to reach a common goal. Yes, it’s a tribe.

Chad Sands: So I know there’s dozens, probably hundreds. But if you could share one case?

Steven Young: I will share my first trial. My first jury trial. I was a young attorney in a firm that specialized in real estate. I wanted to be a trial attorney because I didn’t like being in the office. I could draft contracts all day long in the office, drove me crazy. I wanted to get out and drive to court. One of the partners in the law firm, he calls me into his office one day. He says, my wife has told me that I have to help the house cleaner. I want you to handle the case because I don’t have time for this. And so I got into the case. Turns out the house cleaner’s husband worked selling solar water, heating systems, roof mounted, and they had a program with the Southern California Gas Company, where the gas company would finance the cost of putting the solar panels on your roof. And so this salesman says to himself, let’s see, ten years to repay. I can put the system on the roof. I get the commission. Yeah, I’m going to put this on my roof. The house was worth $29,000. It was a little tiny house in a, shall I say, humble section of Santa Ana. And she was being sued by the contractor to foreclose a mechanic’s lien on the home because the city came out to inspect for permits and said this violates permit code, take all of this stuff off the roof. And so they took it off and stacked it on the side of the house. The contractor then filed the mechanics lien, which gives them a lien that they can foreclose to recover the cost of what they did. As soon as this happened, true to form, Mr. Salesman took off for Argentina and we never saw him again, leaving my client and her three children to deal with the threatened loss of her house that she had bought before she married him, in which she was now stuck with his problem. And we fought and fought and fought and I subpoenaed records from the gas company because I wanted to know what the background was on this particular loan, and I found a memorandum between them and the contractor saying the improvements have been removed from the property.

Mr. Bruhn has now abandoned his wife and children. We have filed a motion or an action to foreclose the lien, and we’re awaiting your further instructions as to how to proceed. Think about what they said. Gas company was awaiting your instruction. The gas company had already paid the contractor. The contractor had his money. This was about the gas company getting their money back. So I filed a cross complaint against the gas company and the contractor for slander of title and intentional infliction of emotional distress, etc. So we go to trial, and I’m there as a defendant and cross complaint. And first thing I do is I make a motion to dismiss the complaint on the grounds there are no lien rights, because all the improvements have been removed from the property. There’s nothing for the lien to attach to. It’s invalid. And the judge agreed, dismissed the complaint, moved me to the other table so that I am now sitting in the plaintiff’s position. The gas company made a pretrial motion saying Mr. Young can’t or shouldn’t be able to refer to all of these memos that came out after the litigation was filed. I argued against it, and the judge granted that motion. So I stood up, and when it was time to give my opening statement, I told the story of Soledad Bruhn, and what was going on. I left out a few details that I’ll tell you in a moment that I introduced in evidence through the case. But the gas company’s attorney stands up after the contract. His attorney has made a horrible opening. He stands up for his opening, and he says probably 15 times during his opening, there will be no evidence showing the gas company did anything wrong or knew anything about this, because it never happened. And I’m thinking WTF? And so he finished with his opening statement. The judge says, Mr. Young, are you ready to call your first witness? I said, Your Honor, yes, but before I do that, I need to talk to you in chambers please. He says, Well, come on back. I said, Your Honor, you made an order that I couldn’t refer to these memos. You know, they exist because you read them as part of your review. And I followed your order. So when Mr. Carteli stood up and said that there was absolutely no connection, no memos, no control of any kind by the gas company of this lawsuit, he was lying to the jury. Carteli explodes, Your honor, I have never been accused of this before. This is outrageous. And I demand that you sanction Mr. Young. The judge says, Settle down, Mr. Carteli, please sit down. Yeah, I heard it the way Mr. Young heard it. Mr. Carteli, I think you told the jury that there were no memos ever. That the gas company had nothing to do with this. And yet I’m looking at these memos. What am I supposed to do with these when I have an attorney who is lying to the jury? I’m going to grant Mr. Young’s motion. He can use these memos now. 

Chad Sands: Wow. 

Steven Young: So we go to trial, and I’m using the memos and everything. I put my client on the stand. She can barely speak English. She is undocumented and was worried through the whole trial that the gas company was going to call immigration and deport her. But I talked to her and she said, what happened when this lien came? I got so sick. Did you go to the doctor? I did once. Where did you go? I went to the free clinic around the corner. What did they do for you? They gave me medicine. Did it help? Yes, I took it and my stomach felt better. But how come you only went once? I couldn’t afford it, I have to work to support my kids. How much did it cost to go to the clinic? $15. Is that all the medical expenses and bills you had? Yes, $15. I said, you pay your taxes, don’t you? Yes, every year. I said, If you pay your taxes, why didn’t you go get Medicaid, health care that the government provides for the poor? Mr. Young, I believe people need to work to support themselves. I wouldn’t do that. That was good testimony. It gave me that my total medical specials were $15. I had to figure out a way to talk about emotional distress. So I called her 12 year old son to the stand. I said, I went to your house two weeks ago, didn’t I? Yes. You and your two brothers sleep in one bedroom, don’t you? Yes. Your mother sleeps in the other. Yes. I want to ask you about when the workers came and took all the stuff off the roof of the house, and stacked it by the side of the house. Do you remember that? He says, oh, I remember that. I said, how do you remember that? He says, I remember every night, mama would come into our bedroom and we’d have prayers before me and my brothers went to bed, and she would then go into her bedroom, after acting cheery and bright and happy for us. And I would listen to her, every night, cry. I said, did you find out why she was crying? He said, no, not until you came to our house two weeks ago. I didn’t know. I didn’t know there was a lawsuit. I didn’t know they were trying to steal our house. I didn’t know they were destroying my mother. I said, well, tell me about your two little brothers. He said, well, and I don’t remember the name of the little brother, he’s doing good, he likes soccer, he plays. And Louis, Louis is special. I said, how old is Louis? He said, six and a half. I said, what makes Louis special? He said, Louis has downs. He will always be a little boy. He will always be my little brother. He will always be my mother’s little baby. And they were going to throw him out on the street. I said, no further questions. So we get to closing arguments and I’m seeking punitive damages. I have the financial statements for the Southern California Gas Company, and I had this idea of what’s sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander. They wanted to take basically three months of gross income from this woman to pay for the solar water heating system. And so I said, wouldn’t it be fair to punish the gas company if they had to pay punitive damages of three months of gross revenues, $3.1 billion? I said, but I can’t see a jury like you awarded it. So how about if we just do three months of net revenue, $63 million in punitive damages? And that’s what I asked for. And they didn’t give it to me. I got my $15 in medical specials and $449,000 in punitive damages. And I was overjoyed because I only had $15 in medical specials. When it came time for the settlement to come in. I had changed firms. In the meantime, I convinced the law firm that I was in that rather than taking a 40% contingent fee, that they would only take their hourly rate. And they agreed. I gave her the money. And she was worried that her husband would come back. I didn’t participate in this, but she took steps to make sure he couldn’t find the money. And I have never heard from her since. But I have every confidence that both her and her three sons have a much better life than they ever hoped for, because one small attorney was willing to stand up against one of the biggest corporations in California on behalf of one small woman with nothing and very little English. That’s my most memorable trial. I feel like I peaked too soon. I have judgments of multi, multi million dollars against large companies. That one for 450,000 is the one that I always remember.

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Now here is this episode’s closing argument.

Steven Young: All of the verdicts that I have obtained, one that was particularly satisfying for me was on behalf of a guy with an economics degree from UCLA who had developed a real estate business in Colorado, lived in California, had several homes here, and he had lost it all. He was involved in an automobile accident. He was hit. He developed something called thoracic outlet syndrome. And it is incredibly painful and debilitating. And the insurance company wouldn’t pay, his own insurance company. The attorney who was handling the case came to me and said, can you try this for us? I met with the client because that’s the most important thing, I have to know whether I can connect with the client. I have to know whether I believe the client, I have to know whether I like the client. Because if I’m going to trial, I have to actually love the client. Because if I don’t, the case is flat. There’s nothing to reach out and touch the jurors with. And the way you do that is with your love for your client. So he’s sitting in my conference room, kind of slouched, chin on his chest, a hand holding up his face, and he periodically would look over his fingers, as I was talking. So we had our meeting with the attorney who told us all about the case, and the client complained about what had happened. And I said to the attorney and the client, there’s a significant challenge in this case, and I don’t know if I can overcome that. He says, What’s the challenge? So the challenge is sitting across the table from me. Your client projects an arrogant, disinterested, uncaring attitude. I think if he’s willing to work on it, that we can shape him. If he goes into trial like this, the jury’s going to reject him. Just like he’s rejecting everybody across the table from him. I said, are you willing to work on this? And he said, after thinking, yeah, I’ll work on it. Didn’t seem too convincing. So I said, okay, if you’re willing to work, I’m willing to take the case. But we needed to figure out how to quantify damages. To me, that was the biggest challenge in the case. I found someone who had been a real estate developer in Colorado, and I found an appraiser who did appraisals for the county tax assessor, and I got the doctors I needed. And one of the attorneys that worked for me found a bad faith expert. So we went to trial and the trial was dirty. For some reason, the insurance company just pulled out every dirty trick in the book. And the trial was a war. I didn’t understand it because it shouldn’t feel that way to me, but they were making it a war. We get to the end of the case and I give a closing argument and it was a good one. The jury gave me $10 million. We then shifted into the punitive phase because the trial was bifurcated. So the second phase was on the insurance company’s net worth. What should we hit them with the punitive damages? The firm, which is a huge defense firm, brought in their California manager to try the second phase of the trial. And he was smooth and he was slick. And we made our arguments. And I gave my closing argument and I asked for $60 million in punitives. And they came back with an award of $13 million in punitives. And I ended up with a total verdict of $23 million. Now, the reason that I would take this to tell you is not because it’s an eight figure verdict, but because of what happened after the first phase verdict.

When the jury read its verdict and gave me, to the penny, everything that I asked for, there was a scream in the courtroom. It came from behind me. I turned around to see what it was. It was my client. He had collapsed into tears, crying openly like a baby in front of the jury, in front of the judge, in front of me. He did not care that anyone saw him, because he saw that his destroyed life had been returned. He had a way to go back into business, to get houses back, to rebuild from what this company stole from him. That is the joy and glory of being a trial attorney.

Chad Sands: That was trial lawyer Steven R. Young, the ‘last minute’ jury attorney based out of Orange County, California. Thanks for sharing those great stories. To learn more about Steven, visit his website All right, I’m Chad Sands. Thanks for listening. See you next time.

Narrator: You’ve been listening to Celebrating Justice, presented by Cloud Lex and the Trial Lawyers Journal. Remember, the stories don’t end here. Visit to become part of our community and keep the conversation going. And for a deeper dive into the tools that empower personal injury law firms, visit to learn more.