Anne Auten, Partner, DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary, Chicago by LawCrossing


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   LAW STAR                                                                                      1. 800.973.1177

                             Anne Auten, Partner, DLA Piper Rudnick Gray
                             Cary, Chicago
                             [by Regan Morris]
                             Commercial litigator Anne Auten is representing about 6,000 foster children from Nebraska in a federal
                             civil rights suit. LawCrossing speaks with Ms. Auten about the upcoming pro bono case and her career
                             with DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary in Chicago.

As a partner and litigator with a large firm,      what I do in commercial practice, but I think     school, said she knew from a young age that
Auten is skilled at trying commercial cases.       the issues are really interesting because a       she wanted to be an attorney. Her father has
But Auten is about to embark on the biggest        lot of what I do is contract or statutory, and    been a real estate attorney with Reed Smith
plaintiff’s case of her career—representing        these are really more constitutional issues of    in Philadelphia for 40 years. Auten’s sister
thousands of foster children from Nebraska.        substantive due process and others.”              is also an attorney, and so are a few of her
Auten is one of many attorneys involved                                                              uncles. Auten said there was no doubt in her
in the class action, which alleges the             Although not an expert in foster care, Auten      mind that she wanted a career in litigation.
state of Nebraska endangers children               said she has discovered through Children’s
with an “understaffed, underfunded, and            Rights and other sources that Nebraska            She said DLA Piper encouraged partners and
unresponsive” foster care system.                  has one of the worst systems in the country       associates to take on pro bono cases and that
                                                   for children and that too often, siblings are     it is viewed as a great way to help the less
The lawsuit was filed September 9 in U.S.         separated from each other.                        fortunate while helping attorneys gain more
District Court in Lincoln by Children’s Rights;                                                      varied professional experiences.
the Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in           “We have a claim for right of familial
the Public Interest; and several private law       association as well,” she said. “[We are]         “In my firm, pro bono is very important, and
firms, including DLA Piper.                        working toward reuniting [foster children]—if     I think I’ve learned that it’s something that
                                                   there is a possibility of that—with biological    really rounds out your practice,” she said.
The case Carson P. v. Heineman alleges             parents and also siblings. Because the kids       “Do great work for your clients, but also have
Nebraska is failing to provide legally             in foster care are very often split up from       a few pro bono things in which you can help
required safety, protection, and basic             their siblings and may go years without ever      individual people that don’t have that power
healthcare services to thousands of abused         being able to see their siblings, it makes        that most of your clients have, and it really
and neglected children in state custody and        their situation much worse.”                      rounds you out professionally.”
is forcing them to stay in foster care for long
periods of time without opportunity for a          Because the case has been filed, Auten            Making time for volunteer cases becomes
permanent, loving home.                            said there have already been positive             easier the longer you’ve been in practice, she
                                                   repercussions, with neighboring states            said. But associates, not just partners, should
Auten said the case is the biggest plaintiff’s     examining their own foster care systems.          pursue pro bono cases, perhaps on a smaller
class-action case she has been involved                                                              scale. Auten said attorneys should always put
in and that she normally has been on the           “After we filed our suit, a number of             their clients first and remember the law is a
defense side of such cases. As a partner in        newspapers in Wyoming were running                service industry and good attorneys need to
the litigation department, Auten handles           stories asking if their on foster care system     understand their clients’ businesses in order
class-action consumer fraud and some               would stand up to these tests and should we       to provide excellent service.
insurance work, and she often represents           be looking at our foster care system,” she
officers and directors of companies.               said. “So I think that’s a great impact of the    “If you don’t love it, don’t do it. Being a
                                                   lawsuit.”                                         lawyer is an extremely stressful profession
“I’ve done class-action defense, and I think                                                         that demands a large time commitment,
it’s always good for you as a lawyer to see the    Children’s Rights has filed similar lawsuits in   but it is also one of the most intellectually
other side of a problem,” she said. “It will be    other states.                                     challenging professions. The personal
interesting. I’ve never represented a class on                                                       sacrifices are worth it because you love what
behalf of a plaintiff in a class action. In that   Auten, a Pennsylvania native who followed         you do, you enjoy the people you work with,
sense, the class-action part of it is similar to   in her father’s footsteps by attending law        and you learn something new every day.”


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