Ariel Olstein

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In the summer of 2018, I joined Valorem Law Group because I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself. That is, I wanted to contribute to Valorem’s innovative approach to attorney-client services and value based alternative fee arrangements. I use the word “innovative” with caution, fully realizing that the only innovation you will find at most law firms is the different methods attorneys have developed for separating clients from their money (hey, someone paid to engrave the firm logo on that crystal paperweight; hopefully, it was not you). Valorem, however, is different, focusing on authentic alternative fee arrangements and actively transforming a legal industry that is well-known to be change-resistant. 

Before joining Valorem, I worked as an attorney for a boutique law firm that specializes in forming captive insurance entities for healthcare corporations and defending medical malpractice lawsuits on behalf of those corporations for a fixed fee. In non-lawyer talk, that simply means that I worked as an “in-house litigator” and was able to focus on obtaining the best results for my clients without the distraction of having to bill in six-minute intervals. This gave me unique insight, at the very embryonic stages of my legal career, as to how the billable hour model rarely ever serves the best interests of the client. For instance, I witnessed first-hand how other insurance-defense attorneys, chained to their billable hour requirements, were forced to put quantity ahead of quality and ironically “did not have the time” to pursue effective and efficient results for their clients. I also noticed, without patting myself on the back (OK, just a little), that there were tangible rewards for not billing by the hour. Within the first year of practice, I was able to secure a complete summary judgment victory on behalf of a long-term care provider located in Cook County, where 99% of long-term care lawsuits are forced to settle out of court due to prohibitive defense costs. I was also able to negotiate favorable settlements on behalf of my clients with maximum cost and time efficiency in a variety of wrongful death cases involving complex allegations of medical negligence. It very soon became clear to me that hourly billing, which is simply not value based, makes no sense whatsoever. 

I would also be remiss if I did not mention that I was trained – from the very beginning – to focus on quality, not quantity. The training I refer to involved the surprisingly fun experience I had working as a judicial intern for Justice Robert E. Gordon of the Illinois Appellate Court and Judge Timothy A. Barnes of the United States Bankruptcy Court. I mention “surprisingly fun” because my nerdy side actually enjoyed spending long hours in the law library drafting legal opinions on a wide variety of cases. But more importantly, as a judicial intern, I had the unique privilege of listening to Justice Gordon and Judge Barnes critique the attorney performances in their respective courtrooms (OK, so this was the really fun part). And without getting into specifics, because what happens in chambers –– stays in chambers, I will share with you the three core lessons that I learned:

1. Great attorneys are compassionate attorneys. Without compassion, an attorney cannot fully understand the issues that the client faces. Without compassion, an attorney cannot understand their adversary’s position or anticipate what their adversary will do. Compassion is a necessity, not a luxury.

2. Great attorneys listen. They listen to their clients. Listen to their adversaries. Listen to their colleagues, and listen to the Judge. It all starts with listening.

3. Great attorneys are assertive, not aggressive. Assertive attorneys make themselves heard and stand up for their client’s rights. Aggressive attorneys act without respect to others and their conduct does not help them or their client’s cause.

These three core lessons serve as my guideposts.  They pretty much tell you everything you need to know about my aspirations as a young attorney and my approach to representing clients. They are also representative of the qualities Valorem attorneys epitomize. 
Outside of Valorem, I work full-time as a proud father of three “energetic” boys that are all under the age of 10 (and they said it was only terrible twos). When I am not appearing in court, writing a brief, or checking my email, an obsession that my wife will gladly confirm, I am probably trying to teach my boys dispute resolution techniques that do not involve throwing things at each other.

In my “free time,” when I am on vacation with my wife and without the energetic boys, you can find me scuba diving somewhere around the colorful corals and abundant marine life of the beautiful Red Sea or the Great Mayan Reef. Come join me, scuba diving is flat-out spectacular.