When I started my practice many years ago, my wife asked me where I would get my clients. I asked my mom who said she had never consulted a lawyer. I asked my grandma, and she never had either. Encouraging words for a young lawyer, and I hadn't a clue either. The truth is, starting my own practice years ago was a leap of faith. Since I took the leap, however, I've not had a problem thanks to the many insurance companies that play fast and loose with accident victims. They are quick to collect premiums, but almost universally will do just about anything to avoid paying a fair settlement to someone who is injured.
I came to the practice of law in an unusual fashion. I was born in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up with a rough crowd in that city. My parents didn’t have much education. My mom went as far as 4th grade, and my dad made it through 3rd. Truthfully, with their exuberance, a large circle of friends, and my father's skills (he was an electrician, a bricklayer, a locksmith, a plumber, and a damned good animal trainer) they didn't need the education. They lived a long and happy life.
I didn't take to school much myself. Although admitted by examination into Brooklyn Technical High School, one of the best high schools in NYC; I quickly lost interest in this all boys, 6,000 student school. At the first assembly, the principal gave us all a warning:
"Look to the left of you, look to the right of you, look in front, look behind. . .[long pause]. . , one of you won’t be here next year".
He was talking right at me, and I was expelled before the year was over. I should have had a clue when my shop teacher, Mr. Riker, called me to the front of the room in wood making class. I had tried my best at following his directions to carve some complicated wooden doodad.
"Smith!”, He piously yelled: "This looks like something out of the end of a horse's ass." What could I say? He was right. I was expelled and the next year had the severe punishment of leaving the 6,000 boy fortress and having to attend my "local" high school where half the student body was female. My burgeoning testosterone was so grateful for my downfall. I later realized what some people would consider a setback, was for me one of the best things that ever happened to me.
I try to remember this when I meet clients that are hurt, dispirited and with little help of recovery. Life can always surprise us, and until our final days, we rarely know what a “good thing" or a "bad thing" is.
I did graduate from my local high school, although in fairness, I failed a lot of classes and had to attend summer school every year. I lived for swimming and became the Captain of my swim team. It was my first "success" in life that I really took in. (My grandma's wild applause when I played waltzes for her when I was eight on the accordion notwithstanding).
I left New York and joined the Air Force which was a potent motivator for a kid with zero direction. While stationed near Buffalo, New York, I had the good luck to hang with Lt. Gutierrez in the base bar and lounge at the end of my teen years. Over beers, we'd argue about the Dodgers, politics, religion, actually about damned near everything. He was a liberal officer from California, and I was a biased and headstrong New Yorker, but we had the streets in common and formed a bond despite our differences.
"Ed, damn you argue good. You should be a lawyer". I laughed but was secretly delighted. He planted a seed. I downed lots of Guinness with him, and later he asked if I'd take some classes with him at night at a local community college. He didn't want to drive by himself the 40 miles several times a week.
"I suck at school, Robbie." I protested, but he kept on pushing. I took a class just to pass some time and actually got an A. Shocked the hell out of me. I had never come near an A in all my days in high school. I took another class and another A. Encouraged, I continued to take classes in the Air Force and eventually in the UC system where I graduated Magna Cum Laude. Thanks, Lt. Gutierrez wherever you are.
I volunteered for airborne duty, and it finally enabled me to escape from New York and settle in warm, beautiful Sacramento, California. I followed the advice I was given and graduated from Mc George School of Law in 1982. Since then, I've had my own practice in Sacramento where I practice personal injury law exclusively.
I work with 20 great people, and together we've built www.AutoAccident.com, the premier auto accident site in the nation. I'm rated 10.0 by Avvo.com (the lawyer rating site), and lecture and write extensively in the personal injury field. I'm a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum (http://www.milliondollaradvocates.com) and Consumer Attorneys of California. My verdicts and settlements are listed on my website.
When I’m not practicing law I enjoy hiking, travel, music, technology, finance, and art.
Over the years, I've had six near-death experiences that I know of, from the streets of New York to the jungles of Vietnam and the mountains of desolation wilderness. Alex, the other attorney who works with me, is a former triathlete who has had three very serious and damaging bike accidents over the years. I'm telling you this because you too may have a serious injury or brush with death and I want you to know I'm no stranger to both.
You may wonder why I'm telling you more than you wanted to know about me and my so-called life. The reason is that whatever attorney you hire to handle your injury case, they are going to ask you to reveal more to them about your life than you may feel comfortable in disclosing. Any attorney you have working for you needs to know you very well- your strengths, your weaknesses, your accomplishments, your failures, your dreams, your despairs. He or she needs to know this in order to obtain a fair recovery before a jury. The jury doesn't want to know you as a shell; no one resonates with shells. They need to know the good of you and the not so good. You need to trust your attorney and reveal everything to him. Likewise, as I've just done, they need to reveal the good and not so good of their life to you. Without truth on both sides, you have little chance of a fair recovery on your injury case.