News & Events

Attorney Spotlight: Alex Heaton on Journalism Roots, Taking on Amazon, and the Role of Human Connection in Law

Posted: March 7, 2024

Yarborough Applegate is known for our dynamic team of passionate, dedicated trial lawyers. Our Attorney Spotlight series highlights and celebrates each of their stories. Beyond their daily schedules, we want to know about their unique approaches to their practice and the ways they interact with their colleagues, the firm, and the communities they call home. 

Join us as we sit down with each of our attorneys to learn what has shaped them, what drives them, and what they hope their lasting legacy will be. Today, we get to know Alex Heaton.

Yarborough Applegate (YA) Hi Alex, thank you for joining us! Where are you from originally?
Alex Heaton (AH): Thanks for having me! I was born in Charleston and lived here for a bit when I was very young, but grew up in Orangeburg.

YA: What brought you back to the Charleston area?
AH: My previous career brought me to Charleston, and I also went to law school here. I actually started at Charleston School of Law while I was living and working in Conway. I did that daily commute for a while and was very fortunate to have been able to transfer my work assignment to Charleston for my last year of law school. That certainly made things easier and got me to the Lowcountry permanently. I love it here and cannot imagine living anywhere else. 

YA: Was law something you were always interested in potentially pursuing?
It must have been. When I graduated from law school, my parents gifted me a framed primary school assignment of mine where I wrote about wanting to be a lawyer and drew a little jury box (a little off on the number of jurors). So, I clearly thought about it when I was young. I am a first-generation lawyer in my family. We have a lot of teachers, doctors, nurses, entrepreneurs. No lawyers, and even I went down a different path for a while before Ifound my way here.

YA: A great keepsake! Tell us a little more about your pivot from your old career to your new one.
I worked for several years as a broadcast journalist. I loved my news jobs because I was out in the community every day meeting new people and making sure their voices were heard. I wanted more of a challenge, though, so I enrolled in law school and did both for a while. Fast-forward 11 years, and here I am. 

YA: And years later, it seems like it’s continued to work out!
It’s been a very natural and rewarding transition, although somewhat backwards. You are more likely to find people who make the switch from law to journalism, but I am so happy with my path. My background in journalism has helped shape my approach to cases and has made me a more effective communicator. I still get to meet so many new and different people and have the privilege of helping them tell their stories. 

YA: Tell us about the early days of your career. Where did you start working after law school?
Right after law school, I clerked for Judge Jennifer B. McCoy in Charleston for about a year and a half. Afterward, I worked at a mid-size law firm in Charleston, Clawson & Staubes, doing insurance defense. I had some wonderful mentors and got some great experience as a young lawyer on a variety of cases. I worked there until I joined Yarborough Applegate in 2021. 

YA: When it comes to your legal work, do you specialize in particular practice areas?
AH: I do a little bit of it all. The cases I have handled here include dram shop liability, motorcycle collisions, tractor trailer collisions, and third-party workplace injuries. Most recently, I was part of the trial team in our recent distracted driving case against Amazon. That certainly gave me a unique perspective on Amazon litigation, specifically cases involving Amazon’s Delivery Service Partner Program. 

YA: The Amazon case was such a landmark verdict, not only for the firm but in terms of its lasting legacy. Is it safe to say that’s been among the most rewarding cases you’ve been involved with?
Yes! That result was the culmination of years of hard work and preparation. I had the privilege of really getting to know our client and his family during that time and learn from those closest to him about the magnitude of his injuries and losses. After years of discovery battles, delays, and Amazon’s continuous denial of responsibility, it was very fulfilling to be able to hold Amazon accountable and tell Shannon’s story in a way that clearly resonated with members of his community. 

YA: Absolutely. What’s something every client should know?
AH: Our cases are often complex and meaningful results do not happen overnight. For our clients to get the compensation they deserve, patience in the process, trust, and open communication are essential. 

YA: What’s the most valuable thing you do for your clients?
AH:. Our clients come to us in some of the darkest and most challenging times of their lives. Exercising empathy and compassion is at the heart of my practice. Giving our clients a space to be heard adds immense value not just from a client connection perspective but to the overall analysis and engagement in a case. We do not have a high-volume practice. We are selective in the cases we take, which allows me the opportunity to really get to know our clients, dig in on complex cases, and make the litigation aspect as effortless for our clients as possible.  

What advice would you give an aspiring attorney?
You must love what you do, and be kind. We need more of that. Be kind to your clients, your coworkers, opposing counsel. Be kind to everyone. That’s just some global advice. 

YA: What’s the biggest misconception about what you do?
That personal injury claims are only about financial compensation. Of course, a primary goal is always to maximize the financial recovery. However, we also aim to shape lasting changes in policies, practices, and procedures, especially for corporate defendants, in the hopes of preventing similar harms.

YA: What impact do you hope your work will have?
AH: I just want to help people—that’s all I have ever wanted to do. We are in a unique position to help our clients emotionally, physically, and financially when they need it the most, and I hope to continue to be able to dedicate my career to helping others.  
YA: Is there a book that’s made a significant impact on your life?
AH: There are so many books I love, but I would say Little Women is one I have come back to many times. The book is about four sisters growing up and finding their own way in the world. It explores family dynamics, relationships, societal expectations, and personal ambitions and growth. It’s a relatable storyline for me: I have two sisters—I’m the middle. We are all several years apart and very different. I’ve read Little Women several times, each at different stages in life, and it never gets old. There is always a new meaning or perspective to be discovered. It also doesn’t hurt that the film adaptations are so good!

YA: How about a favorite quote that inspires you?
AH: “Whatever you choose to do, leave tracks. That means don’t do it just for yourself. You will want to leave the world a little better for your having lived.” Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 

YA: How do you spend time outside of work?
AH: My husband and I love to travel. We also have an 11-year-old Cocker Spaniel that we spend a ton of time spoiling. I am also very lucky that my sisters and their families as well as my parents and some of my husband’s family live in the Charleston area. I have three nieces, one nephew, and another one on the way, and I love spending as much time with them as I can. 

YA: What professional associations or community organizations are you a member of?
AH: Professionally, I am member of the American Association for Justice, South Carolina Association for Justice, and Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys. I also serve on the South Carolina Bar’s Young Lawyers Division Voices Against Violence Committee and volunteer with local charities and organizations, including The Formation Project, a survivor-led volunteer organization that helps victims of human trafficking.

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