Doug Schneebeck (1960-2016)

Monday, October 17, 2016

It is with heavy hearts that we report that Doug Schneebeck, our dear friend and law partner, passed away the morning of October 17, 2016 after a long and challenging battle with ALS.  Mercifully his suffering has finally come to an end, as he bravely showed us all not only how to live with gusto, but alas, how to die with courage and grace.  As Rodey legend Bruce Hall stated upon news of Doug's passing, Doug was "the most heroic person I ever knew."  Doug's award-winning blog at osohigh.com provides an unblinking, poignant, and somehow often humorous account of the effect of ALS on his life and those around him.  His Oso High organization has raised over $400,000 (and counting) to fight ALS.

Although Doug grew up in Virginia, his sense of adventure (with prompting from a Sandia Peak poster his law school roommate at UVA had on the wall) and love of the outdoors, brought him to New Mexico in 1985.  He received his undergraduate degree from the James Madison University, summa cum laude, in 1982.  To the chagrin of his mother Joann Patton (a lifelong public school teacher), but to the ultimate benefit of the legal community, Doug chose to attend law school and become a lawyer.  He graduated from the prestigious University of Virginia School of Law in 1985.

As an associate, Doug immediately welcomed and embraced challenging and complicated legal work of every stripe.  He participated and led Modrall Sperling associates in the special assistant prosecutor program for the New Mexico district attorney's office, prosecuting DWIs and domestic violence cases.  Before he made shareholder, he acted as lead counsel on numerous significant matters.  Shortly after becoming shareholder, he made his name representing 3M in breast implant cases, being named to the 3M national trial team.  From there, he took on lead local counsel role for numerous national companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Ethicon, GSK, Walgreens and others.  In his defense of insurance companies in putative nationwide class action cases regarding modal premium installment fees, he successfully obtained dismissals of all of his clients without them having to provide any compensation to the class members, named plaintiffs, or plaintiffs' counsel.  In short, Doug proved throughout his career that a New Mexico lawyer can be a national presence.

Doug also proved that a fierce advocate could be a compassionate soul. In what has to be more than coincidence, Doug dedicated much of his spare time in his 20's and 30's helping persons with physical handicaps ski in the Adaptive Ski Program. Perhaps life is a circle. After Doug was diagnosed with ALS, he was able to bike and ski through use of equipment he and others in the Adaptive Ski Program designed. In 2012, he qualified and became a member of the USA National Paralympic team.

In addition to his brilliant analytical mind, persistence and sharp wit, one of Doug's greatest attributes was his ability to develop lifelong friendships with clients, national counsel and opposing counsel.  Indeed, many fierce and intense legal battles resulted in opposing counsel becoming lifelong admirers of his.  This is not only the essence of professionalism, but reflects a ninja-like mastery of the human spirit.  Exhibit A:  when diagnosed with ALS, he calmly said, "Well, I just need to treat each day as the best day that I have."  And so he did. 

Had Doug never been diagnosed with ALS, his legacy was intact.  However, the manner in which he dealt with this insidious disease provided inspiration for all those dealing with adversity, which is to say all of us.  At the pinnacle of his health, Doug was a nationally ranked hurdler, marathon runner, highly decorated road cyclist and mountain biker, and elite skier.  As ALS day by day took away his physical abilities, leaving him quadriplegic and unable to speak, his vitality and force of will shone through his eyes, with which he typed his amazing blog.  And so he became a hero.

But more importantly, we loved him as a human being.  An adoring family man, Doug leaves behind his loving mother Joann, his proud father Gene, his beautiful wife and soulmate Jean, his brilliant and vibrant children Jimmy and Abby, and his strong and compassionate step-daughter Jessica.

He also leaves behind a slew of best friends, pets (Livingston was his favorite), and all of us who loved to hear him laugh.  Perhaps it is his laughter we will miss most.

Thank you, Doug, for everything.  You will always be a part of us.