Notable Alumnus Profiled: Rich Goetz, JD'84

The Alumni Law Society will feature alumni lawyers from around the country.

Rich Goetz, J.D. ’84, co-chairs O’Melveny & Myer’s Consumer Class Actions and Product Liability/Mass Tort Practices, which have been recognized by Chambers USA as leading practices for nine consecutive years. He also leads the Firm’s 200-lawyer Southern California Litigation Practice and serves on the Firm’s seven-member Executive Committee. Benchmark Litigation calls him a national “Litigation Star,” and The Legal 500: United States and Chambers USA recognize him as a “Leading Lawyer.”
But before he became one of the most influential attorneys specializing in complex tort litigation in Los Angeles, he was a first-year student in Richard Epstein’s Torts class. After a frustrating discussion about California law, he turned to a classmate and inaccurately predicted, “I will never practice in California!”

Rich also remembers fondly a course taught by Dick Helmholz during which he met Chris Scoby, a classmate. Chris and Rich became engaged not long afterward.  The professor gave the happy student couple a magnum of champagne to congratulate them.

Outside of the firm, Rich has served on a team of observers sent by the Pacific Council on International Policy to observe proceedings at Guantanamo Bay, including some involving Khalid Sheihk Mohammed, the principal architect of the 9/11 terrorist attack. As a leader of the 18-member bipartisan team, he co-wrote a Pacific Council report and Newsweek editorial concluding, “Experienced federal judges would be better positioned than military judges to evaluate the millions of pieces of classified information that have mired the Guantánamo cases in years-long discovery disputes. Because they are civilians, the federal judges would also deflect perceptions of improper ‘command influence,’ and their lifetime appointments would shield them from political interference.”

Rich is especially grateful for how the Law School taught him not just to ask what the law is or what the right law is, but to think about how to change the law, as law inevitably changes over time. That perspective has helped him push the boundaries of the law for his clients during his career.

“The longer out, the more I appreciate the University of Chicago,” Rich concluded. “It has been a place to be proud of and to have been proud to have attended.”