In Version 1.0 of my bio, I described the dream that led to the creation of Valorem: in short, the belief that unparalleled service and alignment of our interests with those of our client would fundamentally alter the way lawyers and clients relate. Our immediate goal was to kill the billable hour, the largest obstacle to achievement of this fundamental realignment.
In a recent meeting with our Advisory Board, which is made up of current and former in-house lawyers, clients and non-clients, business people and advisors to the legal industry, the Board urged us to shift our focus away from the billing issues to a clearer description of what we offer. Less what we are not, more what we are. With that advice in mind, I thought it a good time to update my bio to focus on how the Valorem approach is providing benefits for our clients.
I have spent many years supervising lawyers in my role as national trial counsel for a number of clients. I have often described the work that I have seen from many of these lawyers, not to mention, some opposing counsel and co-counsel, and even from peers at former firms as “litigation by numbers.” It’s the litigation equivalent of the “paint-by-numbers” kits that were so popular when I was a kid. No great work of art was ever produced by a paint-by-numbers “artist.” Likewise, those who follow the “litigation by numbers” play book may be able to produce adequate results, but they are never going to be game-changers for their clients. Valorem was created to bring together game-changers and mold the group into a powerful force for achieving results clients dream of but rarely dare to expect.
We built Valorem on the following foundation:
Experience is worth more than body count. Experience allows us to do what is necessary in a matter to secure our client’s objectives, but also avoid doing those unnecessary things done under the billable hour model. Much of what happens in litigation is irrelevant activity that will not alter the outcome. Knowing what activity is irrelevant and having the courage to advise a client to forego that activity is something real trial lawyers do for their clients. Litigate by numbers lawyers don’t.
The value of experience can be multiplied by collaboration. As our website makes apparent, we have “skin in the game” in most of our cases. As a result, it is in our financial interest to harness the collective experience and creativity of all our partners to produce better ideas and better work than any of us would produce on our own. If you have any doubt about the value of collaboration, I invite you to join us for one of our collaboration sessions.
Experience and collaboration will produce better results. We avoid the “percolation syndrome” inherent in the staffing approach used by almost every other law firm. The “push work down to the lowest level” approach superficially caters to client desires to control costs, but the approach has the opposite effect. Inexperienced lawyers frequently don’t appreciate critical documents, for example, because they don’t have experience examining witnesses or dealing with business issues, or because they don’t appreciate the critical issues in the case. As a result, these lawyers miss opportunities that experienced lawyers would not, and once that opportunity is missed or key document discarded, the senior lawyer never knows what he or she missed out on. At Valorem, our experienced teams all review documents—and do everything else on the case too! So better results and usually it costs the client less, not more.
Strategic thinking can fundamentally change the course a lawsuit would otherwise follow. Experience can be leveraged.
Most lawyers are afraid of trials. That is why real trial lawyers are generally able to secure better settlements for their clients. It’s a game of chicken on the way to courtroom, and Valorem lawyers don’t flinch. Valorem lawyers are at home in the courtroom.
Business tools and business thinking assist us in driving down the cost of litigation. Project management tools facilitate the “do what is necessary but only what is necessary” approach. Separating services into categories and doing only those where we add value helps us save time and money by working with the appropriate level of vendors, such as e-discovery providers for a given case.
Our clients end up with a lean, elite team of skilled trial lawyers focused on the critical issues of the case intent on accomplishing our client’s strategic objectives for the matter. Our fee arrangements, to be profitable to the firm, naturally create incentives for us to lower costs. Valorem fee arrangements also provide clients with cost certainty. And our experience so far is that these fees provide great results for lower cost.My experience and education are detailed in formal bio.
Our Advisory Board also urged us to be direct with prospective clients, asking this question: “Do you have matters where achieving outstanding results at lower cost would benefit the Company?” We recognize that sometimes a client may need a brand name large firm on a particularly significant matter. In those circumstances, a client may decide to go with a “name” firm. We believe that we will become that “safe” choice for the extraordinary cases, but we recognize that aiming for that level is not prudent. So, for now, if your budget is tight and you need to find ways to do more with less, we think we can help.
My experience and education are detailed in formal bio.
I attribute my success in large part to the path I took to get to where I am today. I joined the firm now known as Katten Muchin Rosenman when I graduated from law school in 1982. At that time, Katten was a mid-sized firm whose clientele tended to be entrepreneurs. As a result, I had considerable contact not only with “the client,” but more importantly, with people who ran the businesses. To survive in that environment, one had to learn the value of short, direct answers to business questions. We did not have the luxury of lengthy analytical memos. We learned to look at our effort as an investment, always focusing on whether the payoff justified the investment.
One of the traits I learned when working with entrepreneurs early in my career is to look for business solutions to business problems. I love it when I have been able to arrange for my client to buy the company suing us, for example, or when, through creative mediation, we have been able to resolve matters for much less than reserved. The application of creativity to litigation problems is one of my strengths.
I was fortunate to spend a great deal of time in court, and I have tried a number of cases. When my mentor was sued personally (the firm also was sued), he tapped me to defend him and the firm. I was tapped later by another partner who was sued personally in the aftermath of a tremendous pro bono success he had achieved for the highly publicized “Bambi Bembenek,” whose story was touted in books and a movie. While my personal relationships with these partners increased the pressure to win, I was honored to be their chosen trial lawyer. My mentor had himself been mentored by the famed trial lawyer Edward Bennett Williams, who founded the legendary Williams & Connelly firm in Washington, DC. To this day, my mentor’s praise that “Edward Bennett Williams could not have done a better job” is a source of great satisfaction. The verdict in our favor on both cases was unanimous.
I tell the stories of the trials of my former partners because their requests that I represent them when their reputations were on the line are the strongest endorsements I have received. But courtroom accomplishments are only a small part of the story. I learned early on that most clients hate the uncertainty and high cost that accompany trials and instead want business solutions quickly.
In this context, the ability and willingness to take a dispute to trial are tools to achieve the best possible resolution. If your opponent fears a jury verdict, that fear can be exploited to our client’s advantage. The key is to never let the desire to win at trial compromise the ultimate objective of getting the best result for the client.
From a substantive standpoint, I have spent considerable time representing clients in mass tort claims, including acting as National Coordinating Counsel and National Trial Counsel. I have handled numerous post-acquisition disputes for clients following roll-up business plans that spawned considerable litigation around the country. Beyond this, I have handled numerous fraud investigations and suits, contract and warranty claims, construction claims, professional liability, lending, minority shareholder and similar disputes that businesses experience more frequently than they prefer.
I have been blessed with great client relationships and many of these clients would be pleased to tell you about their experiences with me. Feel free to ask me about references.