Shared Values and Friendships Are Key to Firm’s Longevity
|Steve Rossman, Charles Baumberger, Alexandra Reboso,|
Alex Reboso and Howard Spier
Back in 1974, law school friends Stephen “Steve” Rossman and Charles “Chuck” Baumberger opened the doors of their Miami plaintiff’s law firm. Four decades later, they are still trying cases, still partners and still friends.
“Our firm’s longevity starts with a culture of teamwork,” says Rossman. “We all work together to build strong cases for our clients in the courts. We also believe in giving back to those who need our help. That spirit of compassion runs deep in our firm.”
Through the years, the two founders — along with longtime managing partner Manuel “Alex” Reboso and Howard Spier, a nationally known railroad attorney — have been widely recognized for their leadership in the legal profession and in charitable causes.
“We have always been a small civil trial firm that represents the catastrophically injured and their families,” says Baumberger, noting that the firm’s practice areas include medical malpractice, trucking accidents, products liability, admiralty and maritime law, and railroad litigation. “We look forward to continuing that tradition of service to others.”
The Firm’s Founders
Both the firm’s founders have deep roots in South Florida. Baumberger was raised here and grew up with a lasting interest in history and political science. He chose law as a career, and enrolled at the University of Florida College of Law. Rossman, whose family moved to Miami when he was in high school, also planned to become an attorney early in life.
“Chuck and I became friends while we were both in law school at the University of Florida in the mid-1960s,” says Rossman. “We both got started at other firms, and worked with some great mentors for several years before we decided to give it a shot ourselves.”
Baumberger says he has always liked helping people, so representing injured parties was a “natural fit” for him. “When Steve and I formed the firm, we decided to remove any points of potential internal conflicts,” he adds. “Our wives were very supportive and our families have stayed close through the years.”
Both Rossman and Baumberger are board-certified in civil trial law, as is Reboso, and the firm has achieved many multi-million dollar verdicts and recoveries for its clients. “I’m also proud that we are known for our professionalism and civility,” adds Baumberger.
On January 1, 2016, Baumberger became president of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), a national group of plaintiff and defense advocates. “Our mission is to preserve the right to trial by jury, while raising the level of professionalism in the courtroom,” he says.
Baumberger says his primary goal for the year is to start the process of helping ABOTA reflect the changing face of America with more women, minorities and younger members. “Here in Miami-Dade, we have a substantial number of Cuban-American attorneys, so our local chapter is relatively diverse, compared with others around the country.”
Baumberger will also continue ABOTA’s push for civic education. “We have concentrated on math and sciences, but we cannot forget the importance of teaching our children about civics, as well,” he adds.
A former president of the Florida Justice Association and the Dade County Trial Lawyers Association, Rossman has also been a leader in charitable organizations. After his daughter Karly was diagnosed with a neurological disability nearly 30 years ago and placed in an Easter Seals’ school, he became active in the organization as a volunteer, fundraiser, board member, Miami chair and national director, ultimately serving, from 2010 to 2013, three terms as Easter Seals international board chair.
Back in 1992, Rossman represented a business executive who became a quadriplegic after an accident in the Caribbean. “He was determined to live a productive life, despite his disability,” Rossman says. “He started a charitable foundation with his wife, and asked me to be a trustee. Since then, those funds have helped fund scientific research at the Miami Project and a shelter for families in distress.”
In October 2015, Rossman received the Justice Joseph Story Award from the Dade County Bar Association for his work on behalf of the powerless. He also recently received the Fran Peacock Coker Community Service Award from the Florida chapter of ABOTA, which cited his “selfless advocacy for civic and philanthropic causes,” in addition to his professionalism, leadership and sterling record as a lawyer.
Litigating Railroad Cases
A railroad litigator since 1981, Spier joined the firm in 1996. It was a natural fit, as Baumberger — the son of a railroad worker — was already handling plaintiff’s cases. “We gained the support of the railroad unions, which designate lawyers or firms to represent their members in workplace accident or death cases,” Spier says. “Now, we have one of the finest railroad divisions of any firm in the country.”
Spier spends a great deal of his time on the road, traveling to union meetings in the Southeast U.S., educating railroad workers about their rights under the 1908 Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA),
Along with providing full legal services to workers and families, Spier is a long-time member of the Academy of Rail Labor Attorneys, and served as president in 2011. “Railroading is a dangerous profession,” he says “At the time FELA was passed, the average career for a railroad employee was just seven years before death or disability. Today, it is very important to ensure workers maintain their rights under that law.”
With his experience in all areas of railroad operations, Spier works with safety investigators and nationally recognized experts to reconstruct the cause of a railroad accident. He represented several families in the 2002 crash of the Amtrak Auto Train in Crescent City, Florida, and in the 2005 Norfolk Southern train derailment in Graniteville, S.C., that caused a tank car rupture, sending a cloud of deadly chlorine gas into the community.
One of Spier’s proudest accomplishments involves an occupational hearing loss case he handled in the 1990s against the Southern Railway that went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. “Before that, locomotive engines were equipped with very loud horns located behind the ears of the train crew,” he says. After this case, the railroads retrofitted their locomotives by relocating the horns and also instituted a nationwide hearing conservation program that is responsible for protecting the hearing of thousands of railroad workers.
Managing the Firm
Like the founders, Alex Reboso worked for a different firm for several years before joined Rossman Baumberger in 1986. “I had handled commercial litigation and wanted to do plaintiff’s work,” he says. “Chuck and Steve had a phenomenal reputation, and I saw this as a great opportunity to get in on the ground floor.”
Over the past 30 years, Reboso has focused on handling construction site accidents, medical malpractice, products liability and marine accidents. “My father was an architect and contractor, so I learned about construction at an early age,” he says. “I’m a boater myself, so I have personal experience about what it’s like to be out on the water.”
As a trial lawyer, Reboso enjoys being in the courtroom. “I’ve always thought of myself as a teacher, and that’s what I do in my practice — explaining our case to a jury.” A past president of the Miami Dade Justice Association, Reboso also enjoys educating Miami-Dade high school teachers and their students about the nation’s civil justice system. In 2007, he was awarded the W. McKinley Smiley, Jr. Award by the Florida Justice Association for mentoring young lawyers in Florida.
Reboso is also looking forward to the next step in Rossman Baumberger’s evolution, as his daughter Alexandra recently joined the firm. A graduate of the University of Miami School of Law, she was clerking at the firm when the partners extended an offer. “She’s already taken a liking to plaintiff’s work,” he says. “I’m having a blast practicing with her.”
South Florida Legal Guide 2016 Edition