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Making the Right Choice

Kevin Quinn

“I had my pick of any law school in the country.”

In 1978, Kevin Quinn ’82 had an enviable choice to make. A choice that ultimately would come easily to him and one that he would never regret.

At 17, Quinn joined the Army. He wanted to follow in the footsteps of his brother, a Vietnam vet.

A good football player in high school, Quinn earned a Corps Squad Athletic Scholarship which enabled him to enter West Point after just one year of prep school.

“It was a time of high anxiety,” recalls Quinn. “If the coach wasn’t recommending you to play sports at West Point, or your SAT scores weren’t high enough, you ended up in Vietnam.”

Quinn, however, did make the grade and ended up playing football for two years at the academy. But during that time he sustained multiple injuries that later led to five shoulder surgeries and a knee replacement.

As a result, he was medically discharged.

His discharge from the Army had a silver lining, however. When his G.I. Bill kicked in, Quinn, having tested in the “professional scores range,” received the remainder of his education fully paid.

Quinn had initially wanted to pursue a career in physical therapy, but an interaction with a doctor and a lawyer changed his career trajectory.

“I needed surgery on one of my knees,” recalls Quinn. “The doctor, who was the doctor for the Padres at the time, operated on the wrong knee. They ended up operating on both knees which crippled me for months,” he remembers.

Quinn hired a lawyer, who went on to broker a deal promising that the doctor would perform all further surgeries at no cost. Quinn accepted the deal but later found out that the doctor and the lawyer were working together and had some form of business relationship.

“I was outraged,” says Quinn. “And that’s what got me into law school. I never wanted to be taken advantage of again, and I didn’t want others to either.”

Quinn’s brother lived in San Diego, so that’s where he headed with his sights firmly set on USD. A chance meeting with notable philanthropist, California Western alumnus, and CWSL Dean of Students at the time Dennis Avery in Ocean Beach changed all that.

“We hit it off right away,” says Quinn. “He was a great guy. I told him that I had this golden ticket and that I was planning on going to USD. He told me, ‘Forget USD, come to Cal Western. It’s right here, you’re right in the thick of things, you’ll get jobs and stuff like that.’ And so that’s what I did, and I was very happy that I did it.”

Quinn thoroughly enjoyed his time at California Western and singled out Professor Bill Lynch as pivotal in his law school experience.

“Professor Lynch was infamous to incoming students for having a photographic memory,” recalls Quinn.

Quinn graduated from California Western magna cum laude, having served as a member of the Law Review in 1982. He passed the California Bar later that year and was subsequently hired by a law firm in San Diego.

More than 30 years later, Kevin Quinn is still with that same law firm—Thorsnes, Bartolotta, and McGuire (TBM) in downtown San Diego. He has tried many notable cases with distinction and great results including winning the first settlement against Shiley heart valves in 1993.

He became one of the first lawyers to volunteer as a pro-bono representative for the families of those killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11, obtaining more than $5,000,000 in compensation from the 9/11 victims’ fund for the family of David Berray, who was killed when the North Tower collapsed.

In 2017 Quinn led the team that successfully argued before the California Supreme Court a lower court’s decision to protect drug manufacturers from failing to warn consumers about the alleged dangers of generic versions.

Among his many accolades, Quinn has been named as one of the Best Lawyers in America for 12 consecutive years. In 2018 he was named by the Wall Street Journal as Southern California Lawyer of the Year.

During his long and distinguished career, Quinn says he has always made an effort to hire California Western graduates. During his tenure, TBM has employed more than 30 alumni as law clerks subsequently hiring more than six as attorneys.

“The quality of graduates coming out of Cal Western is outstanding,” says Quinn. “They are more practice ready than students from virtually all of the better-known law schools, due in no small part to the level of commitment and enthusiasm of the professors. Cal Western really prepares you, and having gone to West Point, that’s saying something,” adds Quinn.

Quinn had to complete one year at SDSU before coming to Cal Western. “I blew through that with no problem, but when I came to Cal Western, I had to work for it, because there were good instructors and strong competition.”

His advice to current Cal Western students is typically direct, “Go to work as quickly as you can. Get out in the community and get a job as a clerk and just stay with it. Don’t cave and you will succeed.”

Quinn credits California Western for molding his style and ethos right from day one, and he articulates it very simply:

“Full speed, no excuses, get it done.”

For more on Kevin Quinn’s accomplishments, please visit: