Congratulations to Matthew Heinlen, our new partner! We thought we’d learn more about the man whose name is now officially on our letterhead. We sat down with Matthew to ask him a few questions. Read on for personal insight from Matthew Heinlen – including why he began to practice law, the lessons he’s learned, and what motivates him today.
What inspired you to enter the legal profession?
The legal profession was always in my blood. I just didn’t know it until college.
When I was coming out of high school, I was accepted into the engineering program at the University of Illinois. Over four years, I toiled away in lecture halls, labs, design projects, and internships. I appreciated the analytical rigor required to excel at engineering. But when I took elective classes, I felt myself drawn to law-related topics.
I realized that the law required not only analytical skills but a passion for people, and this appealed to me. So, while I was proud to achieve a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from one of the premier engineering colleges in the country, I knew that when it came time to take my next step, law school was what I wanted to do.
My engineering degree gave me a strong foundation to sharpen the problem-solving skills needed to be an attorney. But the University of Illinois College of Law is where everything clicked – where I could combine analytics with my interest in serving people. I knew that the legal profession was my future.
You spent more than seven years with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office after law school. How did that experience shape you?
There is no better proving ground for being an attorney than the criminal courtrooms of Cook County, Illinois. I developed skills there that I put into practice every day. I also developed an empathy for people. I worked with hundreds of victims. Victims of physical and emotional crime, business owners victimized by crime, countless family members and concerned citizens desiring justice, and many more. I began to understand what it means to be hurt by someone else’s wrongdoing. That empathy stays with me today when I represent our clients at Capron Avgerinos, and Heinlen.
Working in the state’s attorney’s office also honed my skills as a trial lawyer in a fast-paced environment. When you take a case to trial, you need to bring your A-game every time. Doing that means managing many complex moving parts and interacting well with different people, including victims you represent, witnesses, police officers, judges, and attorneys that you practice with and against. The analytical and people skills I developed in college were taken to a whole new level of learning.
Why did you join Capron Avgerinos & Heinlen?
When I left the state attorney’s office and considered what my next step would be, the one thing that I kept coming back to was the desire to continue to represent victims of wrongdoing. In our practice, I still feel I wear the white hat. I am able to represent people who need help. Not victims of crimes, but people who have been wronged by someone else or who need to be represented in a workers’ compensation claim.
Capron Avgerinos & Heinlen gave me the opportunity to stand up for people who are not in a position to stand up for themselves without getting legal help.
What lessons have you learned as an attorney at Capron Avgerinos & Heinlen?
My biggest takeaway is seeing the extreme contrast in power that exists between petitioners and plaintiffs and the insurance companies that they have to deal with after accidents and injuries – especially in workplace accidents.
The systems are already foreign and overwhelming to an injured person. Having an attorney allows the injured person to even the playing field. But the pressure that employers put on their employees to toe the company line and “be team players” leads to a reticence to do so.
Oftentimes, someone filing a workers’ compensation claim is taking on a boss or a former boss. They may get pressure not to file a case. Or the employee might be pressured to accept a less-than-ideal result. These experiences have strengthened my resolve to help our clients achieve the outcome they deserve.
I’ve also learned how to listen and understand the reasons someone might call on an attorney for help. Behind every case is someone with human wants and needs. Like getting their lives back. Achieving closure when a loved one dies. It’s important to listen first and show empathy. There is no script for being a good attorney.
What inspires you now?
I am motivated every day to be empathetic to our clients and pursue justice on their behalf. I hope that every time a client talks with me that they hear in my voice that they are more than just a file in my file drawer. That I care deeply for what they are dealing with. I am motivated to do right by them, and obtain the best result possible on their behalf.
Where do you see Capron Avgerinos & Heinlen headed? What’s your vision for Capron Avgerinos & Heinlen?
Capron Avgerinos & Heinlen has an amazing foundation, and one that does not need rebuilding. My vision for the future of our firm is continued modernization and growth in technology, while continuing to provide the same excellent service and representation that we have for the last 30 plus years to our clients.
The world has changed during the pandemic. The entire legal profession has been affected by the uptake of virtual technologies. We were already headed in this direction. We’d long ago learned how to develop a rapport with a client when you cannot meet face to face. Now we’re harnessing technology in a more fluid way, whether we’re having a videoconference, texting, communicating with secure emails, or talking on the phone. We’re also getting nimbler with the use of the cloud to retrieve and analyze information quickly 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The days of reviewing paper-intensive files are done.
Technology needs to support how we work by delivering personal service. Clients tell us all the time that they cannot believe how quickly they can talk with someone here. Some companies rely on intake specialists to screen all queries from potential clients. We don’t do that. When you call us with a case, the person who answers the phone may very likely be person who will handle your case. We like to hear from our clients. We like to know what is going on with your case. Technology needs to support that personal and responsive way we work.
What are your personal interests?
My personal interests mostly revolve around my family. I have an amazing wife and three wonderful children who have their own busy lives. So, when I have free time, it is typically focused on them, and being the best father I can be. I also love sports – particularly my Fighting Illini and the White Sox. I play 16” softball and try and golf when time allows. I love to learn, and to that end I read a lot and listen to a varied assortment of podcasts.
What’s the last good book you read, and why?
The last good book of fiction that I read was called “How Lucky,” by Will Leitch. It is a wonderful story about a severely handicapped man. He is one of the more dynamic, interesting, and inspiring characters that I have had the opportunity to discover in a novel. I was heartbroken to finish his story.
The last great nonfiction book I read was “The Baseball 100,” by Joe Posnanski, my all-time favorite author. If Joe writes something, I read it. I have a deep love the game of baseball, its impact on our country’s history, and its impact on fans young and old. This book “hit it out of the park.” Posnanski attempts to rank the Top 100 baseball players of all time, and in doing so writes 100 essays that go so much deeper than an examination of their baseball reference page would allow. I cannot recommend this book enough.
Thank you, Matthew, for taking the time!
The suit involves an explosion that occurred at a grain silo at the ADM facility in Clinton, Iowa, on January 5, 2019.
Here’s why things could get worse: the closure of businesses during the pandemic has idled buildings everywhere, causing water to stagnate in pipes and other parts of a structure’s water systems. The stagnant water is a breeding ground for Legionella bacteria, which can increase the risk for Legionnaires’ disease to break out in any enclosed space such as an office building or hotel.
Clients and friends, Capron Avgerinos & Heinlen is determined to do our part to stop the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) while ensuring that all of your legal needs continue to be met.
Due to the unprecedented situation the community now faces, and in accordance with the guidelines set by the CDC and state, we have temporarily changed the way we do business in an effort to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We believe these steps are in the best interest of our valued clients, employees, and our community.
At this time, Capron Avgerinos & Heinlen has transitioned to a remote work environment for our Chicago office. We are confident that our clients will not see any disruption to the legal services we provide. Our office has the technology in place to continue work at a normal pace and volume even though circumstances prevent us from working together onsite. We are hopeful that the virus is contained quickly and that we will resume normal business operations. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact our office if you have any questions or concerns regarding matters related to your current case; or if you have questions regarding a new potential case. We will respond.
As we work together to efficiently navigate this ever-evolving situation, we want to keep everyone updated with the current court operations. The Federal Court, the Circuit Court of Cook County and the surrounding counties as well as the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission have all announced shutdowns until at least the end of March. Until normal operations resume, the only matters that will be heard will be emergency motions and rare, remote hearings. All other status dates, hearings, and trials are being continued. The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commission remains open. However, until at least June, all hearings will be conducted by video conference remotely.
Rest assured that our lawyers and staff members will respond to voicemails and emails, answering your questions and addressing your needs to make certain your legal matters continue to be aggressively pursued. We will continue to do everything in our power to advance your interests. The work does not stop.
We have faced difficult circumstances in the past, and we have always come through with a combination of teamwork, compassion, and perseverance. We have no doubt that we will overcome this challenge as well.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Very truly yours,
CAPRON AVGERINOS & HEINLEN , P.C.
While the coronavirus gets headlines for wreaking havoc around the world, a lesser-known but insidious affliction continues to cause horrible pain for thousands of military veterans and defense contractors who have served overseas: burn pit exposure.
What Are Burn Pits?
Burn pit exposure is a debilitating condition resulting from being exposed to open-air fires used to destroy trash at U.S. military bases in Afghanistan and Iraq. These so-called open pits have caused thousands of civilian contractors and military personnel to inhale toxic smoke and fumes. People exposed to burn pits have reported the destruction of batteries, plastic chemical drums, nylon, tires, and even body parts. Bases have reportedly used JP4 jet fuel to ignite trash, releasing clouds of benzene (a known carcinogen).
The Damaging Impact of Burn Pits
The use of open pits has created injuries that have lingered years after contractors and soldiers have returned to the United States. In 2018, an Administrative Law judge ruled for the first time that such injuries may be compensable under the DBA. Virginia Landry was sent to Iraq in 2004 by Kellogg, Brown, and Root. She worked as a recreational and morale specialist at Mosul Air Force Base. After suffering PTSD, she was sent home. But her problems were just beginning. She began to develop lung problems and migraines among other physical ailments, triggering hospital visits that have dogged her for about 10 years. In 2018, a judge ruled that the presence of open-air pits during her time in Iraq contributed to her lung problems. Two years later, she was finally awarded disability and some medical reimbursement for her expenses.
Her road has been a difficult one. The insurance company for her employer refused to pay her medical expenses and acknowledge the injuries arose from her employment until the judge’s ruling. Meanwhile she continues to experience painful flare-ups due to inflammation of her lungs. She is not alone, either. About 186,000 veterans and active members of the military have responded to an Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry established by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in 2014. We don’t know how many contractors are suffering from this affliction. But we know from experience that contractors face the risks serving alongside military personnel – so Veronica Landry is surely only one of many.
The Defense Base Act
Contractors have no VA registry to turn to – and a registry is hardly a guarantee of getting any justice for this horrible affliction. But contractors have another option: filing for workers’ compensation relief under Defense Base Act. For civilian contractors who are injured while working overseas or on a military base, the Defense Base Act entitles them to benefits to cover their lost income as well as their medical expenses.
The provisions of the act are similar in function to state workers’ compensation programs in that every government contract that comes within the purview of the act requires that the contractor maintain insurance that will pay benefits to employees if they are injured. If an employee who is covered by the act is injured, he or she will receive disability and medical benefits if he or she is unable to work. The rate of compensation varies per situation including when the injury was sustained.
This is just one of many reasons an injured worker should contact an attorney that is experienced in Defense Base Act claims. In cases of permanent disability, workers can receive benefits for life that is adjustable based on fluctuations in the annual cost of living. Under the act, injured workers are allowed to see the physician of his or her choice.
As the example of Veronica Landry attests, getting compensated from employers and insurance companies for a Burn Pit affliction can be difficult. That’s why you need the help of an experienced attorney at a firm such as Capron Avgerinos & Heinlen. We have deep experience helping contractors get justice through the Defense Base Act (DBA).
For example, we negotiated a $635,000 settlement for a 53-year-old interpreter who suffered multiple injuries while deployed in Baghdad. The settlement included compensation for his disability and ongoing medical treatment over the course of his lifetime. You can learn more about our DBA work and expertise here.
Thanks to the DBA, at least civilian contractors have recourse to gain some compensation for the price they have paid while serving our country. This blog post of mine provides more detail about who is covered and the benefits the DBA provides.
If you or a loved one believe you are a victim of Burn Pit exposure, contact Capron Avgerinos & Heinlen. We know how to get justice you deserve.
Call Capron Avgerinos & Heinlen
If an employee who is covered by the Defense Base Act is injured, he or she is entitled to disability and medical benefits. No two cases are the same, and the amount of compensation varies per situation. This is just one of many reasons an injured worker should contact an attorney that is experienced in Defense Base Act claims. Call Capron Avgerinos & Heinlen now at (855) 208-3699 if you believe you are entitled to compensation under the Defense Base Act. We are ready to assist. Let us show how we can deliver results for you.