We're excited to launch a series of interviews with Filevine users who are some of the most influential lawyers in America. These legal luminaries, recognized on Forbes' prestigious America’s Top 200 Lawyers for 2024 list, are not only building powerful legal careers but also shaping the future of the law. 

We begin our series with Danielle Ward Mason, a leading litigator on cases impacting women's health. Her work includes securing nearly $1 billion in verdicts against Johnson & Johnson for failing to warn about ovarian cancer risks, and she continues to be a champion for those harmed by dangerous products.

Tell us a little bit about your journey to getting to where you are today. How did you come to practice law and what drew you to the field? Did you have specific mentors or experiences that pushed you towards the career you have built? 

My journey to becoming a partner at Singleton Schreiber has been challenging, rewarding, and driven by a passion for justice, especially for the marginalized. This led me to pursue a career in law, where I believed I could make the most significant impact.

My work on women’s health cases, particularly securing nearly a billion dollars in verdicts against Johnson & Johnson for women with ovarian cancer caused by talcum powder, solidified my commitment to this cause. Mentorship has been crucial, with incredible mentors guiding, inspiring, and allowing me to champion causes I am passionate about. The strides made in the hair relaxer litigation exemplifies our team’s commitment to justice for women harmed by these products.  

You were the first Black woman to be named partner at two major national law firms, have built a career centered on advocating for women, and are heavily involved in DEI initiatives. As a woman of color, what have been the unique challenges and rewards you have seen as a result of your hard work in building a successful career?

Prior to joining Singleton Schreiber, I was the first Black woman to be named partner at two major national law firms, which was a significant milestone in my career, but it came with its unique set of challenges and rewards. As a woman of color, navigating a predominantly white and male-dominated legal field required resilience, determination, and a deep belief in my capabilities.

One of the primary challenges has been overcoming stereotypes and biases that can often undermine the contributions and potential of women of color. There were times when I had to work twice as hard to prove myself and ensure my voice was heard and respected. Additionally, balancing the demands of a high-stakes career with personal responsibilities posed its own set of difficulties.

However, these challenges have also been incredibly rewarding. They have fueled my passion for advocating for women, especially those who are usually overlooked. Achieving significant victories, such as securing significant verdicts against Johnson & Johnson for a woman with ovarian cancer caused by talcum powder, has been immensely gratifying. These wins not only bring justice to individuals but also set precedents that can lead to broader societal changes.

My involvement in DEI initiatives has also been particularly rewarding. Mentoring young attorneys of color and advocating for more inclusive policies within the legal profession have allowed me to give back and help pave the way for future generations. I am also proud of my committee work with organizations like AAJ and Public Justice that prioritize inclusion initiatives that serve the profession and make us better advocates for our clients. Seeing more women of color rise to leadership positions and succeed in their careers is a testament to the progress we are making, and it inspires me to continue this vital work.

Singleton Schreiber notes that your personal injury practice is specialized in claims involving dangerous drugs and medical devices. In your opinion, what are the defining characteristics that drive your approach to practicing law and make you unique in your philosophy? 

My approach to practicing law is driven by a commitment to justice, empathy, and relentless advocacy. Specializing in claims involving dangerous drugs and medical devices, I am deeply invested in understanding and supporting my clients through their legal challenges.

A client-centric approach is fundamental to my practice. Building strong, trusting relationships with my clients ensures they feel heard and supported. My relentless advocacy involves thorough preparation and a willingness to take on powerful corporations and win groundbreaking settlements. It has also been immensely helpful that my work in talcum powder and hair relaxer cases comes from a very personal place. Culturally, these products have been staples in the Black community and ones with which I am intimately familiar. When clients know I can understand what they’ve been through, they are better able to trust the process. 

Teamwork and collaboration are also key. At Singleton Schreiber, we leverage our diverse team's strengths to tackle complex cases effectively. Additionally, my focus on women’s health and safety, particularly in cases like the Hair Relaxer litigation, underscores my commitment to advocating for marginalized communities.

Throughout your career, you have fought high-profile, monumental cases, largely focused on women, and achieved groundbreaking wins. Looking back, is there a specific case that significantly shaped your legal approach? What about the experience made it so impactful? 

Without a doubt, I was most impacted by my representation of client Jackie Fox, a talcum powder client whose case was the first to be tried in the City of St. Louis. Jackie suffered from ovarian cancer and sadly did not live to participate in her own trial. Her passing devastated me, and unfortunately, she was not the only client we lost along the way. The relationship we forged was a strong one, and her memory lives with me every single day.  The talcum powder litigation deeply shaped my legal approach because it underscored the power of thorough investigation and the importance of uncovering hidden truths. The evidence we presented, which showed that Johnson & Johnson knowingly targeted women of color and concealed the dangers of their product, reinforced my commitment to fighting for transparency and justice. 

You are one of the leading litigators in the country and have made a significant impact in the fields in which you specialize. What advice would you give to a lawyer aspiring towards a similarly successful career in law today? 

My advice to aspiring lawyers is to be tenacious and committed to their cause. It's essential to have a deep understanding of the law, but equally important is the ability to connect with your clients and understand their stories. Building strong relationships and being a compassionate advocate are crucial. Additionally, never underestimate the power of collaboration. Working with other skilled attorneys and sharing knowledge can strengthen your cases and broaden your perspective. Lastly, always stay curious and be willing to learn. The legal field is constantly evolving, and staying informed about new developments and trends will help you remain at the forefront of your practice.

What motivates you to continue practicing law at the highest level? 

I am motivated by a profound sense of responsibility to advocate for those who might not have a voice otherwise. Knowing that my work can make a difference in people’s lives, especially women and minorities who are often disproportionately affected by harmful practices, fuels my passion. Each case is an opportunity to bring about change, seek justice, and hold powerful entities accountable. The gratitude of my clients and the impact of our victories on public health and corporate conduct are powerful motivators that drive me to continue striving for excellence in my practice.

What do you believe are the most significant trends you see shaping the legal industry today? 

One of the most important trends shaping the legal industry today is the increasing focus on social justice and corporate accountability. There is a growing recognition of the need to address systemic issues that disproportionately impact marginalized communities. This trend is driving more litigation in areas like environmental justice, consumer protection, and civil rights.