Yesterday, we heard from several lawyers who understand the value of professional generosity. Today, I offer you others from the second half of the alphabet. There are great lessons to be learned from these masters, each one of them who has a vibrant regional or national practice. Those practices do not fall from the sky. They come about because these men and women have given back to their brothers and sisters at the bar by education and mentoring; they have participated actively in local, regional and national bar activities; and they developed the respect and admiration of all those who have met them.
Mary Massaron, a partner with Plunkett Cooney, PC in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and a past president of DRI – The Voice of the Defense Bar, has concentrated her practice in appellate law for almost 30 years has been a long-time friend and colleague. A former law clerk to Justice Patricia J. Boyle of the Michigan Supreme Court, she has handled or supervised the handling of over 400 appeals resulting in approximately 50 published opinions, including over 100 appeals in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. When I wrote to her, she told me she was the commencement speaker at a Michigan Law School earlier this year, and spoke about the responsibilities of a lawyer in society. Included in her comments, were these sage words:
One of the hallmarks of my professional career has been my involvement in national and local bar organizations and my writing and speaking on legal topics. While this takes time, these activities not only make us better lawyers, they give us access to terrific mentors with incredible experience and talent that can enrich our lives—personally and professionally. For me, these activities have given force and meaning to my professional life, the chance to try to improve our justice system, and some public recognition that has been gratifying.
Oliver Wendell Holmes spoke of the struggle for achievement—and it is one that you will certainly experience whatever path you choose. But he added something that I think is worth remembering:
“[W]hile it is a delight to get praise that one deserves, the fiercest joy is in the doing. Those who run hardest probably have the least satisfaction with themselves, but they find, I am sure, that they know most of the joy of life when at top speed.”
That has certainly been true for me. I have known much joy in the doing—the doing of handling appeals for my clients, the doing of writing—articles and books, the doing of leading organizations doing work I thought important.
Mary can be reached at [email protected].
John Mumford is a great lawyer and has become a wonderful colleague and friend. John leads Hancock Daniel's insurance coverage practice group from the firm’s office in Richmond, Virginia. John represents insurance companies in litigating coverage disputes and bad faith claims in multiple jurisdictions and forums, with a focus on Virginia, the District of Columbia, North Carolina, Maryland, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
When I asked him to participate, he responded immediately and offered up his recent article on Building a Practice, which appeared in DRI’s Young Lawyer Committee’s publication, Raising the Bar. You can find the article here. His major points are important and they are discussed further in his article:
1. Make yourself a thought leader in something. Clients seek out experts, especially in this age of increasing specialization by lawyers. It is never too early to start building the foundation for clients (or people in your firm) to view you as an expert in a topic. Find something that is relevant to your practice area—whether that be a topic of substantive law, an issue or procedure, or even a specific court—and establish yourself as an expert by publishing and speaking on that topic.
2. Expand your world. It’s tough to build a practice sitting in your office 60 hours a week and talking to your same colleagues day in, day out. You need to get out there, meet fellow attorneys, meet prospective clients, and start to be known.
3. Train yourself. A common concern of young litigators is the lack of opportunities for those on-your-feet litigation experiences—court appearances of any kind, mediations and settlement conferences, depositions, etc. Yes, in a defense-oriented practice, it may take some time to get client approval for a new associate to handle a court appearance or deposition. But there are great opportunities for you to get valuable on-your-feet experience while making a difference in your community through pro bono opportunities.
4. Toot your own horn. If you’re speaking on a topic relevant to client interests, if you’ve written an article, received an award, or achieved some other accomplishment (like a good result in a pro bono case), make sure others know about it.
5. Don’t fall victim to imposter syndrome. A lot of young lawyers have a tendency to think that they don’t have enough experience or are underqualified to go after what they want—whether that is taking on leadership roles in organizations, volunteering to write or speak, or pitching work to potential clients. No one ever gained experience or qualifications by waiting on the sidelines.
Final thought—the most important tip of all is that when your marketing efforts pay off and that client gives you the opportunity to work for them, make the most of it. All of these tips pale in comparison to the importance of doing excellent and efficient work for the clients who put their trust in you. Also, clients talk to each other and they change jobs and take promotions in different companies. Good work for a client will spread among the industry—and the opposite holds true as well. Not one of these tips is going to have clients banging down your door tomorrow. But you will start to plant seeds that will lay the groundwork for your successful practice. Start planting those seeds now.
John can be reached at [email protected].
Donald Myles is a Senior Partner in the Phoenix Arizona office of Jones, Skelton & Hochuli, P.L.C. Don focuses his practice on defending clients in cases involving catastrophic injury and wrongful death claims, bad faith and extra-contractual liability, professional liability, and insurance coverage and fraud. He is the 2018 – 2019 President of the Federation of Defense & Corporate Counsel (FDCC), and a Past President of USLAW Network and the Arizona Association of Defense Counsel (AADC). Don is also a Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers (IATL), a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) since 1996, and a Fellow of the American College of Coverage and Extracontractual Counsel:
Friendships are the foundation to a happy and successful personal and professional life. You make friends with people when you reach out to help them with an issue or problem. The effort may be large or small or just an opportunity you might provide. Your professional and personal generosity shows people that you can be trusted. The best thing about having a client or contact who is your friend is that whether you get business or not, you enjoy the time spent with them. Nothing is worse than hustling business and pretending to be interested in someone when all you want is something from them. Even if you get work, the relationship becomes a chore that is a hardship to maintain. If you become a friend, the time spent together benefits you both every time, all the time. I have become good friends with people whom at first glance I would have never guessed I had anything in common with at all. I have also become friends with whom we disagree on almost everything except, that one thing. Mutual respect, friendship and the knowledge that either one of us would do something for the other all the time and any time. If your goal is to become someone’s friend and do something for them, you feel good, you did good and you will be good.
Don can be contacted at [email protected].
Thomas Segalla is a nationally recognized authority on bad faith, reinsurance, and insurance, an ARIAS-U.S. Certified Arbitrator and mediator, and a founding partner of the firm, Goldberg Segalla. He has been retained as counsel and as a consultant by numerous major insurance carriers and policyholders in more than 40 jurisdictions nationally and internationally, and has served as an expert witness in more than 100 bad faith, coverage, and extracontractual cases across the country. The first President of the American College of Coverage Counsel, in 2016, Tom was honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award for Private Practice by the State University of New York at Buffalo Law Alumni Association in recognition of his contributions to the legal profession and the community in which he serves.
For over 35 years, I have develop “Tom’s Time,” which occurs once weekly where I devote time to projects which are designed to make me, those around me and the profession as a whole better professionals and better human beings. The projects can be as simple as reading an article on “rewarding” others and then implementing it by alerting our HR folks or it can be writing an article or assisting charities.
This past year, I developed a charitable contribution which we intend to do annually where my wife Mary Lou and I donate a sum of money to the Eunice Kennedy Shiver Foundation for the betterment of mothers and infants. The contribution is made on behalf of all babies born to all Goldberg Segalla employees during the year. This year, there were 23 babies. I developed this idea during “Tom’s Time” on a flight from Florida to Buffalo. This is but one example of the many give backs of time, money and energy that have come out of “Tom’s Time.” The projects go on and on.
Tom can be found at [email protected].
John Trimble is a partner in the Indianapolis law firm of Lewis Wagner, LLP. He is the lawyer that everybody knows, wherever you travel, no matter your practice. John is one of a kind, an incomparable bar leader and mentor of many.
John maintains a practice that is dominated by catastrophic, complex, and class action litigation in the State and Federal Courts. He focuses much of his time on insurance coverage disputes, bad faith defense, lawyer and insurance agent malpractice, business litigation, and catastrophic damages caused by all types of casualty risks, including transportation, construction, product liability, fires, and governmental liability, to name a few.
John has distinguished himself as a bar leader. He has been president of the state defense bar and is a past Defense Lawyer of the Year honoree. He has also served on the Board of Directors of DRI. In 2000, DRI named John its outstanding defense bar leader of the year. More recently, John has chaired DRI's national Judicial Task Force to explore and offer recommendations on how DRI can assist in maintaining a fair and impartial judiciary. John is a Past President of the Indianapolis Bar Association; President-Elect of the Indianapolis Legal Aid Society; and a past Chair of the Board of Visitors of Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. He is also the President-Elect of the Texas based Association of Attorney Mediators.
John wrote these words, which should be read, considered and taken to heart:
Dan, we live in a time when the billable hour and the profit motive of law firms can be a disincentive for lawyers to be professionally generous. It is wonderful of you to bring this topic front and center.
All of the lawyers I know who are truly professionally generous will tell you that they believe that they have gained far more that they have ever given to the profession. The friendships, the opportunities, the invitations, and the business that flow from professional involvement are all too abundant to ever calculate.
Smart law firms actually do incentivize their lawyers to be professionally involved. They track the level of involvement of their lawyers and staff, and they support it financially. What they find is that their lawyers and staff are happier and more productive, and the reputations of their firms rise along with the spirits of their colleagues.
It is well known in all voluntary groups that they desperately need reliable volunteers and future leaders. Bar associations are no exception. To my young lawyer friends, I implore you to join and get involved in bar associations and be persistent for your entire career. Look for the professionally generous lawyers in your circle of bar leaders and emulate them, learn from them, and position yourself to succeed them. You are not too busy for professional service...believe me.
If you can learn the taste of the secret sauce of professional generosity, you will have a career that is successful and satisfying beyond anything you ever dreamed. You will learn that law is about friendship and service and problem solving and justice and equity. You will make your mentors proud, and you will position yourself to mentor the next generation coming up behind you.
John Trimble can be reached at [email protected].
John Woodard has been practicing law in Tulsa, Oklahoma, since his discharge from the Marines in 1971 and is a Partner at Coffey, Senger & McDaniel. He has an emphasis in personal injury and commercial litigation. John has served as the Chair of the Oklahoma Bar Association's Insurance Committee, the President of the Federation of Insurance & Corporate Counsel, a director and treasurer of the Defense Research Institute, and served as the President of the Oklahoma Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates. I asked John for his views on professional generosity:
Professional generosity is two-pronged. You give time and talents to legal and civic organizations. You also must give time and talents to other lawyers pro bono. When you do both, you get the boomerang effect. You increase your legal knowledge, you get the personal satisfaction of helping others and, who knows, you might even get a referral or two. Win-Win.
If you are interested in others, you will be interesting.
Find John at [email protected].
Thank you, my friends, for your thoughtful words. If these messages do not inspire young lawyers and law firms alike to engage in Professional Generosity, I cannot imagine what would do so.