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Attendees at NCRA’s 2019 Convention and Expo in Denver, CO, heard firsthand the stories behind the movie Erin Brockovich from its namesake during the packed Premier Session. Brockovich, the renowned consumer advocate and environmental activist, shared bits of her life story, how she learned to persevere, and who her major influencers were. She attributes those influencers to helping her later in life go from unknown legal researcher to 20th-century icon as the persistent force behind the largest medical settlement lawsuit in history.
Brockovich began her address at the convention by acknowledging the importance of the human court reporter’s presence and role in the courtroom to ensure an accurate record of the proceedings and added that she was always amazed when she had the chance to watch what they did.
She also shared what it has been like since the making of the movie some 20 years ago and entertained attendees with stories about how she is recognized as Erin Brockovich when traveling but is also often confused with Julia Roberts, the actress who portrayed her in the film.
Raised in Kansas, Brockovich said her mother, a journalist, was always there for her. She attributed much of her ability to overcome personal obstacles such as being dyslexic to her mother who taught her the term “stick-to-itiveness.”
“I don’t like being told I cannot do this or do that. Because of being dyslexic, I was often teased. Today that is referred to as bullying. My self-esteem started to tumble. It took my mom to teach me that just because you are different doesn’t mean you are inferior,” Brockovich said.
“That word altered my life. Life requires us to have it. We are not born with it. We need to develop the habit of perseverance.”
She said a teacher of hers was also one of the most influential people in her life because she thought outside of the box. She realized that Brockovich was smart and that she listened — and that Brockovich knew the matter that was being taught in the classroom. She just couldn’t pass a written test. Her teacher figured out that if she gave the same test to Brockovich as an oral test, she would pass with flying colors. That she said was another life-changing event that boosted her esteem.
“My dad was the other most influential person in my life. He was an environmental engineer. He taught me that health, family, water, land to grow our food on, and air were the most important things. All of them are our moral compass.”
Brockovich said she is a fan of disruption because disruption causes change. She said that disruption causes people to rise up, look around, become aware, and oftentimes wonder how they can become involved in something bigger.
“Logic is common sense. When you follow it, you will logically do the right thing.”
She also said it is important to recognize how leverage can be used to build a community in both life and work and that it is important to be loyal to a mission, your neighbor, and your community. By doing so you can make a huge difference in your own life and the lives of others.
Finally, Brockovich urged convention attendees to understand what motivates them to get up each day such as their families, their jobs, their ability to earn a living, to vacation, and to have homes.
“We love our country, clean water, and our freedom, and that is our motivator,” she said.
Brockovich told the audience that the film that carries her name and tells her story is accurate and that it was not about her but rather the community that used leverage together, motivated each other, and never lost their stick-to-itiveness to successfully win their lawsuit.
“What happened to those people is real, and it continues to be a problem throughout the country,” she said.
As for questions unanswered by the film, Brockovich said she did not end up marrying the biker dude in real life, but teasingly reveled that she would have if he had looked like the actor who played him.
As president of Brockovich Research & Consulting, she is currently involved in numerous environmental projects worldwide. She has requests for her help in groundwater contamination complaints in every state of the United States, in Australia, and other international hotspots. She is currently working on cases in California, Texas, Florida, Michigan, Illinois, and Missouri.
Originally published August 17, 2019, on TheJCR.com, a publication of the National Court Reporters Association and reprinted here with permission.