Frank Woodside '69: Building a Litigation Legacy
"In 1985, I tried a large case, the Bendectin Birth Defect Litigation that had more than 1,000 plaintiffs," says Frank Woodside '69, a partner at Dinsmore & Shohl LLP in Cincinnati. "I represented Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and we got a defense verdict. It was a large, monumental case, but not necessarily just because of the case, but because of what happened two days later. I was on 'Oprah.'"
In the Bendectin case, plaintiffs claimed unsuccessfully that the anti-nausea drug taken during pregnancy caused birth defects. The case was one in a career that Frank has spent representing manufacturing concerns in class actions and mass tort litigation involving pharmaceutical products, medical devices, chemicals and consumer products. He has handled the defense of health care providers in medical malpractice litigation as well. He has been recognized in The Best Lawyers in America for the past 11 years.
Because Frank has been successful in trying cases across the country, he understands how important it is for current Moritz students to gain familiarity with state-of-the-art courtroom technology. Working late one night, as is his habit, he called Dean Rogers to inquire how the moot court renovation fundraising was going. When Dean Rogers told him how much more was needed, Frank immediately pledged to contribute the remainder.
His gift completed the campaign to bring the moot courtroom into the 21st century with a new Digital Evidence Presentation System (DEPS) that will give students hands-on experience with the most sophisticated technology they are likely to encounter upon entering practice. The renovated moot courtroom will be named in honor of Frank at a ceremony scheduled later this fall.
"The law school was good to me, so I have tried to be good to the law school," Frank says.
Frank has vivid memories of his time in law school. One is of Professor Al Clovis' securities course in which he was called on every day.
"Professor Clovis found out I had an uncle that worked for the Securities and Exchange Commission," Frank says. "So he used to always say 'Mr. Woodside is an expert and so we will defer to him.' But I was thankful for it because I did get a good grade in the course."
Frank also remembers the legal clinic he took with Professor Carpenter as "one of the best experiences" he ever had, which is why he donated so generously to the Pro Bono Research Group (PBRG). The student-run PBRG expands access to legal services for indigent clients by assisting Ohio legal services attorneys with legal research and writing projects. Frank says the work the PBRG students do is similar to the work that he did while in the legal clinic.
Frank has also funded a companion speaker series, named in his honor.
"I think that the Woodside Speaker series is an excellent means of bringing public interest legal issues into the forefront of Moritz discussion," says Dianna Parker, current PBRG president. "It complements the Journal symposia nicely because it brings leaders in the practice face-to-face with faculty to tackle the practical complications and hurdles facing advocates and attorneys on various topics."
Frank was born in New Jersey, and at the age of five, he and his family moved to Wyoming, Ohio, just north of Cincinnati. After graduating from high school, Frank enrolled in Lehigh University as a pre-med major, but after spending just a little more than a year at the school, he decided to leave.
"I left. I did not withdraw and the school didn't find out until three weeks later when they called," he says. "I didn't take any of my midterms, which means that I received five F's, so my grade point average was a 0.0."
Frank ultimately returned to college at The Ohio State University, and says he loved it and did well. But because his low grade point from Lehigh University was averaged in with his good record at Ohio State, he found it difficult to get into medical school after graduation. Not knowing what else to do, he took the advice of a family friend who recommended he go to law school instead.
While a student at Moritz, Frank worked at The Ohio State University Hospital part time. Because he excelled in law school, he decided to apply to medical school again and chose to attend the University of Cincinnati.
Frank worked for his current firm throughout his medical school studies. When the time came to make a decision about whether to practice medicine or law, he decided on law.
"I thought if I practiced law, I could still use my medical knowledge," he says. "But if I had practiced medicine, I would probably never use my legal knowledge."
Frank lives with his wife, Julie, who is a nurse. Ideally, he would like to "slow down" in the next few years, but says he will believe it when he sees it. When asked about what he does in his spare time, he says he is "not too good at those things. Mostly I just work. I love trying cases."
Frank's two children have followed in his legal footsteps. His son Patrick is now a third-year law student at Moritz, and his other son, Christopher, is a law student at Northern Kentucky University. Frank says he never tried to talk his sons into practicing law. He only encouraged them to get a good education. His gifts to Moritz will help ensure other people have access to a good education as well.