Stephen R. Cornwell

Stephen R. Cornwell is recognized as one of the most experienced plaintiff’s personal injury attorneys in the San Joaquin Valley, having tried over 150 cases in his 40 plus year career.  He was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, educated at San Jose State (BS 1964) and the University of California, Berkeley – Boalt Hall (JD 1967). He was admitted to the bar in 1967. He spent three years as a prosecutor in the Ventura County District Attorneys Office. In 1970, he joined the firm of McCormick, Barstow, Sheppard, Coyle & Best (later named McCormick, Barstow, Sheppard, Wayte & Carruth). At McCormick he specialized in a civil tort practice trying over one hundred jury trials. His experience involved trials in the areas of general negligence actions representing both plaintiffs and defendants, flood damage, employment representing both plaintiffs and defendants, fire, electricity, professional liability, crop damage, law firm dissolution, governmental entities, the defense of day-care centers, premises liability and products liability actions. He has defended several judges in matters before the California Commission on Judicial Performance. He has served, by appointment of the court, as Chair of the Defense Steering Committee for the 1994 Dust Storm suits, the largest motor vehicle accident in the history of the United States and Chair for the Plaintiff’s Steering Committee in several large multiple motor vehicle collisions. He has appeared in numerous United States District Courts, before the Fifth District Court of Appeal and before the California Supreme Court.

Professional affiliations include the American Board of Trial Advocates in which he was admitted in 1973.  He was elevated in ABOTA to the rank of Diplomate in 1995. He has served as President of the San Joaquin Valley Chapter of ABOTA and served as President of the California Chapters of ABOTA in 2002. He was invited to join and became a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers in 1997.  He has repeatedly been voted as a Super Lawyer in California and in 2014 was selected by his peers to be included in the Best Lawyers in America.

In November of 2000, he withdrew as a senior partner in civil litigation from the McCormick firm and formed his partnership with René Turner Sample as Cornwell & Sample, a firm specializing in civil trial practice for plaintiffs only. He is admitted to the bar of the United States Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. As a plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer, he has handled complex civil cases, representing families in litigation against large corporations and cases involving extremely serious injuries only the most experienced plaintiff’s attorneys can handle. He finds the answers when other lawyers would have given up. His experience and tenacity have resulted in him having some of the most newsworthy verdicts and largest settlements in the Valley.

René Turner Sample

René Turner Sample, is recognized as the most experienced and successful female trial lawyer in Central California. She is Fresno’s only female lawyer who has been named a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers and was the first female member of the San Joaquin Valley Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates, organizations which select its members based on jury trial experience, skill, civility and integrity. She is the only female lawyer in either organization which specializes in plaintiff personal injury. Born and raised in Fresno, California, René graduated magna cum laude from California State University, Fresno in 1983 and with distinction from San Joaquin College of Law in 1988. René has been married to Scott Sample for over 30 years, has two adult children, and six grandchildren. René is the past president for the Central California Trial Lawyers’ Association and a frequent lecturer on civil litigation. René has taught many of the valley’s litigators, having been an adjunct faculty member at San Joaquin College of Law teaching Civil Trial Advocacy for 15 years. She has tried over 50 jury trials to verdict throughout the San Joaquin valley and is one of the valley’s few plaintiff lawyers, and the only female plaintiff lawyer, to have two personal injury jury verdicts in excess of one million dollars. René has tried a variety of cases but considers her specialty to be personal injury. Prior to dedicating her practice exclusively to representing plaintiffs, she spent 12 years representing the insurance companies where she tried over 20 cases. In 2000, Rene’ and her law partner Stephen R. Cornwell, opened Cornwell & Sample, a small litigation firm specializing in personal injury.  In 2018, she and Steve also joined as owners of Freedman Law.  René has brought her knowledge of the inner workings of insurance companies to her plaintiff practice and is now exclusively dedicated to helping those who have been injured. Having a son in recovery, her family is also active in the recovery community and recently opened My Time Recovery, Fresno’s only Joint Commission accredited drug and alcohol rehabilitation program.  René has brought her life experience of helping others in her church and community to her law practice, demonstrating that the best advocates are those who genuinely care about their clients.

Raquel Birch

Recently joining our team as a trial attorney is Raquel Birch.  Raquel has been practicing in the personal injury field in Fresno for over 30 years and is well recognized for her commitment to her clients and community. She has a master’s degree from University of Utah and a law degree from McGeorge School of Law. Raquel started her legal career at McCormick Barstow, and then spent 5 years with Sample & Birch, where she litigated hundreds of personal injury files with our co-owner,René Turner Sample. Raquel also managed the Law Offices of Raquel Birch for over 20 years where she specialized in insurance defense.  She has developed invaluable trusted relationships with most every medical provider, insurance defense attorney and mediator in the valley. Raquel has brought her knowledge of the inner workings of insurance companies to Cornwell & Sample and is uniquely qualified to help our clients win their cases. Raquel and her husband have raised 2 children and now have 6 grandchildren. She is very active with her local grandchildren who attend Clovis schools and are involved in horseback riding and swimming.  She is also an award-winning quilter.

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