Volume 124, 2013 • $6.95
All Referral Sources are Not Created Equal
Mike O’Horro The Power of Procrastination
Setting Your Objectives for 2014: A Process for Planning an Enjoyable & Effective Firm Retreat
Joel A. Rose
Are Legal Directories Worth the Investment?
Steven Stauff Law Firm Differentiation
Gina F. Rubel
MEDIATOR OF THE MONTH
Judge Steven R. Denton (Ret.) RISING STAR OF THE MONTH
Joel Bryant Attorney of the Month
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TABLE OF CONTENTS features MEDIATOR OF THE MONTH
6 Judge Steven R. Denton (Ret.) by Jennifer Hadley
10 Setting Your Objectives for 2014: A Process for Planning an Enjoyable and Effective Firm Retreat by Joel A. Rose
12 COMMUNITYnews EXECUTIVE PUBLISHER Brian Topor EDITOR Nancy Deyo
ATTORNEY OF THE MONTH
16 Joel Bryant
CREATIVE SERVICES Skidmutro Creative Partners
by Jennifer Hadley
21 The Power of Procrastination
CIRCULATION Angela Watson
by David V. Lorenzo
22 Law Firm Differentiation
PHOTOGRAPHY Bronson Pate Vinit Satyavrata
STAFF WRITERS Jennifer Hadley Bridget Brookman Karen Gorden CONTRIBUTING EDITORIALISTS Gina F. Rubel Joel A. Rose Mike O’Horro Steven Stauff David Lorenzo Christopher Walton Steven Kruis WEBMASTER Chase Jones ADVERTISING INQUIRIES info@AttorneyJournal.us SUBMIT AN ARTICLE Editorial@AttorneyJournal.us OFFICE 10601-G Tierrasanta Blvd., Suite 131 San Diego, CA 92124 P 858.505.0314 • F 858.524.5808 www.AttorneyJournal.us ADDRESS CHANGES Address corrections can be made via fax, email or postal mail.
Is Your Small Firm Another Cost-Effective Alternative to Large Law Firms? by Gina F. Rubel
25 All Referral Sources are Not Created Equal by Mike O’Horro
26 Are Legal Directories Worth the Investment? by Steven Stauff RISING STAR OF THE MONTH
28 Jeff Bennion by Karen Gorden
Editorial material appears in Attorney Journal as an informational service for readers. Article contents are the opinions of the authors and not necessarily those of Attorney Journal. Attorney Journal makes every effort to publish credible, responsible advertisements. Inclusion of product advertisements or announcements does not imply endorsement. Attorney Journal is a trademark of Sticky Media, LLC. Not affiliated with any other trade publication or association. Copyright 2013 by Sticky Media, LLC. All rights reserved. Contents may not be reproduced without written permission from Sticky Media, LLC. Printed in the USA
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Judge Steven R. Denton (Ret.) Joins
Judicate West BY JENNIFER HADLEY
t’s no surprise that by and large, trial lawyers have a healthy appetite for competition. For judges and mediators, the challenge is to direct that competitiveness in a way that creates great results. Indeed, transitioning from an advocate for a particular side to a neutral third party such as Superior Court Judge or as a mediator, requires a shift in perception of what it means to win. For Judge Steven R. Denton (Ret.), that transition occurred absolutely naturally. These days as a mediator with Judicate West successfully resolving cases, saving time and money for the parties involved, are the benchmarks of victory. That love of competition became the pursuit of the “Win/ Win” resolution for Denton. Judge Denton explains, “I have always been a very competitive person and have always felt driven to be the best at whatever I was doing. I have always been intensely focused on applying people skills to the job of getting the best results possible. As a lawyer, I have never in my life billed anyone for an hour of my time. It was all win or don’t get paid. After 26 years as a trial lawyer and 12 years on the bench, mediation represents a further opportunity for me to use my drive, energy and personality to help people win by bringing closure to their cases. I look to promote the ‘Win/Win’ opportunity of resolving cases as early as possible. The plaintiff wins by obtaining the sure thing in hand. Both parties win by capping exposure and saving tons of transition costs. The bottom line is that I hate losing, and not resolving a case in mediation is, in my book, a loss.”
Attorney Journal | Volume 124, 2013
From Student of The World To Superior Court Judge
Judge Denton’s interest in the law was initially piqued in the late 1960’s. “I was in college and major social issues such as the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement dominated society, and the law was exploding. Law was where the action was, and I wanted to be a part of it,” Denton explains. However, his aptitude for understanding multiple points of view began much earlier. “My father worked for Pan American World Airlines and when I was growing up, we lived all over the world. I was born in Manila, Philippines. We lived in Japan for two years, in California for a while and then in Hawaii, as it was becoming a state. I lived on Wake Island for a year and an half. Wake Island is an atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, with a land mass of 2.5 miles. We then moved to Berlin, Germany in 1961, while they were still in the process of building the Berlin Wall. The Cold War was raging and people were literally being killing trying to get out of East Berlin. Talk about culture shock. No one in my family spoke a word of German,” Denton recalls. “I had to adapt to different schools and cultures. I believe it translated well into a broader world view, and being able to see all sides of a story.” Judge Denton got his first opportunity to advocate for specific sides of a story while still in law school. “The summer after my first year in law school, I took a job as a law clerk with Ludecke & Andreos for $2.35/hour. I wanted in the worst way to get onto the first rung of the ladder. They gave
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OF THE MONTH
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Judge Denton with daughter Brooklyn (age 6), and son Ryan (age 4).
me a spot on that first rung. I spent far more time working with Alan Ludecke and George Andreos in the firm than I did in class. I also sat second chair on a murder trial while still a student. After I graduated in 1975, I took a job as an associate, a few years later was a partner, and essentially never left. Alan and George served as great mentors to me. They treated me with respect, and as a peer and included me in every aspect of lawyering even when I was just starting out in law. I spent a total of 26 years with that firm,” he recalls fondly. Over the course of his long career as a trial attorney, Denton was more than just involved in the legal community; he was immersed in it. He served as President of the San Diego Chapter of ABOTA, CASD, and Wallace Inn of Court, in addition to serving as Vice President of the San Diego County Bar Association. He also racked up no end of awards. As a litigator, he was awarded the David S. Casey Trial Lawyer of the Year, and six individual case Outstanding Trial Lawyer awards. His alma mater, University of San Diego School of Law’s Alumni Association named him Distinguished Alumni of the Year in 1995. With his numerous awards for excellence as a 8
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litigator, and his obvious dedication to the San Diego legal community, it perhaps shouldn’t have come as a shock when he was approached to become a judge, but Denton admits to being rather surprised when it did happen. “It is relatively rare for a career plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer to get the opportunity to be appointed to the Superior Court,” Denton says. “In 1999 my colleague, David Casey Jr. invited me to play golf with him. David was an advisor to the governor and senators concerning both the State and Federal judical appointment process. I should have known something was up,” Denton chuckles. “During our morning together, he prevailed on me to consider filling out an application for judgeship. I was about 50 years old and had been a trial lawyer for about 25 years by then, and even though it meant giving up a thriving law practice, I decided I wanted to serve as a judge,” he says.
From Judge to Judicate West
“What I enjoyed most as a judge was watching great lawyers in jury trials on significant cases,” Denton says of his 12 years on the bench. “It was a joy to preside over trials where both sides were represented by gifted attorneys,” he adds. Make no mistake,
Judge Denton presided over a lot of cases. “While on the bench, I had the opportunity to serve in both the Family Court and the Civil Court in judicial settlement conferences. Having served for the last eight years as Superior Court Judge in an independent calendar civil department, I presided over up to 1000 cases at any given time. Those cases ran the gamut from the most complex business litigtion matters to class actions to product liability and personal injury cases as well as any other types of civil case you can imagine. Because the San Diego Superior Court never instituted a ‘Complex’ department, all of the IC judges each handled their own share of complex cases. All of the cases were handled from soup to nuts, from filing through law and motion and until trial assignment by the IC judge,” Denton explains. After 12 years on the bench, Denton determined that the time was right to put his years of experience to work in alternate dispute resolution. He and his wife Cynthia Chihak, a very busy full time San Diego Plaintiff’s litigator, are parents of children ages four and six. “We are on our second litter, as Cindy calls it,” Denton says proudly. “The time demands of running a civil independent calendar department made it difficult to spend the kind of time that we wanted to have available for the kids,” he says. Moreover, “the court’s budgetary crisis served to increase the time pressure in the civil court justice system for all of the judges,” Denton says. “Rather than trying to squeeze a gallon into a quart container, I determined it would be better to transition to a position that had more flexibility.” Furthermore, “delays in trial dates resulting from the budget crisis in the larger or more complex cases have a direct consequence of increasing litigation and transition costs. The alternate dispute resolution field will, by necessity, have to increase in capacity to deal with helping people get cases settled without that increased litigation cost. It just makes sense to resolve most cases as soon as the facts and issues can be reasonably appraised,” he adds. In his new role with Judicate West, Denton is eager to put his extensive experience in the trenches as a trial lawyer and time on the bench to good use. “Efficient mediation means meticulous preparation combined with a ‘get-down-to-business’ assessment of factual and legal disputes. My job is to facilitate a realistic case appraisal by all parties to reach a settlement without unnecessary time utilization. My style is to challenge each side with the facts and evidence to get all participants to see the case through the eyes of their opponent in order to move
Judge Denton with wife Cynthia Chihak and their children.
toward consensus,” Denton says. Continuing, he adds, “I am excited by the opportunity to work with terrific lawyers working to resolve their cases.” But his competitive streak remains ever intact as he adds, “Bottom line, nothing beats the satisfaction of finally reaching a settlement in a difficult and hard fought case. Besides, not getting a case resolved is like losing, and I hate to lose.” n
Hon. Steven R. Denton (Ret.) Judge Denton Mediation Services-Judicate West email@example.com www.judicatewest.com (619) 814-1966 402 W Broadway - 24th Floor San Diego, CA 92101 Attorney Journal | Volume 124, 2013
Setting Your Objectives for 2014 A process for planning an enjoyable and effective firm retreat
by Joel A. Rose
anaging partners in many of the more financially successful, progressively managed firms have planned or are in the process of planning partner retreats to develop their firms’ professional and economic objectives for 2014, and to outline strategies for achieving those goals. Partners in many firms retain consultants to plan and facilitate retreats that are specially designed to assess partners’ perceptions about how well the combination of their firm’s leadership and governance, policy determination and implementation, cultures, strategic planning process, partner compensation system and client base, brings out the energies and talents of their attorneys. Other issues of significant importance are discussed concerning the future of the firm and then, together with partners, recommendations are developed about how to deal with these issues.
The retreat should be viewed as a practical management tool that can be wielded in a variety of ways to assist the firm in achieving its objectives. The structure, discussion format and 10
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duration of the retreat will invariably be determined by what the firm wants to achieve. Below is a list of representative discussion topics that have been addressed during retreats that we have planned and facilitated: • Identification of opportunities that will enhance the bottom line; • Practice areas to invest in, maintain or de-emphasize; • Internal and external trends the firm should take advantage of in the next three to five years and geographic expansion; • Enhancing relations with existing clients and developing relationships with potential clients; • Improving service by broadening or narrowing the firm’s focus; • Proposing alternative fee arrangements (i.e., other than hourly billing); • Dealing with under-utilized attorneys and staff;
• The feasibility of retooling/reassigning partners, associates and staff from underutilized practice areas to different practice areas instead of terminating personnel; • Changes in compensation—partners and associates—to include providing financial incentives to motivate partners to cross-sell legal services to existing clients and cultivate new prospects within the current and potential marketplace; changing associate pay structures to reward performance and changing partner draw schedules to preserve cash; and • Increasing lateral recruitment and merging to upgrade and expand the firm’s expertise to better serve existing and potential clients.
The retreat planners should be selected by the firm’s management after considering the objectives of the retreat. A smaller firm may assign the planning function to one or two partners. Larger firms usually designate a committee of partners assisted by the office administrator. By involving a diverse representation of partners in the planning process, lawyer management can reaffirm its credibility and establish a basis for consensus. In many instances, this mixture of partners is politically expedient and ultimately critical to the success of the retreat. By drawing the various factors into the planning process at the initial stage, the firm begins to acknowledge the importance of issues that may be disrupting its unity. At this juncture, the firm should determine whether the use of an outside consultant would be beneficial. If the subjects to be addressed are of a highly sensitive nature, or are subjects which the firm’s partners have limited or no experience addressing, an experienced law firm consultant may indeed be essential. A consultant is particularly beneficial in instances where a firm may wish to address such topics as organization, profit distribution, long-term strategic planning, approaches for retiring unfunded pension obligations, reductions in staff or potential mergers. The consultant can function as a leader, lecturer, adviser, facilitator and resource on specific topics. He or she also can assist in the planning process, and in gathering and analyzing firm financial data and providing background on subjects for educational purposes. The next phase in planning involves interviewing the firm’s managing partner and members of the executive committee and surveying by personal interview or questionnaire all or a representative number of the partners. The number of partners to be surveyed is frequently determined by the objectives of the retreat. The more sensitive the issues to be discussed, the more important it is that all of the partners be surveyed through interviews and/ or questionnaires to obtain their perceptions about which subjects should be discussed during the retreat. Partners may be more willing to open up to an outside consultant than to discuss sensitive issues with another partner. It will be especially beneficial to cross-tabulate and analyze the
results of the interviews/questionnaires by age of the partners; whether the partners are lateral hires or have progressed through the firm’s career development program; primary practice areas; and office location. These results, when analyzed in relation to other partners’ responses, usually provide valuable insights about the attitudes of partners. Admittedly, the interview/questionnaire survey process is time consuming, but we have found it to be a particularly effective method of drawing all the partners into the planning process. Interestingly enough, we have discovered that responses to the questionnaires/interviews reveal that there is more common ground among firm members than may be apparent at the beginning of the retreat planning process. Once the issues raised by the partners in the interview/ questionnaire are reviewed against the proposals submitted by the managing partner, the planners should have adequate information to use in developing an agenda for the retreat. The format of the retreat should be determined by the retreat’s primary objectives, the participants attending the various discussions, partners only, partners and associates, or a combination. I frequently suggest that the retreat be held at a facility away from the office. Such a facility usually offers participants the opportunity to socialize to a greater extent than they otherwise would in the office, and to personalize relationships and gain greater appreciation of each other. From a planning perspective, the agenda should: include dates, times, locations, description of the meeting formats (i.e., meeting of the whole, workshops or a combination), retreat discussion leaders and participants attending the discussion sessions (i.e., partners only, associates only, or both partners and associates). Economic data and other background information pertinent to the issues that will be discussed should be available to participants prior to the retreat. If a possible merger with another firm or lateral hires are to be subjects for discussion, it is recommended that pro forma financial statements be prepared and distributed to the partners in advance of the retreat, showing the likely impact of the implementation of these plans. A retreat workbook should be published and distributed to all participants prior to the retreat. It should include the overall agenda and discussion outlines or background information about each of the selected topics, the firm’s financial data and analysis, survey results and other pertinent data. This handout material serves a dual purpose. It helps prepare all participants, both leaders and partners, for their roles at the retreat and the economic data included in the workbook is beneficial in establishing a springboard for future planning.
Retreat leaders should be selected on the basis of their leadership and communications skills, knowledge and insights about the firm, ...Continued on page 24 Attorney Journal | Volume 124, 2013
COMMUNITY news nStutman Law is pleased to announce the hiring of attorney Michael J. Porrazzo. Michael works out of the San Diego Regional Office of the Pennsylvania-based subrogation firm. He will be working with the firm’s New Loss Department and Large Commercial Loss team. Prior to joining Stutman Law, he represented MICHAEL J. PORRAZZO victims of elder abuse and nursing home neglect, catastrophic injury accidents and wrongful death. Michael earned his degree from California Western School of Law where he was an Honors Instructor and tutor. He also received the Faculty Award for outstanding academic achievement and commitment to the law school and community. Michael volunteers with the City of San Diego’s Therapeutic Recreation Services, working with children and adults suffering from mental and physical disabilities. nRonald McDonald House Charities of San Diego, a non-profit that provides a home away from home to families pursuing essential pediatric treatments at San Diego hospitals, recently inducted Higgs Fletcher & Mack onto its “Wall of Honor.” The “Wall of Honor” recognizes companies that have contributed more than $25,000 in services and/or GREG PYKE monetary contributions. Greg Pyke, partner at Higgs Fletcher & Mack, has spearheaded several initiatives and contributed an array of expertise to the Ronald McDonald House since 2000. Pyke was a driving force behind the establishment of the current Ronald McDonald House located across from Rady Children’s Hospital. In 2009, Pyke’s efforts (as well as those of his law firm’s colleagues) made it possible to build and open the state-of-the art Ronald McDonald House with 47 guest rooms, pleasant outdoor courtyards, athletic facilities, computer lab and cheerful play spaces for children. This expansion quadrupled the capacity to house families and allowed the charity to open a Family Care Center for day visitors.
nAttorneys Michael L. Kirby, David J. Noonan and James R. Lance from Kirby Noonan Lance & Hoge, LLP were recently selected by their peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America 2014. Kirby and Noonan were selected for their works in “Bet-the-Company Litigation,” while Kirby, Noonan, and Lance received awards for “Commercial Litigation.” Best Lawyers has published its list for over three decades and is known as the most reliable, unbiased source of legal referrals. Founded in 1976 and based in downtown San Diego, KNL&H provides clients of all sizes the same high level of expertise available at the largest law firms and the personalized attention of a small firm. Well-known KIRBY NOONAN LANCE for its success with complex and large cases, KNL&H’s lawyers are uniquely versed in plaintiff and defense litigation, as well as Alternative Dispute Resolution. nCaseyGerry has promoted former law clerk Nicole Cusack to the position of associate attorney. According to firm partner, David S. Casey, Jr., Cusack will work closely with partner Robert Francavilla on cases related to head trauma and serious personal injury and will also specialize in product liability litigation. Cusack has worked at CaseyGerry for over four NICOLE CUSACK years and steps into her new position with extensive experience handling all aspects of personal injury litigation. Prior to working at CaseyGerry, she worked as a judicial extern for the Chambers of the Honorable Stephanie E. Joannides in Anchorage, Alaska. Cusack received her J.D. from the University of San Diego, School of Law. There she served as an executive member of the Appellate Moot Court Board and the International Law Journal. She also earned a master’s degree in business administration magna cum laude from St. Ambrose University. Prior to graduate school, she received her bachelor’s degree in political science and English from the University of Washington.
nErin P. Gibson, a Partner at international law firm DLA Piper has been named a 2013-2014 Global Fellow by The Federal Circuit Bar Association. Global Fellows (limited to 12 attorneys from Europe and 12 from the United States) are an exclusive group of international Intellectual Property attorneys from Europe and the US that promote a higher level of international IP practice among the global legal community. These are intellectual property lawyers, including patent attorneys, who have been in practice for 8-15 years, who have a strong international focus in their practice, and have achieved recognition inside and outside their organizations as emerging leaders in the global legal community. ERIN GIBSON
Attorney Journal | Volume 124, 2013
COMMUNITY news nFisher & Phillips LLP has won first place in the social/interactive media category of the Legal Marketing Association Southeastern Chapter “Your Honor Awards” for its FMLA Leave Calculator App. One of the nation’s leading labor and employment firms representing employers, Fisher & Phillips created CHRISTOPHER HOFFMAN the app which allows employers to calculate basic leave requests and determine how much FMLA leave an employee has available. The LMASE “Your Honor Awards,” which were presented earlier this month, showcase the leading designs and creative strategies from firms throughout the Southeast, playing a key role as an inspiration for law firm marketing materials. The awards were selected by a panel of judges from the legal community in New York City. The Fisher & Phillips FMLA Leave Calculator App, which was developed with Saturno Design, is available by visiting www.laborlawyers.com/FMLALeaveApp. nHecht Solberg Robinson Goldberg & Bagley LLP (HechtSolberg) announces that after an exhausting peer review, four of its attorneys have been honored with inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America® 2014 in their respective practice areas, with attorney and partner Paul Robinson named “San Diego Lawyer of the Year” in the area of land use and zoning law. PAUL ROBINSON In addition to Robinson, who also was recognized in the real estate law practice area, the HechtSolberg attorneys named among The Best Lawyers in America® 2014 are: David Bagley, real estate law; Darryl Solberg, real estate law, corporate law and business organization law including LLCs and partnerships; and Susan Daly, real estate law. Best Lawyer® recognizes just one lawyer in each practice area in each community as a “Lawyer of the Year.” Robinson earned this prestigious recognition for his highly regarded expertise in land use, environmental impact and governmental law. His representation includes negotiation with and appearance before all public agencies having land use jurisdiction including federal, state and local agencies.
nHeather Rosing, who serves as Klinedinst’s Chief Financial Officer and Chair of the firm’s Professional Liability practice group, has been elected as Treasurer of The State Bar of California. With 243,000 members, The State Bar of California is one of the largest bar associations in the nation. Elected by the Board of Trustees, HEATHER ROSING Ms. Rosing will serve a one-year term overseeing the State Bar’s budget and internal financial controls, in conjunction with the organization’s CFO. The new officers were sworn in at the State Bar’s annual meeting in San Jose in mid-October. Following her service as President of the San Diego County Bar Association, Ms. Rosing was elected to the State Bar’s Board of Trustees in 2011. Since beginning her term, Ms. Rosing has actively participated in the Task Force on Admissions Regulation Reform, the Limited License Working Group, and several other important initiatives and studies. In the past year, she also served as Vice-Chair of the Board-level Nominations and Appointments Committee.
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One Stop Shop
From Nursing Home Neglect & Abuse to Financial Elder Abuse to Will & Trust Fraud: Joel Bryant Provides Full Service Litigation For Elders.
BY JENNIFER HADLEY
he more you represent elders, the more you realize that most have done everything that has been asked of them during their lives. When their country called, they stepped up. When their families, friends, or neighbors needed help, they were there to provide it. Many of these elders helped out and looked after others their entire lives, and as they enter their twilight years, it is time for someone to do the same for them. When I’m representing these people, I feel I’m doing something good for the world. There is nothing ambiguous about it. There is no need to question if I’m doing the right thing,” says Joel Bryant, partner with Green, Bryant & French LLP. For Bryant, providing the best representation for elders and their families means providing litigation services for all of their needs. “We represent elders and their families in nursing home neglect and financial elder abuse, as well as in will and trust litigation cases. We are experienced handling elder law litigation claims in both civil and probate court. We are one of the few firms with substantial experience in all three aspects of elder law litigation,” he adds. Continuing, he says, “Our breadth of experience in elder law litigation gives us a competitive edge and perspective which translates into excellent result for our clients.”
Despite the fact that Bryant loves the work he does, he admits he did not set out to become an elder abuse attorney. But that has more to do with the fact that when he graduated with his law degree from the University of San Diego School of Law in 1990, the field of elder abuse was basically nonexistent. “Prior to the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act, (EADACPA) which was enacted in 1991, it was exceedingly difficult to find attorneys to take on tort cases on behalf of injured elders and those elders who had been exploited financially. The laws were unfavorable towards elders. The deck was stacked against elders. Once EADACPA passed, it put elders on an equal footing with everyone else,” Bryant explains. It wasn’t long though after EADACPA passed that Bryant, who was representing businesses primarily in the field of construction law at Perkins & Miltner, LLP, that “an elder abuse case stumbled into our office. Our client had been sued and was seeking representation, so my first case was 16
Attorney Journal | Volume 124, 2013
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Compassion as Catalyst for Change
OF THE MONTH
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actually defending against an elder abuse claim. It went well for my client, and not for the plaintiff. At the end of the case, though, I wanted to represent plaintiffs in elder abuse cases. I saw that elders were being neglected in nursing homes and taken advantage of financially. I had an aha moment, and saw that this was an underserved niche and a very challenging one as well. I was never really enamored with construction law,” Bryant says. “As I gained more experience, I realized that elder abuse law offered a rare opportunity to help elders and their families in a meaningful way-to help them rebuild their lives and to protect them from being taken advantage of physically, financially or otherwise,” he adds. Bryant admits that his passion for working with elders and their families wasn’t without its challenges. “Beginning with my first job as an attorney and continuing to this day, I have been blessed to work alongside some wonderful people and excellent attorneys. But it was a bit tricky to learn the intricacies of elder law litigation without the benefit of a mentor experienced in that area of the law,” he says. Continuing, he adds that while “other attorneys involved in that area of the law have always been generous with their time, thoughts and analysis,” he was, by and large, self-taught in the field of elder abuse law. Bryant also faced a bit of a hurdle when it came to fully committing to his newfound passion. “I was a partner in a business firm, and mixing business cases with elder abuse cases was a difficult sell to my partners. The business firm I was at did primarily hourly work, but most of the elder abuse cases
Attorney Journal | Volume 124, 2013
were on contingency,” Bryant explains. That caused friction in the firm due to the unpredictable nature of contingency work. Moreover, he adds, that due to recoverability issues, many financial elder abuse cases are not high-dollar cases. “If an elder has been defrauded out of $100K, the time and the money involved to handle such a case through trial wasn’t always easy to justify to my business firm. They were accustomed to bigger cases and it was not always easy to convince them that it was the right thing to take on some of the elder abuse cases even if it might not have been the best business decision. Sometimes, there are cases in the elder abuse arena that I feel compelled to take simply because it is the right thing to do, irrespective of the dollars and cents of the case.” As such, in late 2004, Bryant joined forces with Jeff French and Ron Green to form Green, Bryant & French LLP, wherein Bryant would specialize almost exclusively in elder abuse cases, while his new partners remained in the field of construction, homeowners association and real estate law. But the pairing would provide Bryant with large firm resources that would enable him to provide full service elder abuse litigation on a contingency or hourly basis, in three key areas. “My typical clients are an elderly person (or their families) in a nursing home who has been neglected and suffered serious injury or death as a result; an elderly person who has been financially exploited by someone they know and trust; and a beneficiary of a will or trust who has sustained monetary damages as a result of will or trust fraud,” Bryant says.
Full Steam Ahead
With the launch of his new firm, Bryant was determined to provide all of the types of elderly law litigation needed by clients. Bryant says, “Focusing on and gaining experience in the most common litigation needs of the elderly, as opposed to just one of those areas,” has been crucial in his firm’s growth, and today Green, Bryant & French, LLP is recognized as “one of the few-perhaps the only attorneys-with substantial experience in all three aspects of elder law litigation. This breadth and depth of experience leads to more comprehensive legal analysis and strategy in each case, which accomplishes better results for our clients,” he explains. Case in point, Bryant is happy to try cases in both civil and probate court, which he has found to be extremely advantageous for his clients. “A lot of elder abuse occurs in the form of will and trust fraud. Many of those cases must be handled in probate court. If you only work in civil court, you won’t know the remedies and procedures of probate court and won’t be able to assist those elders or their families. The comfort and ability to handle cases through trial in both civil court and probate court gives us a big advantage. This is particularly true in those situations where I have the option of litigating the case in either civil court or probate court and my opposing counsel is only experienced in one or the other,” Bryant says. Similarly, part of Bryant’s commitment to providing a “one-stop-shop” for elder litigation cases includes the willingness and ability to take on cases that require him to cover the upfront costs of these contingency cases. “Nursing home cases are complex and very expensive to handle. Moreover, attorneys handling these cases are expected to front all or most of the substantial costs because most clients cannot afford to do so. This can be a big deterrent for newer attorneys, because they cannot afford the risk of putting all of their limited financial resources in one basket so to speak. I always encourage newer, or less experienced, attorneys in this field to joint venture the case with another experienced attorney who has the financial resources to see the case through. If they see a good case, they should consider joint venturing with another attorney to share the costs and the risk,” Bryant says and adds that “roughly 10% of his cases involve co-counsel work with other attorneys in other firms.” “If the defense wants to fight a war of attrition, we have the resources to fight the big fights. The defendants know in our cases that we will still be there at the
Bryant really enjoys coaching his son’s baseball teams. In this photo, Bryant shouts encouragement as his son sprints home with the winning run.
end, ready and prepared for trial. The defendants know that we don’t ever have to settle cheap because we ran out of money,” he adds. A third strategy for providing all-in-one service for elder abuse litigation is through offering hourly work to clients, though Bryant says it’s not particularly common. Roughly 90% of his elder abuse work is on a contingency basis, however, in some cases; clients do appreciate the hourly rate Bryant offers. For example, he recalls a case where two sisters (one of whom happened to be an attorney) had filed a claim against their brother for financial abuse of their mother. “He had the mother sign a quitclaim deed, transferring ownership of the home to him. Then he had filed an unlawful detainer against his mom. So he stole the house, and then tried to evict his mother from the family home,” Bryant says. “My clients had the financial wherewithal to pay hourly and they chose to do so,” he says, before adding proudly, “we got the house back without much of a fight. The hourly arrangement worked out great for those clients.” Finally, Bryant’s determination to provide full service is bolstered by his personal involvement, and continuing education to ensure that he remains at the forefront of elder abuse law. He is a consultant and committee chairperson for the San Diego Financial Abuse Specialist Team (FAST), whose mission is to increase the effectiveness of elder financial abuse reporting and prosecution and to increase public awareness of the problem through education. Bryant also served on the Board of Directors for six years for Senior Community Centers, a charitable organization which provides food, housing and social services to senior citizens to help them maintain their health, independence and dignity. Likewise, for three years, he served on the Board of Directors for the Senior Housing Corporation. The Senior Housing Corporation is a charitable organization whose mission is to provide affordable housing to low-income seniors.
Future Growth to Meet Needs of Growing Demographic
For Bryant, there are no concrete plans for growth of his firm, which presently includes 3 equity partners, 5 associates and 2 of-counsel attorneys. He’s not interested in growing his firm just for the sake of growing it. But he does acknowledge that “there is a need for good, dedicated attorneys in the field of elder abuse litigation. As the baby boomers age, we will undoubtedly grow to meet the increasing legal demand for elder law litigation attorneys. However, Attorney Journal | Volume 116, 2013
Joel Bryant Green, Bryant & French LLP www.gbflawyers.com firstname.lastname@example.org 619-239-7900 1230 Columbia Street Suite 1120 San Diego, California 92101 20
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EXPERIENCE Photo by Bauman Photographers
our challenge is to ensure that as we grow, we add quality people to assist in maintaining our excellent level of personal service to our clients,” he says. For Bryant that means that attorneys joining Green, Bryant & French, LLP will adhere to the same philosophy as the firm’s founding partners. “We are open and honest with our clients and keep their best interests in mind at all times. We tell them what they need to know, not what we think they want to hear. We want our clients well-informed and to proceed through litigation with their eyes wide open,” he says. It is important to Bryant that his firm maintain this level of service, and corresponding excellent reputation, as he admits that when it comes to working in his niche field, “my clients rarely have a need for an elder abuse attorney twice.” For Bryant that means that he must deliver premium service to each client, to ensure that they do send him a great deal of referral business. “Hopefully, I am known as a good, smart, honest and ethical attorney who is a zealous and effective advocate for his clients,” he says. It appears that he is certainly viewed as such by the San Diego legal community. Bryant has been selected as a San Diego Super Lawyer in Elder Law for the last three years and was recognized by the San Diego Daily Transcript in 2012 as one of San Diego’s Top Attorneys. Bryant is rated AV Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell, (the organization’s highest rating for ethical standards and legal ability). He served as President of the Consumer Attorneys of San Diego in 2011, and served on its board of directors for 11 years. He is also on the board of directors for the Consumer Attorneys of California and has received its Presidential Award of Merit. He serves on the Judicial Election Evaluation Committee and the Court Funding Action Committee of the San Diego Bar Association, and is a member of the American Association for Justice (formerly American Trial Lawyer Association). Yet for all of his involvement in the legal community at large, what continues to drive Bryant to work hard is his steadfast belief that “Elders are a particularly vulnerable and underappreciated part of our society and they are in dire need of competent attorneys to protect their interests and enforce their rights.” Fortunately, his motivation to be that attorney who protects them stems directly from the elders themselves, and the families he fights for. “I feel great representing these people. They have given me a much better perspective on life. My elderly clients have made me realize how important our health is, and how precious life is. They have taught me to always set aside adequate time for family, friends and fun, and to live each day to the fullest,” Bryant says with a smile. n
• Arizona State University, B.S. in Finance, Summa Cum Laude, (1983-1987) • University of San Diego School of Law, J.D. (1990)
• selected to San Diego Super Lawyers in Elder Law, 2012, 2013, 2014 • recognized by San Diego Daily Transcript as one of San Diego Top Attorneys, 2012 • rated AV Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell, that organization’s highest legal rating for ethical standards and legal ability • recipient of Consumer Attorneys of San Diego’s Outstanding Trial Lawyer Award, and several President’s Awards for Excellence • recipient of Consumer Attorneys of California Presidential Award of Merit
• Consumer Attorneys of San Diego, President in 2011 and member of Board of Directors for 11 years. • Consumer Attorneys of California, Board of Governors since 2012 • San Diego Barristers Club, President 1994 • San Diego Bar Association - Judicial Election Evaluation Committee, Court Funding Action Committee • American Association of Justice, Nursing Home Litigation section
The Power of Procrastination by David V. Lorenzo David V. Lorenzo is the Chairman and Founder of Rainmaker Lawyer Consulting. He and his team help attorneys make a great living and live a great life. People say his down-to-earth personality reflects more of his street smarts than his Ivy League education.
I have a confession. I battle procrastina-
tion every single day. It is terrible. I constantly feel as though I am up against a deadline. Actually, that is not correct. I feel like I am up against a guy with a loaded gun pointed against my head…waiting to pull the trigger. It is a constant pressure that drives me crazy. I get frustrated and angry with myself when I wait until the last minute to do things. I get upset at the people in my office for scheduling the appointments with the clients (like they knew I was going to wait until the last minute to get the work done). I get depressed when it happens again and again because I feel helpless to stop it. I rarely miss a deadline but I ALWAYS feel uncomfortable. Well, I used to feel uncomfortable and helpless… My team and I have developed a system to help me beat this personal deficiency. In fact, we have learned to use it to our advantage. My hope is that if I share my little trick with you, you will be able to use it in your law firm. Don’t think of it as time management. Think of it as activity management. Here is what we have done: First: We set artificial deadlines on all projects. These internal deadlines are designed to put pressure on me to feel the same pain of procrastination but feel it earlier than the true deadline. This does not mean the project is completely finished and out the door earlier, it just means that it is STARTED earlier. I have found that getting started is 90 percent of the problem.
20 percent to my estimate and blocks time on my calendar for completion before the deadline. (I always underestimate the amount of time it takes to complete a project). By the way, a critical change in my business life was turning all my appointment scheduling over to someone else. Part of my problem is that I would never say NO to anyone and I would always be overscheduled. Now I have view only access to my calendar. I cannot schedule an appointment if I want to. Everything goes through my assistant. Finally: I review my upcoming meetings with my office team one week prior. It is a staff meeting to hold me accountable. They do not critique my
“I suspect many people have procrastination issues. It is human nature.” recommendations to the clients; they just make sure I have the work done. Key point: We treat internal projects (like marketing initiatives) the same way we treat client projects. I suspect many people have procrastination issues. It is human nature. This little procrastination prevention system has made me much more efficient and effective. Is there a way you can create something similar in your law practice? n
Next: My assistant asks me how much time is necessary to complete the project. She then adds an additional Attorney Journal | Volume 124, 2013
Law Firm Differentiation by Gina F. Rubel, Esq. Gina F. Rubel, Esq. is the owner of Furia Rubel Communications, Inc., an integrated marketing and public relations agency with a niche in legal marketing. Gina and her agency provide strategic and measurable marketing counsel and services to help their clients meet their marketing and business goals. She and the agency have won national awards for law firm marketing, public relations, website and graphic design, corporate philanthropy and leadership. Gina maintains a blog at www.ThePRLawyer.com, is a contributor to The Legal Intelligencer Blog, AVVO Lawyernomics and The Huffington Post. You can find her on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/ginafuriarubel or follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ginarubel. For more information, go to www.FuriaRubel. com, call 215.340.0480 or email mailto:email@example.com.
Is Your Small Firm Another Cost-Effective Alternative to Large Law Firms? As a full-service legal marketing agency in the United States, our professionals regularly receive calls from small to mid-sized law firms that want to “differentiate themselves” from the large law firms and mega firms with whom they compete. Frequently, these law firms are situated just outside major metropolitan areas and have several lawyers who have “big firm experience.” And it is often the lawyers and/or administrators who are overseeing the firm’s marketing efforts because small to mid-sized law firms, especially suburban firms, rarely hire in-house marketers. Does this sound like you or your law firm? If so, read on. During our conversations about law firm marketing, we ask: What do you want to achieve as a result of your marketing? What are your quantifiable objectives? (i.e.: grow the business by X percent; grow the business by X number of attorneys; increase profits per partner (PPPs); etc.) How do you want your law firm to be perceived? What exactly do you want your audience to think about your firm? Who is your target audience and who are the decision makers within that audience? (i.e.: individuals; in-house counsel; procurement agents; C-level executives; etc.) Once we’ve established some of the foundational elements for the marketing strategy, we then ask, “What differentiates you from your competition?” The answers we almost always hear are: • We are a cost-effective alternative to large law firms. • We have lawyers with big law firm experience at small law firm rates. • Our lawyers are responsive to our clients’ needs. • We have access to attorneys who can handle all of a client’s needs. 22
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• Our attorneys can walk down the hall to get problems solved outside of the initial reason for the engagement. • Collectively, our attorneys have more than 100 years of legal experience (or something along those lines). Do you think any of these statements, even if true, actually differentiate the small or mid-sized law firm, especially if they are all saying the same thing? Recently, I conducted an online search with the phrase: “cost-effective alternative to large law firm.” I found several thousand law firm websites that use this exact language.
What Defines Law Firm Differentiation? Benefits
As lawyers, we have been taught to communicate our entire C.V. in our bios without attention to how we make a difference in our clients’ lives. While your law school and bar admissions are important, prospective clients want you to answer: • How can you help me? • What are the benefits to me working with you? • What are the benefits to me working with your law firm? At the end of the day, you need to answer the age-old WIIFM question, “What’s in it for me?” How are you going to answer? It’s no different than how you would answer the same question if asked in a telephone conversation. You certainly wouldn’t say, “I went to Harvard Law School. I joined the bar in 1982. I was admitted to the Supreme Court of the United States in 1979.”
Fee Structures and Alternative Fee Arrangements
Talk about your fee structures when possible. Let the prospect know if you offer alternative fee arrangements or lower contingency fees. If you are unfamiliar with alternative fee structures, it is time to get on board. The industry is moving in this direction.
Some alternatives include: • Fixed fees for matters—with or without caps. • Milestone formulas—fixed fees for completion of stages of a matter. • Value-based billing. • Decreasing rate scale for volume work. • Risk-sharing options. Kirkland & Ellis LLP does an excellent job of providing prospects and clients with detailed information on the firm’s website about its alternative fee arrangements at www.kirkland. com/sitecontent.cfm?contentID=341
Quality of Legal Service
Nothing can be more telling than the results delivered for clients. That is likely also the impetus behind most states’ rules of professional conduct that regulate, restrict or altogether reject the use of testimonials in legal advertising. Ways to communicate quality of legal service include: • Sharing information about precedent-setting cases. • Repurposing and/or sharing positive media coverage you or your lawyers have received regarding legal matters. • Sharing testimonials. • Accepting social media endorsements and recommendations. TREAD WITH CAUTION: Before sharing testimonials, recommendations, endorsements or any other form of accolades given to you or your lawyers, you MUST review your state’s ethics rules. If you practice law in, market in, or are admitted pro hac vice in more than one state, be sure to follow the most restrictive state’s rules. Include a disclaimer in your marketing materials to convey that no two cases are alike and that these results do not imply or guarantee similar results in a different matter.
Experience with Similar Client Industries, Issues and Record of Success
Would you hire just any doctor to deal with chronic lung disease or would you go to a pulmonologist? When you research who to see, you’d look for someone with experience dealing with your specific condition. Why do lawyers think buyers of legal services are any different? Include a list of industries served on your website (if you provide services that are relevant to industries). Include a list of corporate clients on your website. Share the types of problems you have solved for your clients along with the types of matters you handle. Be specific without violating any attorney-client confidentiality. Examples of the final point could include such statements as: • Pharmaceutical companies seeking FDA approval for new drugs turn to our compliance lawyers for counsel.
in established and start-up companies to assist with employment matters, industry compliance, tax planning and corporate growth. • High-net-worth individuals turn to our estate planning and family lawyers to protect their investments, estates and progeny. Whenever possible, demonstrate that you, at the very least, have experience in a niche area of the law rather than communicating a laundry list of 15-plus distinct practice areas including insurance defense and personal injury when you are a small firm. The response we usually get from general practice lawyers to this counsel is, “We don’t want to lose an opportunity and we have one attorney who handles PI work.” What that law firm is not aware of is the lost opportunity cost for all of the insurance companies that may have hired them but for the fact that they handle personal injury work. Nine times out of ten, no one is going to call you and tell you why they didn’t consider your firm for legal work.
For small and mid-sized law firms seeking business clients or those handling practice areas that allow for proactive planning, provide added value. For example, if your firm represents business clients in various matters and handles intellectual property issues, let relevant clients know when they should be looking to protect their IP (without being billed for it). Demonstrate that you really care about your clients; you’re not just about the billable hour. Other ways that attorneys can provide value to their clients are to: • Share relevant news articles, blogs or case analysis (via print, as an electronic newsletter, via social media, etc.) • Invite clients to seminars and CLEs that might be relevant to them. • Introduce clients to prospective customers, business referral sources, etc. • With permission and when a confidentiality agreement or gag order does not dictate, include your clients in media coverage or by sharing case studies. • Visit with your clients, on your own time and dime, regularly to check in. The bottom line is that differentiation means just that. Provide information of value to those seeking legal services. And don’t forget that this advice is not just meant for your website and printed bios. Include this same type of information in you your LinkedIn profile and in any other materials where you can communicate benefits to your target audience. You are on LinkedIn, right? n
• Our attorneys work with executives and entrepreneurs Attorney Journal | Volume 124, 2013
Continued from page 11 objectivity, and ability to generate and control discussions on specific topics. Generally, partners representing various age groups and practice areas may be selected to serve as discussion leaders. Many firms intentionally assign responsibility for discussion to younger or midlevel partners to expose them to their colleagues and encourage greater participation in firm administration. The retreat leaders should understand the objectives of the retreat and be responsible for stimulating and controlling the discussions. The leaders must make every effort to insure that all partners participate and are adept at eliciting responses from any hesitant participants. If the retreat topics include sensitive issues, the planners may wish to articulate specific ground rules that set forth methods for dealing with those subjects in a manner that fosters diplomacy. We encourage having open and reasonably candid, yet respectful discussions about each retreat topic, but are proponents of the theory that any comment or criticism with a negative shading should be balanced by a suggestion for improvement. The final phase of the retreat should emphasize the follow-up of action plans agreed upon during the retreat.
The executive committee or the retreat planning committee should assume the role of overseer to make certain that a written summary of the proceedings is prepared which identifies action plans agreed upon, the partner responsible for implementation or status reporting to the partners and the date for implementation of status reporting. The committee should also arrange for publication and distribution of the notes to the partners, and establish follow-up procedures for reporting on the status of those action plans. The extent to which the partners are willing and able to implement policies and programs agreed upon at the retreat will determine their level of commitment to the firm for the future. n Joel A. Rose is a Certified Management Consultant and President of Joel A. Rose & Associates, Inc., management consultants to the law firms based in Cherry Hill, NJ. He has extensive experience consulting with private law firms about management and organization, strategic and financial planning, lawyer compensation, the feasibility of mergers and acquisitions, and planning and conducting retreats. Mr. Rose may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Committed to Helping Victims of Elder Abuse and Personal Injury Receive the Justice and Compensation They Deserve • Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect • Financial Elder Abuse • Personal Injury Generous Referral Fees Paid Per State Bar Rules
750 B Street, Suite 3300 | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619.233.0011
Attorney Journal | Volume 124, 2013
veryone recognizes that referrals are the lifeblood of any service business. Despite that recognition, most lawyers report disappointment with the paucity of referrals they get out of the amount of time and effort it takes to cultivate referral sources.
Not All Referral Sources are Created Equal by Mike O’Horro Mike O’Horo is a serial innovator in the law business. His current venture, RainmakerVT, is the world’s first interactive online rainmaking training for lawyers, by which lawyers learn how to attract the right kind of clients without leaving their desks. For 20 years, Mike has been known by lawyers everywhere as The Coach. He trained more than 7000 of them, generating $1.5 billion in new business. Mike can be reached at email@example.com
The reason for this is pretty straightforward. Current sources aren’t particularly productive, so you’re constantly trying to recruit additional ones. As a result, you end up with too many unproductive referral relationships that you still have to invest time cultivating. Whether internal or external, a potential referral source needs one critical bit of information. What business problem or challenge do you solve? That’s all they need to recognize who needs you and will thank them for connecting you. They don’t need to understand your practice, expertise or accomplishments. They’re not hearing conversations about skills or solutions; they’re hearing conversations about problems. When they hear someone talking about your problem, it becomes a memory index by which they automatically associate you with the speaker’s situation. Here’s an example. For the twenty years that I trained and coached lawyers one-on-one, the problem I associated with was that of law partners having impressive contact lists but less impressive books of business. If a firm acknowledged having that problem, they needed me. Think how easy it would be for a banker, accountant, consultant, etc. to hear a law firm leader expressing frustration with their partners not converting such visible assets into business. All they have to say is, “Hey, I know a guy who’s been solving that specific problem for a long time. Would you find it helpful to have a conversation about how you might change that?” We call this underlying demand-driving problem the DoorOpener, because it literally opens doors to productive discussions with potential buyers. Once you arm your potential sources with your Door-Opener, communicate variations of the core problem. That reinforces their awareness of the problem and its significance, and associates you with it more vividly. The more aware they become about the problem’s impact and consequences, the more confident they’ll be that the person to whom they connect you will thank them for doing so, which raises the likelihood of them doing it. Now you can begin measuring actual referrals vs. perceived potential. Rank them by productivity, not potential. Concentrate all your attention on the top handful of referrers. It’s better to have four stark, raving fans than 20 people who send you little or nothing. Don’t ignore the rest completely, but limit your relationshipbuilding investment to inexpensive, plentiful means such as group email, blog posts, etc. In everything related to selling, I’ve learned that “yes” comes right away; “no” takes a long time. If someone is going to be one of your top referral sources, it will happen quickly. n
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There are as many opinions and takes
Are Legal Directories Worth the Investment? by Steve Stauff Steve Stauff is an law firm marketing consultant with FindLaw, a Thomson Reuters business, and has over 6 years of experience working with law firms in various capacities. For over three years, Steve was the national sales director for Super Lawyers and has extensive knowledge of the legal rating service industry. Previous to that, he managed a regional sales team with West Publishing that sold legal research products to small law firms, giving him a well-rounded understanding of the inner workings of small law firms. Steve has over 12 years of combined sales and sales management experience, holds a B.A. in liberal arts from Gustavus Adolphus Collage and is currently working on his M.B.A from St. Mary’s University
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on legal marketing strategies as there are people that consider themselves legal marketing professionals. The value of legal directories and their importance is a polarizing topic in the legal marketing world and if you follow any legal marketing forums, the topic has surely been argued. People will profess that they haven’t seen one case or a single client convert through a legal directory listing but that doesn’t mean that directories do not have a place in a law firm’s online marketing strategy if used effectively. So, what exactly are legal directories and where is the value? There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of legal directories out on the web. These directories offer searchable listings, similar to an online phone book, for finding an attorney based on a given practice area and geography, but not all legal directories are created equally. Legal directories should be an integral piece of any legal marketing campaign for several reasons. Several legal directories show up very well on page one of search engines for vanity searches (practice area + attorney/lawyer + geography). Directories are a very good way to drive qualified traffic to your firm’s website for those that are doing these types of searches. Now, this traffic isn’t always perfect traffic as these people could have a very broad range of needs and needs that you do not want to address. Potential clients doing these types of searches could simply looking for free legal advice or people that simply do not fit into the types of cases you want. For example, a firm focuses on high asset divorce yet the person looking for a divorce attorney in that metro may be three years removed from college with no assets and needs a simple dissolution, or so they think. Traffic to your website is important, but it is only one piece of the puzzle. Your website needs to be engaging, informative and help people think about their issue at a deeper level. What if that seemingly simple divorce client that found you through a vanity search gets to your site and realizes that their spouse may have hidden assets? If your site addresses those questions, that potential client picks up the phone. On top of engaging prospects, your website also needs to be easy to navigate and effectively project the strengths and the proper image your firm wants to present to potential clients and your referral base. Directories help drive traffic and without traffic to convert into clients, your website is the proverbial billboard in a cornfield. Legal directories also provide a solid amount of link value back to your firm’s website and practice area pages. Most legal directories are valuable sites based on page rank in the eyes of the search engines and having directories link back to your web properties provides valuable off-site search engine optimization. So even if a legal directory doesn’t show up on the first page of a search, there is still value to having a presence there. Search engines evaluate the value of inbound links based on the number, the quantity and relevancy of the links. Based on this theory, a firm needs several legal directory links back to your site to provide the search engine optimization value. Another value that directories provide
is extended online confirmation of your firm’s name, address and phone number. Search engines want to make sure that the address you are listing for your firm is legitimate because a lot depends on showing good quality search results for location-based keyword searches. Search engines take into account a law firm’s “citations.” Citations refer to any reference to your law firm’s name and address on other websites, blogs, and social media channels even if this doesn’t include a link back to your website. If your firm’s name, address and phone number are consistent across a variety of online properties, search engines have more confidence in knowing that your listed real physical location is real and increase your visibility in local searches. With the multitude of legal directories, a law firm can really take advantage of building that online confidence in their contact information. If you are now convinced that legal directories have value and if you are convinced that they should be included in your overall strategy, how does one go about selecting which directories to participate with? We talked about the need for having multiple directory listings to provide link value back to your website as well as building search engine confidence in your firm’s name, address and phone number. Now that we reaffirmed that multiple listings have value, you will want to do your research to find out which directory listings fit with your firm’s marketing strategy. A good place to start would be to do some of those vanity searches and find out which directories are showing up on the first page of your search. Do multiple types of searches around this and see which directories consistently show up. You can also do your homework to find out how often people are doing those types of searches online. Each search engine offers free tools that allow you to see the volume of the searches that matter to you and your law firm. Legal directories from legal rating services (Super Lawyers, Martindale Hubble, etc) should also be considered as they provide third party validation for your law firm. Search engines value connections to these types of directories as they are exclusive and essentially give your firm an online thumbs up from a third party service. Lastly, you should only look at reputable legal directories that provide and produce actual and real legal content. Search engines want relevancy and so do your prospects. Legal directories that you choose to work with should also be able to provide you the historic impression (number of times a directory spot is viewed) as well as click through numbers and provide you with realistic expectations about the traffic you can expect to come to your site through that directory. In closing, legal directories should be an integral part of a law firm’s marketing strategy to help drive traffic to your website while providing solid search engine optimization back to that website. If you have a limited budget for marketing you should invest that in your website and your brand. Legal directories are certainly not the end-all-be all of a marketing strategy, you also need to have a web site that engages a potential client and ultimately gets them to pick up the phone or send that email. Legal directories can bring the horses to the water but your website and your attorneys are the ones that are responsible to get them to drink! n
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Attorney Journal | Volume 124, 2013 27 5:04 PM 7/12/13
OF THE MONTH
Trial Lawyer Techie Trial Attorney & Trial Technology Consultant Jeff Bennion Explains Why “Luck Is For The Unprepared.”
BY KAREN GORDEN
here are a few things you’ll pick up on about Jeff Bennion from the minute you talk with him. The first,is that he’s extraordinarily funny. The second is that his love for capitalizing on the opportunities afforded via the use of technology is probably on par with that of the NSA. All joking aside though, Bennion, a trial attorney specializing in personal injury and employment law, is absolutely sincere when he says, “Trial is without a doubt the most important part of any case. An attorney can spend two years working up a case and it all comes down to 4-5 days of testimony. You can do everything right for two years, but make one critical mistake on one day during trial, and you’re done. All of that work is for nothing. Attorneys often spend so much time focusing on being right,that they lose sight of being convincing. Times have changed. The jury pool has changed. The methods used to convince jurors have changed. You can either take advantage of it, or be taken advantage by it.” Bennion has clearly taken advantage of the changing times and methods, and the decision to do so was intentional. “After undergrad, I got a job at Luce Forward. Not long after that, I was promoted and put on a team that worked almost exclusively on high stakes trials across the nation. It didn’t take long after being surrounded by some of the smartest attorneys in San Diego that I signed up for the LSAT and started applying to law 28
Attorney Journal | Volume 124, 2013
schools. I applied and was accepted to the USD night program so that I could keep my job and go to school at night,” he says. While working at Luce Forward, going to law school, and awaiting the arrival of his third son, “I was chosen to be in a small group of employees that got trained in the TrialDirector trial presentation software,” Bennion says. This happened to coincide with the start of the recession. “I started law school in 2005, during a healthy economy. Halfway through, I realized that I was going to be one of 7,000 people looking for an entry level job at a law firm. I needed to differentiate myself. I didn’t want to be the curve; I wanted to be ahead of it,” he explains. So armed with his experience in TrialDirector, and his determination to make himself stand out in a tough market, Bennion took a job in an insurance defense firm while still in law school. “At my first trial with that firm, I asked the partner if he wanted to put all of his eggs in one basket and trust me to present all of the evidence electronically and to do some custom graphics for his trial. He did, and it turned out great. After that, I was asked to participate in all of the trials,” he says. But by 2011, Bennion recognized that he wasn’t particularly smitten with insurance defense work. He wryly recalls the turning point. “I put together some neat impeachment evidence which showed that the plaintiff-a grandma- was a liar. We fought
Photo by Bauman Photographers
tooth and nail and got a defense verdict. The grandma got zero. The joy of that lasted until I reached the parking lot and started thinking about how there’s now a grandma who won’t be able to get the medical treatment she needs, won’t be able to play with her grandkids like she used to and will probably die much sooner, all because she had the nerve to be driving in her own lane that day.” However, he admits that the experience defense work has served him and his clients well. “I have a diverse background of plaintiff and defense work. I think it’s important to have that perspective. If you can’t look at your case from a neutral perspective, you can’t see your case from a juror’s perspective and you are putting yourself at a disadvantage,” he says. By contrast, what gives Bennion’s clients, including attorneys who hire him as a consultant, a huge advantage is Bennion’s ability to utilize technology in ways most attorneys have never even considered. “My whole practice involves being innovative by showing people new things, learning new techniques. I am blessed that part of my business involves buying the best and newest gadgets. I have a projector that shoots out an invisible laser grid and interacts with a wireless stylus, turning any surface into an interactive touchscreen. I have a touchscreen tablet PC that broadcasts a wireless high def audio and visual signal to my projectors. I have a pocket-sized, wireless super high resolution document camera. I have a pocket-sized, battery-powered projector that I use for mediations. The speaker that I use in court is about the size of soda bottle, but it is so loud that they will come from two departments over to ask you to turn it down. It’s wireless, of course, and will run for 2 court days on a single charge. If opposing counsel gives me a hard copy of a document and tells me it’s too bad that I can’t show it with my computer, it’s no problem. I have a scanner built into the bottom of my mouse. I just run my mouse over it and it scans it and saves it as a text-searchable document. I’m really hoping to get a brain injury trial soon so I can use my newest toy where I wave my hand over my motion controller to control the 3D model of the skull like Tony Stark in Iron Man.” Make no mistake, Bennion makes jokes about using technology, but he is dead serious when it comes to the results he has gotten for his clients, and on cases he’s consulted on. “When I went on my own in 2011, I had participated in 20-30 trials. I had worked on about 80 cases from complaint to verdict and won several big motions. I specialize in making trials interesting and enjoyable for jurors and judges. I take the evidence in a case and synthesize it into easily digestible charts and timelines and graphics. I help attorneys focus on not just making the correct arguments, but also understandable and memorable arguments,” he says. “And it works. It’s rare that I don’t get comments from judges or juror about how helpful it is.” Bennion’s skills have not gone unnoticed by the legal community nor by legal educators. Recently, Bennion was asked to go in and train the San Diego City Attorney’s Office on trial
presentation. He also signed on to assist Estey & Bomberger in discovery for their massive claim against Skechers, USA. He has at least one trial each month for the next four months. And his excitement about them is palpable. “A lot of the cases I get asked to work on are high-stakes cases in the 7 or 8 figure range, so I get to work with and against some of the best trial attorneys in Southern California,” he says. Bennion also teaches paralegal classes at night at Cuyamaca College. “It helps me put things in perspective. I know exactly what it is like to talk about boring legal subjects to groups of people who would rather be somewhere else. I try to keep that in mind when I’m working on trials—I assume that the people to whom I am trying to explain ‘implied warranty of merchantability’ don’t care and don’t want to care. How do I make them care? How do I ensure after I’m done explaining it to
“I help attorneys focus on not just making the correct arguments, but also understandable and memorable arguments.” them, I can send them back with confidence that they will make a million dollar decision in my client’s favor?” For Bennion, it all boils down to being prepared, whether he is representing a client or assisting fellow attorneys with trial technology, techniques or presentation. “Every time I go to trial, people always say ‘Good luck in trial!’ It’s a nice sentiment, but my response is always, ‘Luck is for the unprepared. Part of my job is planning for contingencies. Anything you can think of in 5 minutes as the worst case scenario for using computers for your trial, I had thought of and created a solution for, probably in 2007 or 2008 or 2009. I bring 2 projectors and 2 computers to every trial. I have 2 or 3 scanners that I bring with me. I have a quiet color laser printer that goes under the table. I’ve thought of it because I’ve been there. Certainly luck never hurts and every trial attorney could use a little luck, but I’ll take preparation over luck anytime. It’s so much more reliable.” n Jeff Bennion Law Office of Jeff Bennion 501 W Broadway, Suite 1330 San Diego, CA 92101 619-609-7198 www.jbennionlaw.com www.trialtechsupport.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Attorney Journal | Volume 124, 2013
Areas of Expertise Business/Commercial • Class Action Complex Litigation • Construction Employment/Wage and Hour Insurance Coverage/Bad Faith • Intellectual Property Legal Malpractice • Medical Malpractice Personal Injury • Probate Real Property/CEQA/Land Use • Wrongful Death
Past President: San Diego County Bar Association 2014 President of the San Diego Chapter of the American Board of Trial Avocates (ABOTA) Listed in The Best Lawyers In America, Super Lawyers and Top Attorneys 25 Years of Experience as a Mediator and Arbitrator 33 Years of Extensive Civil Litigation Experience Representing Plaintiffs and Defendants
Monty A. McIntyre, Esq. Mediator, Arbitrator & Referee Relentless Optimist® Rapid, Reasonable Resolution™ 501 West Broadway, Suite 1330, San Diego, CA 92101 | Phone: (619) 990-4312 | Email: email@example.com www.montymcintyre.com
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Attorney Journal | Volume 124, 2013
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