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The heart of litigation: David Sugden’s unique approach to trial advocacy

David Sugden’s life influences his litigation career

Photo courtesy of David Sugden
Photo courtesy of David Sugden

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David Sugden‘s journey to becoming one of the nation’s most respected trial attorneys is a testament to perseverance, dedication, and a deep-seated desire to master a craft. While he is proud of his trial victories, he is equally proud of his victories in the trials of life. Sugden is certain that all of his experiences make him a better trial lawyer.

From baseball fields to courtrooms: A foundation built on excellence

Hailing from the picturesque landscapes of Vancouver, British Columbia, Sugden’s early years were marked by a passion for sports, particularly baseball. His talent and dedication were undeniable, leading him to pursue a collegiate baseball career at Pepperdine University in California. 

“I loved being a catcher. In a strange way I think it prepared me for my career in the courtroom. I learned the importance of preparing well and mental toughness,” Sugden says. “If you strike out, you need to let it go because you’ll have another at-bat a few innings later. A judge sustains an objection to a key piece of evidence in the middle of trial? Same thing. You need to let it go and adjust.” 

He not only excelled on the field but also found the love of his life with his college sweetheart, and now wife, Marni. Their shared commitment to excellence, both on and off the field, laid the foundation for a partnership that would endure life’s many challenges and triumphs.

“Marni was a swimmer at Pepperdine. We bonded over the challenges of student-athlete life,” Sugden says, grinning.

Following his graduation from Pepperdine School of Law, Sugden embarked on his legal career at Call & Jensen, a prestigious firm based in Newport Beach, California, where he remains today. He made partner in a few short years.

Sugden chose to specialize in civil litigation. But unlike many attorneys, his practice is devoted to trial work.

“Most cases never go to trial, so my experience in the courtroom is unique. I often get pulled into cases that have been going for a long time, simply to handle the trial,” Sugden says.

He has successfully handled a wide range of cases, spanning multiple legal areas such as intellectual property, employment, environment, contract, and trade secrets. His diverse experience in trying cases to verdict on both the plaintiff and defense sides has resulted in an impressive track record of success. Sugden pairs knowledge of the legal system with a deep understanding of human nature, combined with his art of persuasion, making him a highly respected trial attorney known for achieving favorable outcomes for his clients.

“People feel first and think second. By understanding this, I work to craft a narrative that persuades the hearts and minds of the jury,” he says.

A family man above all else

While attaining his legal success, Sugden has always prioritized his role as a husband and father above all else.  

“Despite the demands of his career,” said Marni, “he has never wavered in his dedication to our family.” 

The couple have three daughters, each with their own unique challenges, that have served as a constant source of inspiration and motivation for Sugden. 

One daughter was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in her teens, while another daughter thrives despite Cerebral Palsy and deafness. The entire Sugden family has learned sign language to ensure seamless communication and unwavering support for their daughter.  These experiences shaped his perspective and approach to both life and the law.

“Their resilience and strength have taught me invaluable lessons about empathy, perseverance, and the true meaning of compassion,” says Sugden.  

Facing adversity with strength and grace

Sugden’s personal battle with cancer in 2012 solidified his strength and compassion. He faced cancer and subsequent rounds of chemotherapy with the same determination he brings to the courtroom.  

“I never want to be defined or identified by my prior illness,” he explains. “But this experience undoubtedly deepened my empathy for those facing their own challenges.”

Accolades and recognition: A testament to skill 

Through it all, Sugden’s dedication to his craft and his unwavering integrity have not gone unnoticed. He has garnered widespread recognition and accolades within the legal community, solidifying his reputation as a compassionate advocate and a formidable force in the courtroom– including the prestigious California Trial Attorney of the Year award. Yet, despite his many achievements, Sugden remains remarkably humble and grounded.  

In a profession often associated with ruthless tactics and relentless pursuit of victory at all costs, Sugden has carved his own path. He has eschewed the stereotype of the aggressive “shark” attorney in favor of a more compassionate and human-centered approach.  

“I’ve always believed that the true measure of a great attorney lies not in their ability to win at all costs, but in their capacity to affect the jury,” says Sugden.  

This philosophy is evident in his litigation. His innate ability to connect with jurors on a personal level, has earned him a reputation as a trusted and effective advocate.  

“At the end of the day,” Sugden reflects, “I think my journey has been about taking everything I learn in life and becoming better for it. Whether in the courtroom or at home with my family, I always give my best.”

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Jon Stojan is a professional writer based in Wisconsin. He guides editorial teams consisting of writers across the US to help them become more skilled and diverse writers. In his free time he enjoys spending time with his wife and children.

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