By Susan Belknapp, California Business Journal
If you’re expecting someone to shrink from a fight, don’t come for Kelly Hyman.
This attorney and former actress is a member of the class-action team at Colorado’s Franklin D. Azar & Associates, which takes on some of the world’s largest companies, including – get this – Google and Facebook.
Some of Hyman’s previous cases include class action suits involving tobacco, water contamination, and transvaginal mesh and bladder slings, against corporate power players such as Johnson & Johnson, Boston Scientific, and American Spirit.
“When people ask me what I do, I sometimes say, ‘Think of Erin Brockovich,’ since I have worked on water-contamination cases,” she says. “That usually helps clarify it for them.”
This isn’t where the Hollywood comparisons begin or end though. Hyman, who grew up in Southern California and New York City, has been an actress most of her life. Best known for her role as Loretta on “The Young and the Restless,” she also played Norman Fell’s daughter on the series, “Gettin’ There,” in addition to being a voice on the – now infamous – “Gimme a Break” Kit Kat bar commercial.
“I got my start when my mom was giving tennis lessons to Charlton Heston,” Hyman says. “I was a cute little kid and she was a single mom and she asked him if he could help get me an agent. He did and that’s how I got my start.”
This led to a dynamic, bicoastal childhood for the Florida native as she went to elementary and middle school in New York City and high school in the San Fernando Valley. After high school, she studied Communications at UCLA and Barry University in Miami, earning her bachelor’s from UCLA and her master’s from Barry.
While doing off-Broadway plays in New York, a former classmate encouraged her to pursue law. She took the advice and earned her Juris Doctor cum laude from the University of Florida, Levin College of Law. She is now a member of the bar in Colorado, Florida, Washington, D.C., and a member of the Colorado Chapter of the Federal Bar Association.
Back on the Small Screen
Hyman has recently started developing a presence as an on-camera commentator on Fox News, where she brings a Democratic perspective – no easy task. She’s recently appeared on “Law and Crime,” in addition to “Fox and Friends” and “The Ingraham Angle” on Fox News.
Topics discussed include the Jussie Smollett case, abolishing the Electoral College, Border battles and lowering the voting age to 16. She is a passionate defender of women’s rights, equality, voter rights, peace, and human rights, among other key issues.
“Taking the ‘opposite’ opinion on national TV can be difficult,” she says. “After my appearance on the ‘Ingraham Angle,’ my Twitter blew up and I was more than a bit overwhelmed. There were some rough comments but I think it’s important if we can reach people and that inspires them to vote.”
This isn’t her first time making the foray into political commentary or involvement. Another of her achievements during college was serving in the prestigious White House internship program. She has been politically active and passionate about politics and fighting for the underdog most of her life, though she has no desire to run for office herself.
“I’m all for women’s empowerment – especially being raised by a single mother – and in Florida, I was on the board of the nonprofit Dress for Success,” she says. “But I think doing what I’m doing now is how I can be most effective.”
Hyman believes her roots in acting, which are centered on empathy, storytelling, and the ability to walk in another person’s shoes, have helped mold and inform much of her approach to law. This works for courtroom mechanics in addition to the way she approaches a case and relates to those she is representing.
The Art of Being Mindful
“I’ve studied a lot of improv and it teaches you to be in the moment and that it’s so important to be present, mindful and think on your feet,” she says. “Part of acting is truly understanding what another person is going through. This applies to law too. A good attorney, especially those representing consumers, should be able to empathize with their clients to properly fight for them. Whether they’re experiencing health issues because of tobacco or contaminated water or they’ve had their data breached, it all helps you understand the other person’s perspective.”
Acting, performance and storytelling techniques also help when it comes to connecting to jurors and conveying the humanity of those you are representing. To help other attorneys understand this and maximize their skills, Hyman has lectured at seminars, teaching mindfulness, improv for attorneys and mass tort litigation.
“If you can put yourself in another’s position and feel what they are feeling and, as an attorney, tell that story to a judge or jury so that they truly engage, that is a significant part of the battle,” Hyman says. “The courtroom has often been compared to theater and really, it’s true. It has a structure and people playing roles, but it comes down to character, emotion and story, like theater does.”
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