I have practiced law for 35 years and I hope I am lean though not mean. Why lean? Because a plaintiff lawyer’s margin for error is not great. Nowhere does this apply more than in the selection of cases. Actually, it works to a client’s advantage because why would a lawyer, especially one who works on a contingent fee, take your case unless he/she thought that there could be a recovery?
Let me speak about a couple of things you may have seen in my printed materials. [The law class was provided printed materials prepared by me as a study guide.] First, what does an attorney in a firm focus on in terms of substantive law? Does he/she focus on one area of law, two areas of law, three areas of law, or whatever? I recall when I was in law school, I saw a talk show that was done by someone who originated in Philadelphia [the site of my lecture], Tom Snyder. Snyder had a late night talk show. His guest was Leon Jaworski, who was in the news recently because when President Trump fired the acting Attorney General, it was referred to as the Saturday night massacre. The actual Saturday night massacre happened during the Nixon/Watergate Affair and Leon Jaworski was a central player. Nixon fired Archibald Cox, the then special prosecutor. Cox was a Harvard Law professor, well-known with a high and esteemed profile. Leon Jaworski, much lesser known, became the special prosecutor upon Cox’s firing and he did a very good job.
Six years later, when I was watching that Tom Snyder talk show in my Penn dorm at Hill House. [ I was a resident fellow to undergraduates in a building just across the street from the UPENN Law School.] I watched this show in which Jaworski was interviewed, called “Tomorrow” [it was on after midnight] and what does Javorski say in substance, “When I started practicing law in Texas in the 1920s you could be a generalist, you could handle many different cases.” If you read about his career you see that he defended people who were on death row in Texas in the 1920s. He was also a prosecutor and he prosecuted some court martial cases for the U.S. Army. He also had a civil background. It was this varied background that caused him to reflect on this talk show in the fall of 1979 that law is too specialized so you cannot do so many types of law anymore. Be a specialist, he cautioned. I remember that and it really resonated with me. Hence my four decade focus, which includes my time in law school, on personal injury law.
Thus, it was very fortuitous for me because I entered law school very interested in torts and torts essentially is personal injury. We do not do much “trespass on the case” or whatever you are taught those first few weeks. The tort practice area is essentially personal injury and I knew in consultation with my lawyer-father that I would have to study torts and study evidence. I never worked as hard in my life in any course as I did in evidence. I tried to learn about every nuance such as hearsay. Why? Because along with Jaworski’s advice, I had my father’s advice who said, “If you want to try cases, you had better know evidence.”
Those two messages, or perhaps messengers, have served me well. I would advise law students therefore to focus; don’t be a jack-of-all trades and instead be quite the opposite. There are still certain things- and I will go to my own background- that are hard to predict. We truly don’t know what the future will hold. We all have our plans but life deals certain twists and turns that you do not expect, even at a relatively young age. I started practicing in the very early 1980s and, like I said, it was personal injury work, so what is the best way to learn that? The best way is to learn it from the other side – the defense side, insurance liability side. Fortunately I was hired by what is considered a very large firm [for this type of work] of 80 lawyers and they had some very accomplished Boston trial lawyers. I worked there for a couple of years and I had intended possibly going to Florida to try cases in the Miami Dade County Attorney’s office, where I also had a job offer, and which offered me the opportunity to try civil cases. But one in night in 1983, my father had a heart attack and died. Obviously I was not expecting that. I decided about 6 months after he passed away that I would leave the firm where I had been working as an associate and go into my father’s firm. In doing so, I lost some lawyer-mentors who were extremely experienced trial lawyers, although candidly very few of them were actually trying cases. I needed to know how to try cases. You have to prepare for it. What did I do without those mentors? I took every continuing legal education class that I could. I learned from my new partners, Ludwig and Marsha Alban. I took my “learning” very seriously.
The attorneys serve the entire state of Massachusetts in addition to affiliating with lawyers in other states to handle cases outside of Massachusetts.
Boston Attorneys Win Highest Injury Verdict in Massachusetts in 2011 & 2012.