Portriat of the Plaintiff’s Lawyer as a Young Man
I grew up in Waukegan. When I was a kid, I took karate lessons at a school on Washington Avenue, near Lewis, next to Club 18 Liquors. I learned about hard work, grit and determination. I never thought I would use these skills to fight insurance companies someday.
In school, I always got good grades, so after high school, I went to college at The University of Chicago. Then, I went to law school at the University of Virginia.
After law school, I got my first job in New York City, defending insurance companies. I quickly learned that I did not like it. Insurance companies make their money by denying and disputing every claim they can get away with — even when they are responsible for the damage.
I made very good money; but it seemed wrong, very wrong.
At church, I met and fell in love with a schoolteacher named Maria. We got married and soon had our first child (a boy). Two years later, we had our second son. My circle of friends grew larger because Maria was from New York and had a lot of friends and family.
One day, a friend of Maria’s asked me to handle a “plaintiff’s case.” This meant representing someone who was suing an insurance company.
I won that case, but more important than winning was the fact that the client inspired me to switch sides. After that, I became a “reformed insurance defense lawyer.”
Now, I only sue insurance companies for regular people.
After making that change, I have never looked back.
First, I love helping people.
Secondly, I was good at it. I had worked with insurance companies so long that I knew all their “dirty tricks.” I knew how to protect my clients against them.
Thirdly, working as a plaintiff’s lawyer gave me the chance to be my own boss.
Fifteen years ago, my little family grew larger after my second son was born, I moved out of New York to Gurnee. Then, I opened my law practice in May 2009.
Only four months later, my only daughter, Emily, was born.
Those early years were both thrilling and stressful. As a business owner, I experienced the highest highs and the lowest lows. Everything depended on me: the successes and the failures.
Over time I developed a following of clients. I also learned you cannot win every case.
The first case I lost in Lake County taught me a valuable lesson: clients will respect you for doing your best, even if you don’t win.
When I lost my first case in Lake County, I was ashamed of the result. I thought my career was over. But my client told me he wanted to pay me even more money to appeal the decision. He thought the judge was wrong (I did too!).
I discovered that when you always do your best, a loss can still lead to other opportunities
The rewards can come in strange ways too.
The best part of winning a hard case is helping someone who really needs it. For example, I once won a lot of money for a seriously injured young woman. I can’t share the details because of a confidentiality agreement, but I can say that she and her mom baked me a huge plate of oatmeal raisin cookies.
It was the tastiest plate of cookies I have ever had!
I am glad that early in my career, I changed my path and tried to make a difference. I left the lucrative career of defending big insurance companies in New York City and returned home to help ordinary people — the people from the community where I grew up — who might otherwise be cheated by the tricks of insurance companies.
Now, I don’t need karate to fight the insurance companies. I already have their playbook.