January 2022 Cover Story - Dan Robinson: A Steady Hand to Lead the OCBA

by Kevin F. Calcagnie

When I first met Dan Robinson, the incoming 2022 OCBA President, he was operating a golf cart at a charity fundraising event. He had volunteered to ferry late-arriving guests who had been forced to park some distance away. I was a little apprehensive to get in the cart at first, since it was 1983 and Dan was only about seven years old at the time, but I was working for his dad, Mark Robinson, Jr., as a law clerk, so I figured I’d trust him. (Also, I really had no choice, as my wife was wearing heels and it was a very long walk uphill.) Although we were ready to jump out of the cart at the first sign of trouble, Dan drove that cart with a confident, steady hand. He got us to the event without a scratch. The incident stands out in my mind because I remember thinking at the time that Dan was remarkably mature for his age. In retrospect, it was entirely consistent with his personality. In the nearly forty years I have known him, he has always been ahead of the curve. And he has built an impressive legal résumé at a relatively young age.

Dan grew up in Orange County, living in succession in Santa Ana, Turtle Rock in Irvine, Laguna Hills, and then Laguna Niguel. He attended St. Margaret’s close to the time the school first opened. He then went to high school in San Diego, where his dad would race down the 5 freeway to catch his games each week. Dan was the quarterback of his high school football team and first baseman of his baseball team. But he wasn’t just an athlete. He was an excellent student and acted in school plays like Hamlet and West Side Story.

After graduating from Williams College with a degree in English, Dan was hired as an Investigative Analyst for the Rackets Bureau of the New York County District Attorney’s Office. Dan had tremendous respect for his boss, then-District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau, Jr., and would tell stories about using “wires” and “consent recordings” during investigations into kickbacks and mafia influence in New York’s construction industry. Two years later he returned to California to attend Loyola Law School, where Dan became enamored with the art of trial advocacy.

It was no shock when Dan decided to return to the New York County District Attorney’s Office after law school, where he was hired as an Assistant District Attorney in the Trial Bureau Division. Dan hit the ground running, winning the first trial in his class only two days after passing the New York Bar. Dan handled cases for different parts of the office, including the Domestic Violence, Public Assistance Fraud, Counterfeit Trafficking, and Identity Theft units. He went undefeated in his criminal trials, an impressive accomplishment given New York practitioners joked that the legal standard for a conviction by New York City jurors was proof “beyond an unreasonable doubt.”

After a few years, Dan moved back to California to be closer to his family. He was hired by O’Melveny & Myers LLP to work on general business litigation cases. Instead of prosecuting criminals, Dan was representing homebuilders, litigating partnership disputes, and defending corporations. After a few years, he decided to move on to Robinson Calcagnie, Inc., the plaintiffs firm where I work in Newport Beach. Upon leaving O’Melveny, he was chided by colleagues who wished him “Good luck on the dark side!” So it was only fitting that when he arrived at Robinson Calcagnie and began representing plaintiffs in mass torts, class actions, and personal injury cases, his new colleagues asked, “How was it on the dark side?”

Dan transitioned to the plaintiffs’ bar without missing a step. He dove right in and began handling individual catastrophic injury cases and complex mass torts cases involving defective products, such as birth control pills that led to the development of blood clots, metal hip implants that caused metallosis, anti-psychotic medications that harmed children, and diabetes drugs that caused bladder cancer. In addition to litigating cases involving defective products, Dan grew a niche handling data breach cases—actions involving mass disclosure of customers’ personal and health information. Within fifteen years, the Daily Journal recognized Dan as one of the top 25 and top 30 plaintiffs’ lawyers in California, and in 2021, Dan received their California Lawyer Attorney of the Year award for representing victims of the 2017 Mandalay Bay Shooting.

Looking back, it was only natural that Dan would be where he is today. The law is in his blood. Dan’s mother Linda and his sister Amanda are both lawyers. His grandfather, Mark P. Robinson, Sr., whom I worked for in the 1980s, was a prominent trial lawyer, the Public Defender of Ventura County, and the first president of the American Board of Trial Advocates. He was a member of the State Bar Board of Governors, and a recipient of the ABOTA California Trial Lawyer of the Year Award.

I probably don’t need to mention that Dan’s father, Mark P. Robinson, Jr., has been on the winning side of some of the most significant jury verdicts in history (such as the Pinto case), and he’s been inducted into the Halls of Fame of the American Trial Lawyers, the California Lawyers Association, and the Orange County Trial Lawyers Association. He has served as national president of ABOTA, president of the Consumer Attorneys of California, and president of the Orange County Trial Lawyers Association. Dan’s uncle, Jeoff Robinson, was a homicide prosecutor at the OCDA and has had noteworthy successes as well since going into private practice.

These are clearly tough acts to follow, but Dan has not disappointed. He has made a name for himself as a litigator, as a trial lawyer, and as a leader. However, he’s not riding anyone’s coattails. And he’s not content to sit on the sidelines and watch others do the work. He gets involved and he gets things done. He’s the kind of person who is always busy and always volunteering to help out. When he’s not working, Dan is coaching his kids’ sports or running off to events or board meetings for the OCBA, PLC, Project Youth OCBF, FBA, Loyola, or other groups. Even during COVID, Dan never slowed down. He set up our firm’s remote work protocol, then shifted to helping firms as chair of the OCBA’s COVID-19 task force, where Dan and his team offered dozens of free webinars and resources to OCBA members that helped keep our community connected during an unprecedented time. Although Dan is always willing to give advice, he’s also the kind of leader who seeks out the opinions and advice of others, rather than relying on instincts and impulsive decision-making. It’s these qualities, along with his natural tenacity, drive, determination, and vision, that make him the perfect choice to lead the Orange County Bar Association in 2022.

I’m confident Dan will steer the OCBA in the right direction and with a steady hand—much like he drove that golf cart nearly forty years ago.

Kevin F. Calcagnie is a partner at Robinson Calcagnie, Inc. where he represents plaintiffs in consumer and personal injury cases. He can be reached at kcalcagnie@robinsonfirm.com.