Women in Business 2011: Laura Clubb

Monday, November 21, 2011
Laura Clubb, partner with The Clubb Law Firm (Laura Simon)

As the former chief consumer advocate for the state attorney general's office, Laura Clubb was a watchdog for Missouri residents. Since opening a law firm with her husband J.P. Clubb in 2007, she has carved out a niche in the area of employment law, working on sexual harassment and age discrimination cases. When she's not helping clients, Clubb serves on the G.R.A.C.E.S. Council of United Way and is a Brownie troop leader at Alma Schrader Elementary School in Cape Girardeau.

BT: You were the chief consumer advocate for the Missouri Attorney General's Office. What did that entail?
Clubb: I served as chief counsel of the Consumer Protection Division for three years and as manager of the Consumer Complaint Unit for three years before that. As chief counsel I oversaw the investigation and litigation of consumer cases all over the state. I worked with some of the finest attorneys and investigators in the state, and I reported directly to Attorney General Jay Nixon, now our governor. The job was pretty stressful because of the sheer volume of consumer complaints we received each year. Without trained staff (and those investigators are the best), it would have been a complete disaster. But we had a process in place for vetting the complaints. Some were mediated by investigators and others were sent on to attorneys for enforcement purposes (lawsuits). During my tenure the division set new records for restitution recovery and helped thousands of Missourians. It was the second-best job I ever had.

BT: When and how did you become interested in consumer advocacy?
Clubb: It was really Jay Nixon who interested me in consumer protection. I had been with the AG's office for about two and a half years when Attorney General Nixon first approached me about managing the Consumer Complaint Unit. I had gone to work for the AG because I wanted to be a public service attorney, and I wanted to try cases. I started my career as an assistant attorney general in the Governmental Affairs Division of the office and helped to advise various licensing boards and to prosecute licensed professionals who were violating the law. I felt like I was performing a valuable service there, but Attorney General Nixon convinced me that I could reach and help more people in the Consumer Division. It was the office's largest division, with attorneys and investigators in Jefferson City, St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield. Once I started work there, I really fell in love with the practice and its rewards.

BT: What advice can you give people to avoid being victims of a scam?
Clubb: Well, the old saying, "If it's too good to be true, it probably is," is just about the best advice around. Honestly, people need to understand that con artists are only successful because they're smart enough to convince other smart people to buy their product/service/investment. I can't tell you how many victims of scams never call the police or the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Hotline because they feel foolish. I always tell people to follow their instincts; if you feel doubtful about something, don't do it. Wait and do some investigation. I'm constantly handing out the hot line number to people. I do not advise people to call organizations like the Better Business Bureau because they're not impartial.

BT: You're carving out a niche in employment law in Southeast Missouri. What led to that specialty?
Clubb: I've always been interested in employment practices and employment law, but it wasn't until we opened our own firm in 2007 that I had the time to actually learn about it in depth. My law partner was also interested in discrimination cases, so we studied hard and waited for a case to come along. The first case we took was Grissom v. Welker, et al, involving a woman who had been sexually harassed at her job in Sikeston and then fired after complaining about the sexual harassment. It went to a jury trial last summer and the jury found in favor of our client, awarding her actual and punitive damages, along with attorney fees. That case took nearly three years to get to trial, and in the meantime we started representing employees in all sorts of cases.

BT: What do you like most about your job? What's the most rewarding experience?
Clubb: I've always viewed the legal profession as one of the helping professions. My favorite part of the job is helping people to solve problems and/or to obtain justice. Some days that might mean working with a client to change a custody or child support arrangement. Other days that might mean helping a family complete their estate planning. Other days it might mean suing an employer who fired an employee for being too old or too infirm or for being a woman. My most rewarding experiences are those where I think I've truly made a difference for the better in a client's life. Many of my cases involve children and custody, and it's a terrific feeling to know that, because of my work, a child will get to stay with mom or dad or grandma and have a better life.

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