Attorney Sean Keith has served on the Arkansas Supreme Court, as chairman for the Arkansas Bar Association Board of Governors and as president of the Benton County Bar Association — but those concrete achievements are not what he thinks of when reflecting on his proudest professional moments.
“I think more about the people I’ve helped, honestly,” Keith said.
As a partner at Keith, Miller, Butler, Schneider & Pawlik PLLC in Rogers, Keith handles personal injury cases, and that field of work often connects him with clients who are in deeply emotional circumstances. Those clients look to Keith for help in achieving some sense of resolution or comfort.
“I’ve represented families who have had children die as a result of other people’s negligence, and those are really difficult cases personally, as well as professionally,” Keith said.
At the same time, he has, on multiple occasions, been able to effect positive change from tragedy. For example, he helped get state legislation passed to ban certain dangerous structures from playgrounds. In another instance, he helped establish safety measures for standing water at an apartment complex. In both cases, Keith played a part in resolving unsafe situations that resulted in the deaths of children.
“While I can’t really affect what has happened to my clients in the past, I’m sometimes able to do things that affect what happens to your kids and to the community at large,” Keith said.
Meanwhile, during the past five years he has also begun practicing mass tort litigation related to prescription drug and medical device cases, and that has brought him business from throughout the state and nation.
Attorneys who litigate these cases are part of a niche group. As a result, Keith regularly receives referrals and also gives continuing education speeches on the subject.
Keith is involved in the well-known transvaginal mesh and bladder sling cases, and represented between 40 and 50 clients on a defective hip replacement case that resulted in an total settlement of more than $1 billion.
“I really enjoy the medical side of it. It’s quite ironic. Biology was never my strong-suit,” he said. “You have to have a really good understanding, and it’s like anything else, you don’t develop an inventory of prescription drug cases overnight, it’s a long, hard process.”
While Keith has built up that portion of his practice, the law firm as a whole has expanded, partly due to the region’s growth and partly due to an augmented client base linked to the quality of work the firm does, Keith said. “As your reputation grows you get busier.”
When Keith was featured as a member of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class in 2002, his law practice had seven attorneys. Now, there are 13, and the firm has opened an additional office in Fayetteville.
In addition to Keith, three current partners were with the firm in 2002, Drew Miller, Steve Butler and Mary Schneider.
Keith believes the enduring partnership can be attributed to a mutual respect and trust, and that tight-knit relationship seems to extend throughout the firm.
“If you come to our office in Rogers during lunchtime, three or four days out of five, we’re all sitting down at a table together, staff and attorneys, eating lunch,” Keith said. “That’s something that I take a lot of pride in.”
Add to that the firm members’ shared dedication to hard work.
In fact, Keith and Miller would race to the office in the early days of the practice, which they founded in 1995.
“I’ll never forget. It was snowing one morning, our second week in practice. I got to the office about 6:30, but then I thought, ‘There’s no way Drew will beat me today,’” Keith said.
Confident he had time, Keith decided to go pick up breakfast at Braum’s. As he was leaving, Miller pulled in.
Reflecting on the hunger for success the partners shared, Keith said, “It was 6:30 in the morning, snowing, and we had zero things to do,” and yet they were both at the office, ready to work.
That hunger has earned Keith the ABA’s 2013 C.E. Ransick Award of Excellence, multiple recognitions as Super Lawyer for the Mid-South and a Top 100 Trial Lawyer nod from the National Trial Lawyers.
Keith, 48, is the son of retired Benton County Circuit Court Judge Tom Keith.
An avid baseball fan, his favorite team is the Kansas City Royals. When he’s not following baseball, his free time is spent with his wife, Amy, and two teenage children, Patrick and Mallory.