Ask local first-year law students why they're paying mountains of money for the privilege of enduring three grueling years of ultra-competitive coursework and humiliation via the Socratic method, and the most frequent answer (after "I didn't have anything better to do") will be: "I want to make a difference." Yet idealism soon takes a backseat to fixing traffic tickets, writing memos to justify quasi-criminal practices for corporate clients or finding an obscure disclaimer an insurance company can use to deny a claim. Unless, of course, you're John Simon. Though he may not be a household name, Simon has handled cases with far-reaching effects. He represented a fire captain who suffered brain damage after the emergency alarm on his breathing tank failed to sound before he ran out of oxygen. Simon settled the case for $6.5 million last summer and triggered a nationwide warning from the manufacturer about the emergency alarm problem. Simon represented the family of a man killed in a natural-gas explosion after a copper gas line corroded. His case against Laclede Gas was settled for $8 million -- and St. Louisans learned that 80,000 other copper pipes in the area might corrode and that the company had known about the problem for nearly two decades but hadn't fixed it. Simon won a $105 million verdict for a man severely injured by a tire explosion after showing that the tire rim was defective and that the company knew of 185 previous accidents. And it was Simon who won a $41.1 million verdict for a boxer who suffered brain damage in a bout at the Regal Riverfront Hotel because the hotel didn't have an ambulance on hand. Simon and partners Jeffrey Lowe and Paul Passanante formed Simon, Lowe & Passanante, P.C., in 2000, and it has already been named by the National Law Journal as one of the 50 "Winningest Firms" in the United States. Along the way, Simon can honestly say he has made a difference.