Why Did Personal Injury Attorney Kline Give Away $50 Million?

Why Did Personal Injury Attorney Kline Give Away $50 Million? 2

Who said personal injury law couldn’t bring a personal fortune? No-one, right? Well for Thomas R Kline, the Philadelphia trial lawyer who has represented injury lawsuit clients over many years, he has not only made a fortune but now he has also donated a chunk of it – $50 million to be exact.

Mr Kline has made one of the largest-ever law school gifts in US history – $50 million which is to go to Drexel University for a Law School that will carry his name.

The attorney’s gift includes an historic bank building on a gentrifying retail block downtown.

He plans to restore the classical Horace Trumbauer building to a trial advocacy center for the law school, complete with a mock courtroom in the soaring first floor.

Drexel president John A. Fry said the money would be used to fund scholarships, add faculty, and expand the law school’s trial-advocacy program, which provides training for lawyers who plan to focus on courtroom practice.

Included in the gift is the former Beneficial Saving Fund Society building at 12th and Chestnut Streets, an imposing Classical Revival-style structure that has been vacant since 2001 and that will house the law school’s Institute for Trial Advocacy.

In recognition of the gift, the law school will be named the Thomas R. Kline School of Law.

“This is a major, major moment for the law school,” Fry said.

“This gives us the opportunity to put this relatively new law school on a firm financial footing and, in particular, establish it as a force for the practice of trial advocacy.”

Kline’s gift is the fourth-largest ever to a U.S. law school, Drexel said.

The largest was a $130 million contribution to the University of Arizona law school in 1999 from broadcasting executive James Rogers; next is a $100 million gift from Domino’s Pizza founder Thomas S. Monaghan to the law school of Ave Maria University in Florida; in third place is a $55 million gift to the Chapman University law school from real estate developer Dale E. Fowler and his wife, Sarah Ann.

The Drexel law school had been named for real estate investor and Drexel graduate Earle Mack, an early contributor. His name came off the school several years ago, however, to create new fund-raising opportunities, university officials said.

Thomas  Klines injury clients include a 4-year-old who lost a foot on a subway escalator, Victim No. 5 in the Penn State-Jerry Sandusky case, a 5-year-old girl kidnapped from her Philadelphia classroom and sexually tortured, and many people injured by medical misadventure and medical negligence.

Drexel’s law school is new, having opened in 2006 and now has 400 students.

“I think this gives us an opportunity to put this relatively new law school on firm financial footing, in particular to establish it as a real force for trial advocacy,” Drexel President John A. Fry said of Kline’s gift.

Kline, 66, a Drexel trustee, attended law school at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. He was raised in Hazleton, attended Albright College in Reading, earned a master’s degree in history at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, and worked as a middle school history teacher in Hazleton and a lawyer in Pottsville before settling in Philadelphia in 1980, AP report.

For the past 20 years, he has led a powerhouse law firm with Shanin Specter, the son of the late Sen. Arlen Specter. Five lawyers in the firm also have medical degrees.

“He’s an amazing storyteller. The jury hangs on every word he says,” said former Legal Intelligencer courthouse reporter Shannon Duffy.

Kline’s mentor, Philadelphia courtroom great and namesake Temple University law school benefactor James Beasley, and his wife, Paula, a teacher, both died 10 years ago. His wife and both parents died of cancer.

“We all have tragedy in our life. Life is that kind of journey,” said Kline, whose damage awards include $51 million in the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority escalator case (later reduced to $7.6 million) and $10 million in the kindergartener’s death.

While damage awards can help victims recover, Kline believes the law’s most crucial function is to force changes that safeguard the public.

Read more at Philly.com