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Why you should NEVER use a release authorization issued by the Department of Health

john : November 21, 2016 3:43 pm : Articles

Here’s a common scenario: the defense lawyers send you release authorizations on standard pre-printed forms issued by the New York State Department of Health (Office of Court Administration Form 960). With the stamp of approval of the Department of Health, there can’t be anything wrong with these release authorizations, right? Not so fast, my friend.

The pre-printed forms “approved” by the Department of Health for the release of medical records and ex parte interviews between defense counsel and the plaintiff’s non-party treating physicians should never be used. The DOH “approved” authorizations provide none of the safeguards against the accidental (or intentional) disclosure of privileged medical information and non-treating physicians may mistakenly think that a private, ex parte meeting with defense counsel is mandatory.

Here are some reasons you should never use the DOH release authorizations:

Your Arons’ Authorizations must have Warnings in bold type print

In Porcelli v. Northern Westchester Hospital Center, 65 A.D.3d 176 (2nd Dep’t 2009), the Appellate Division, Second Department held that the plaintiff may include, directly on the Arons’ authorizations he provides to defense counsel, a statement that the purpose of an informal, ex parte interview sought by defense counsel is solely to assist defense counsel at trial and that participation is voluntary. The court in Porcelli held that “consistent with Arons v. Jutkowitz (9 NY3d 393), such information may be included directly on the HIPAA-compliant authorization form.”

The court in Porcelli approved warnings on the release authorizations provided to the defense counsel that:

The purpose of the requested interview with the physician is solely to assist defense counsel at trial.

The physician is not obligated to speak with defense counsel prior to trial. The interview is voluntary.

In addition to the warning admonition on the release authorization, the court in Porcelli permitted the plaintiff’s counsel to put the warning in boldface type and emphasize the warning in red with yellow highlighting. The court in Porcelli held that “the method the plaintiffs employed here—placing the admonition directly on the HIPAA-compliant authorizations and highlighting the language—is consistent with Arons, as it clearly serves the primary purpose of conveying the information in a manner that best prevents the accidental disclosure of privileged information.”

Consistent with Porcelli, I place yellow highlighting over the warnings and I added a third warning to the Arons’ authorization that reads:

Any discussion with defense counsel is entirely voluntary and MUST BE LIMITED IN SCOPE to the particular medical condition at issue in the litigation.

In order to make sure that the defense counsel uses the color version of my Arons’ authorization, I include a statement that:

This authorization is VOID if the above NOTICE is not highlighted in YELLOW.

You should object to the Arons’ release authorizations provided by the defense on pre-printed forms issued by the Department of Health. The DOH authorizations contain NO warnings or information regarding the voluntary nature of the interview or the purpose of the interview.

When the defense lawyers get the Arons’ authorization on the DOH pre-printed form, they essentially have carte blanche to meet with the plaintiff’s treating physicians under the guise that such a meeting is mandatory and there is no topic that is off limits. Non-party treating physicians have no idea what topics are off-limits in the private meetings with defense counsel. In order to prevent the accidental disclosure of privileged medical information, you must make sure your Arons’ authorizations contain the warnings and bold type print that have been specifically approved and endorsed by the Appellate Division in Porcelli.

In addition to the warnings on the Arons’ authorizations, I send letters to the nonparty treating physicians to alert them that my client prefers that they do not meet with defense counsel and I request that they allow me to attend the meet with defense counsel if they intend to meet. My letters to non-party treating physicians read, “My client prefers that you do not engage in such private discussions with anyone except us concerning any aspect of his medical condition, treatment or prognosis.” In my letter, I also alert the non-party treating physicians that, “many federal courts have recently rendered decisions holding that such authorizations and ex parte discussions are prohibited by federal law (HIPAA) and that federal law preempts state law regarding these issues.”

Always make sure you have this warning on your release authorizations provided to the defense

There are situations in which defense firms have altered medical authorizations to include the names of insurance carriers, thereby allowing insurance companies to obtain patient records. In other situations, defense firms have provided separate letters to insurance carriers to allow them to act on behalf of the defense firm. I believe that both of these practices are improper. To afford the patient the level of privacy that is guaranteed by HIPAA, the patient is entitled to know exactly who has the patient’s records. For that reason (among others), I include the following language in my standard defense medical authorization:

NOTICE: This authorization is only valid for requests for patient information that are made directly by the defendant’s attorneys who are specifically listed below. The permission granted by this authorization cannot be assigned or delegated to anyone who is not a partner or employee of the defendant’s attorneys specifically listed below. Any attempt to do so renders this authorization VOID. Should anyone other than a partner or employee of the defendant’s attorneys specifically listed below attempt to use this authorization to obtain this patient’s health information, YOU ARE INSTRUCTED NOT TO PROVIDE THAT INFORMATION and are requested to immediately contact the patient’s attorney, John H. Fisher.

The form and content of my release authorizations were specifically approved by Justice Gerald W. Connolly in Chapman v. Mastrocola, (Ulster County, Supreme Court, Index #: 09-0561), where he held that: “The Court finds the plaintiff’s forms to be fully-compliant with the authorizations required by the Arons decision….” Hence, if you have any doubt whether my release authorizations are acceptable, Justice Connolly removed any question in his Decision and Order.

photo credit: benben via photopin (license)

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Protecting Your Clients’ Privacy Rights with Social Media

john : July 22, 2015 4:15 pm : Articles

New York courts have uniformly held that a defendant is not entitled to the blocked content of a plaintiff’s Facebook site by the mere existence of the site itself.

The defendants may not obtain discovery of blocked social media postings absent the existence of some articulable basis for believing that the private content is material and relevant to the plaintiff’s litigation more »

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The Best Way to Kick-Start Your Lawyer Website in Only 45 Days

john : July 22, 2015 4:14 pm : Articles

Want to kick-start your lawyer website in just six weeks?  Impossible, you say?  If you do only one thing for your website, you should hire a blogger to write valuable content for the blog on your website with a new post every single day. more »

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How to Use Your Retainer Agreement to Differentiate Your Law Firm from Everyone Else

john : July 22, 2015 4:14 pm : Articles

The ultimate goal is to differentiate your law practice from every other lawyer. Easier said than done, right?  But here’s one thing you can do now that will instantly make your practice different.

In New York, lawyers are ethically permitted to accept complete responsibility for case expenses in the event there is no monetary recovery, i.e., you lose the case.  And let’s face a simple truth, our clients (at least 99% of them) don’t have the assets or income to reimburse us for cases expenses if you they lose their case.  Then why do we still insist that our clients are responsible for case expenses when you know they won’t be able to pay them? more »

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How to Convert Website Visitors into Paying Clients

john : July 22, 2015 4:13 pm : Articles

What is the real purpose of a website for your law practice?  No, it has nothing to do with fancy graphics and award-winning logos or the self-glorification of you and your partners.  The only purpose of a website is to get clients and make money. more »

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How to Pay Case Expenses without Spending a Dime

john : July 22, 2015 4:11 pm : Articles

Would you take a suitcase full of cash, put it under your bed and leave it there for three years?  Probably not, right?  You want to earn interest on your money and that suitcase full of cash won’t earn a penny. Even if you put your money in a money market account, you’ll get at least get some return from your money even if it’s just 1%. more »

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A Guaranteed Way to Get Rich…on Auto-Pilot

john : July 22, 2015 4:11 pm : Articles

Saving money isn’t easy—you’ve got bills to pay, kids to send to college and make the weekly payroll of your staff.  Sometimes it’s a wonder there’s any money left for you.  You know you’re supposed to be saving money, but you’ve got to pay the bills first.  There’s an answer that is easy and takes no discipline on your part. more »

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The Rocket Fuel to get Your Case to Trial

john : July 22, 2015 4:11 pm : Articles

Have you ever made a big mistake because you didn’t know that your client did time at Sing-Sing for armed robbery (I have) or you didn’t know about the racy photos on her Facebook profile?  Checklists can make your life a whole lot easier by making big screw-ups less likely. more »

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Breathing New Life into a Run-of-the Mill Neck Injury Case

john : July 22, 2015 4:10 pm : Articles

Need to breathe life into your run-of-the-mill neck or back injury case?  How about an interactive DVD that allows you to show the herniated disc from multiple angles and allows your medical expert to zoom in to show the injury in as much detail as she wants?  And here’s the cool part, this is not a demonstrative medical illustration, but an interactive DVD based upon your client’s actual MRI or CT scan. more »

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A Simple Way to Save a Ton of Cash When Requesting Medical Records

john : July 22, 2015 4:10 pm : Articles

A big expense of a new personal injury case is the cost of getting your clients’ medical records. A complete set of medical records for a month-long hospitalization can cost more than $500 and that’s before you’ve decided whether to accept the case.  A simple solution is to request the electronic medical records on a compact disc.  A federal law, known as “HITECH”, enacted in 2009 gives you this right. more »

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How to Eliminate the Cost of a Videotape Deposition

john : July 22, 2015 4:09 pm : Articles

Videotape depositions give you powerful ammunition that you can never get from a written transcript—long pauses by the witness before an answer, a witness staring at the ceiling while thinking of an answer or a witness’s grimacing facial expressions and defensive, arms-crossed body language.  Without video of your depositions, you will be missing out on the witness’s non-verbal facial expressions and body language that can make the difference in winning your case.  It’s undeniable: if a deposition is not important enough to videotape, you shouldn’t take the deposition. more »

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How to Update ALL of Your Local Online Lawyer Directories with One Simple Step

john : July 22, 2015 4:09 pm : Articles

There are a ton of local registries on the internet, i.e., whitepages.com, local.com, superpages.com etc., that consumers use to find lawyers, but there’s just one you. (Google Places is a powerhouse local registry, but there are close to a hundred good ones and your profile needs to be on all of them),  What can you do to make sure you can be found on every local registry?  YEXT! more »

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4 Simple RULES for Killer Web Content

john : July 22, 2015 4:08 pm : Articles

The average person has an attention span of 8 seconds.  But it gets worse—out of every 8 people who read a headline on your website, only 2 will continue to read—ouch, that’s only 1 out of 4.  That’s right, it’s next to impossible to get a web visitor to take time to read the content on your website, and that’s a major problem. more »

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Getting Your Team to Care

john : July 22, 2015 4:07 pm : Articles

Trial lawyers are taught to turn abstract concepts into concrete visual images that a jury can understand.  A “day in the life” video is far more compelling than dry testimony from a treating physician in conveying the day-to-day struggles of a severely disabled person. There’s no debate that the visual images in a video or demonstrative exhibit convey a much clearer picture than words can ever do. more »

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The Biggest Mistake Made by Law Firms

john : July 22, 2015 4:07 pm : Articles

For 98% of law firms marketing and business development are the responsibility of one or two lawyers.  Perhaps the senior partners are the rainmakers and the associates and junior partners handle the day-to-day technical aspects of running a law practice, i.e., depositions, court appearance and trials.  BIG mistake! more »

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CONVERTING PROSPECTS INTO CLIENTS IN 3 EASY STEPS

john : July 22, 2015 4:06 pm : Articles

It’s always a little awkward when you refer an out-of-state client to counsel halfway across the country.  Let’s say you’re contacted by Ms. Jones about a new injury case in Wyoming, and (since you’re not admitted in Wyoming), you call a plaintiffs’ lawyer in Wyoming to refer the case.  The phone conversation with the plaintiffs’ attorney in Wyoming goes something like this, more »

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Why Structured Settlement Annuities Suck!

john : July 22, 2015 4:06 pm : Articles

A structured settlement annuity locks in a fixed rate for the life of the annuity.  At today’s historically low interest rates, annuities may offer a rate of return as low as half of 1%.  That’s pathetically low and to make things worse, you’re stuck with this low rate and there’s nothing you can do about it. more »

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Link-Building for Maniacs!

john : July 22, 2015 4:05 pm : Articles

Links to your website are critical to the search engines.  The search engines (Google, Yahoo and Bing) have algorithms that judge your website by the number of inbound links, i.e., websites that are linking to a page of your website.  Links build the authority of your website with the search engines and increase web traffic and the ranking of your website on Google. more »

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The Most Important Thing You Should Do for Your Lawyer Website

john : July 22, 2015 4:05 pm : Articles

The #1 goal of a lawyer website (or any website for that matter) is simple: you want to build a herd of raving fans who love what you do and want to hear everything you’ve got to say.  Diehard fans who will share your blog posts, FAQ’s and articles with their friends, “like” your Facebook posts, and tell everyone how wonderful you are. more »

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The Magic Formula that Guarantees 5-Star Online Reviews

john : July 22, 2015 4:04 pm : Articles

At the end of a case, love is in the air.  Your clients are thrilled with the outcome and they swear allegiance to your law firm for life.  You’re feeling good and you don’t want ruin the moment by asking for a testimonial.  A few months pass and the case is forgotten by your clients (and they might not remember your name). more »

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What’s Your Dream?

john : July 22, 2015 4:04 pm : Articles

You happen to run into a former classmate from law school in court and after catching up you ask, “How’s everything going with the firm?”  The answer is almost always the same, “It pays the bills.”  It seems as though many of us are on the same career paths: pay the bills, put the kids through college, retire to Florida and fade into the sunset.  But is this really all there is to life? more »

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Taking the Guesswork Out of Hiring

john : July 22, 2015 4:02 pm : Articles

You’re always surprised, but you know you shouldn’t be.  The superstar legal secretary that you just hired isn’t quite working out.  As you walk by her desk, you notice that she is pecking at her keyboard with one finger (not quite the typing proficiency you expected).  The bad news trickles in—your new “superstar” can’t type and has virtually no computer skills.  You even have to show your new secretary how to send a fax. more »

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Burn Your Annual Goals Into The Ground

john : September 8, 2014 6:12 pm : Articles

It’s the day before your summer vacation.  You have work that just has to get done before you leave and you are laser-beamed focused on getting them done.  You refuse to allow any outside interruptions or distractions; you refuse to take unscheduled phone calls, respond to email or check your social media. You work like your paints are on fire, you crank out work and by 5:00 p.m., it’s amazing how much you got done. more »

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Creating A Culture Of “Wow” For Your Clients

john : September 8, 2014 5:56 pm : Articles

CREATING A CULTURE OF “WOW” FOR YOUR CLIENTS

(How to Build a Raving Fan Base)

For some crazy reason lawyers think their job is to deliver a great result for their client. In the world of personal injury, this means a big settlement or verdict that will pay for your client’s loss of income and future medical bills.  Yes, of course it’s your job to deliver a great result (i.e., settlement or verdict) for your client, but is that all you’re doing? more »

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A Conversation That Changed My Life

john : September 5, 2014 2:07 pm : Articles

A CONVERSATION THAT CHANGED MY LIFE

Just a couple of weeks into my junior of high school in the fall of 1982, I was sitting at my desk in social studies class waiting for class to begin, when my teacher, Brother Armand, sat down across from me.  With his face just a couple of feet away from mine, Brother Armand bluntly told me, “You are a loser and you’ll always be a loser”. more »

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The Radical Solutions-Based Model For Your Success

john : September 4, 2014 2:57 pm : Articles

THE RADICAL SOLUTIONS-BASED MODEL FOR YOUR SUCCESS

(How to Get Your Top Cases to Trial Quickly Using a Solutions-Based Model)

So often you focus on the things you don’t do well in a lawsuit.  Like many, you might take too long to serve the bill of particulars and discovery responses or you might not schedule the non-party depositions until the last two weeks before the discovery cut-off date.  The list of your shortcomings can go on and on. more »

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How a Young Trial Lawyer Grew Up

john : September 4, 2014 2:56 pm : Articles

HOW A YOUNG TRIAL LAWYER GREW UP

(The HUGE Competitive Advantage that ALL Plaintiffs’ Lawyers Must Exploit)

It was a young lawyer’s first trial…and I was scared to death.

Just a couple of years out of law school, my big chance to try my first case was offered by the senior partner at my old law firm.  Not knowing any better, I jumped at the chance without giving it a second of thought. more »

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Invasion of the Lawyers

john : September 4, 2014 2:55 pm : Articles

INVASION OF THE LAWYERS

(How You Can Win the Battle Against Obscurity)

It’s obvious to anyone—your town or city is flooded with lawyers.  From billboards on highways to radio and obnoxious TV advertisements, consumers are bombarded with a media assault by lawyers screaming “Call Me Now” or “I’ll Fight for You”.  The bravado of lawyers has no limit with one lawyer advertisement after the next pushing the envelope of what is permissible. It’s a hard, cold world for lawyers. more »

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The Best Way to Avoid a Legal Malpractice Claim

john : July 30, 2014 2:51 pm : Articles

It’s an ethical dilemma that every lawyer will face at least once.

After a substantial settlement in a construction accident lawsuit, I missed an important deadline for serving a motion concerning a lien.  As a result, my client lost his right to challenge the lien and in all likelihood, would have to pay a lien that he probably would not have had to pay…if I had done my job for him. more »

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Cut Your Law Practice Costs in 10 Simple Steps

john : July 30, 2014 2:50 pm : Articles

Cost-Saving Tip #1Consolidate Cell Phone Plans for Your Employees

Consolidate cell and iPhone and Droid services of your staff into one plan to achieve some savings.  Group cell plans will be cheaper than a bunch of individual plans. more »

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A Lawyer’s Story of Hope and Leadership

john : July 30, 2014 2:50 pm : Articles

At first, it seemed like just another day.

When I got home from work in the summer of 1997, I mindlessly began talking about my day at work while oblivious to whether my wife was listening.  But something was a little different about my wife and I could just tell from the expression on my wife’s face that there was something that was not right.  Lisa just stood there and looked at me and finally when I stopped talking, she delivered the shocking news: my mother had been diagnosed with colon cancer. more »

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How to Pay Case Expenses without Spending a Dime

john : June 30, 2014 5:13 pm : Articles

Would you take a suitcase full of cash, put it under your bed and leave it there for three years?  Probably not, right?  You want to earn interest on your money and that suitcase full of cash won’t earn a penny. Even if you put your money in a money market account, you’ll get at least get some return from your money even if it’s just 1%. more »

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A Guaranteed Way to Get Rich…on Auto-Pilot

john : June 30, 2014 5:12 pm : Articles

Saving money isn’t easy—you’ve got bills to pay, kids to send to college and make the weekly payroll of your staff.  Sometimes it’s a wonder there’s any money left for you.  You know you’re supposed to be saving money, but you’ve got to pay the bills first.  There’s an answer that is easy and takes no discipline on your part. more »

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HOW TO GET RICH

john : June 30, 2014 5:10 pm : Articles

(THE ROADMAP TO FINANCIAL FREEDOM FOR INJURY LAWYERS)

It’s so easy to forget you’re running a business.

It’s not hard to figure out why.  From the first day of law school it’s drummed into your head that you are in a profession (not a business) and if you can master the fine art of practicing law, you will have all of the riches and fame the world has to offer.  What complete and utter BS! more »

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How to Radically Transform Your Law Practice Into a Culture of Caring

john : June 30, 2014 5:09 pm : Articles

(And a Lesson in Caring From My 14-Year Old Son)

As I sat in the stands of the stadium watching the finish of a one-mile race, I just knew something wasn’t right.

Almost five minutes had passed since my son, Tim, had finished the one mile race and his twin sister, Lily, was nowhere to be found.  As each new runner crossed the finish line, there was no sign of Lily.  This was Lily’s first race and while it was only one mile, some bad thoughts began popping up in my mind—Was Lily hurt? What happened to my little angel?  My angst grew as each new group of runners finished the race.

With my focus on Lily’s whereabouts, it almost didn’t occur to me that Tim had left the stadium and seemingly wondered off somewhere.  I knew Tim could take care of himself and I gave little thought to what he was doing or where he went.  Almost all of the runners had finished the race and my paternal instincts just told me something had to be wrong with Lily.  Worry filled my mind.

That’s when I saw them.  As they entered the track in the stadium for the final 100 yards of the race, Tim and Lily were running side by side. Tim matched Lily stride for stride as he ran with her all the way to the finish line. Tim crossed the finish line for the second time that day with his twin sister by his side.

A father sat in the stands that day beaming with pride…and shedding a couple of tears.  And the bond between my twins got a link stronger that day.

What Does This Mean for You?

It’s easy to be obsessed with the financial numbers—how much you made last quarter and your projections for the next 12 months.  And that’s all good–of course you should focus on your financial goals, but it’s easy to lose track of the things that got you where you are in the first place.  No, it wasn’t a big settlement or verdict.  Great results for your clients and big profits for your law practice are NOT what got you where you are today.  Those are simply metrics—numbers that by themselves have little to do with your success.

And you’re not alone.  Big corporations today focus on their quarterly earnings and propping up their stock price for shareholders. It seems everyone is in a race to get rich quick.  Of course you need money and strong profits to pay your bills and meet payroll every week, but if that’s all there is your success (and your life), is it really worth it?

What the Wolf of Wall Street Can Teach Us

The Wolf of Wall Street was a young, enterprising guy (and crook) who built a financial empire selling worthless penny stocks to unsuspecting average Joe’s, and got rich quick. On the surface, you might assume the Wolf of Wall Street got rich by cheating people out of their hard-earned money and there is nothing you can learn from the greed and corruption of the Wolf.  But you’d be missing an important take-away.

Near the end of this movie, the authorities were cramping down on the Wolf’s scheme of duplicity and he was facing criminal indictments and the almost certain end of his business.  The Wolf was being forced to leave his business and in his final farewell speech, he talked about a young, unmarried mother who had been a member of his staff from day one of the company.  This 20-something mother had no money when the company was just getting started, and she was faced with eviction from her apartment—leaving her and her baby homeless.  When this young mom asked the Wolf for a loan of $5k to pay her rent, the Wolf gave her $25k with no repayment and no strings attached.

The money wasn’t important.  What was important is that the Wolf just got a devoted, loyal employee for the rest of his career with a simple gesture of caring.  Yes, an employee that would do anything he wanted without asking questions.  Putting aside the Wolf’s lack of ethics, he built a strong company of fiercely loyal and dedicated employees with one simple act of caring after another.

The Secret to All Great Companies

But the secret to success is not limited to the Wolf of Wall Street.  The great, enduring companies today put an emphasis on their employees over everything else…yes, even more importance than profit or customer satisfaction.

Herb Kelleher, Esq., a former divorce lawyer and the founder of Southwest Airlines, understood the importance of placing top priority on his employees.  When asked whether he places higher value in the satisfaction of the customers or shareholders of Southwest, Kelleher responded, “That’s easy. Neither.” Southwest Airlines had a simple formula for success that was unlike virtually all other corporations—they put the ultimate value on making their employees happy.

“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.”

Simon Sinek, Leaders Eat Last

The logic made sense—if employees are happy with top pay, great benefits and a rewarding and fun work environment, they will take care of the customers.  When the customers are happy, they’ll become loyal and return over and over again.  And when that happens, Southwest makes a profit and the shareholders are happy.  But it all begins with putting 100% emphasis on employee happiness.

Did this unique, off-the-wall formula work for Southwest Airlines? Amazingly, in an industry that was beset with bankruptcy and failed mergers, Southwest Airlines had the highest return on their shares than any other company in the S&P 500 between 1970 and 2002.  In the end analysis, Southwest Airlines built an amazing company, and is the envy of the airline industry, by building a culture of caring for their employees.

How You Can Create a Culture of Caring

It’s a radical concept, I know, but what if you began focusing your law practice on creating value and happiness for your team members. Rather than taking as much from them as you can get, you give them the top salary for their position, the best health insurance money can buy, and a flexible vacation time that gives them as much time off as they need.  But don’t stop there—you’re just getting started.

You should hold, at a minimum, weekly meetings with your team.  Instead of telling them what to do, ask them what you can do to make their jobs easier. Find out what stumbling blocks are getting in their way from being productive and what resources you can give them.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of letting them shut their door without any interruptions from you.  But let them do the talking and listen and follow up with them to show you care.  Most importantly, show them that you care.

“A leader who takes care of their people and stays focused on the well-being of the organization can never fail.”

Simon Sinek, Leaders Eat Last

You can take this even one step further by giving your employees free continuing education for their personal growth and development.  A fully-paid self-improvement program, like Dale Carnegie or great seminars like Great Legal Marketing, are a great place to start.  But what you’re doing is showing your team that you care about their future and if they’re not happy, your clients will know it and you won’t get results for them.  In the end, the happiness (or lack thereof) of your employees will have a HUGE impact on your bottom line.

I know, I know—there are no lawyers doing this. Things are going just fine for you and you see no need to rock the boat. Okay, fine, but do you have a team of fiercely loyal, devoted employees that would do anything for you?  Are you at least a bit concerned that your best employees might leave for another job opportunity?

The Difference Between Long-Term Success and Short-Term Profit

Law firms can make great money over 3-5 years by hitting a few big cases, but the bigger question is whether your firm is built to last for the long-haul.  Remember, just because you are the best at trial law, doesn’t mean your law firm will succeed in the long-term.

The only long-term plan for success is a culture at your law practice where you place ultimate value in creating happiness for your employees—everything else is just short-term thinking.  When you care for your employees, they will return the favor ten-fold for your clients and the ultimate beneficiary will be you and your bottom line.

But it’s not always obvious that a culture of caring is the best long-term plan for creating a team of fiercely loyal, devoted employees.  Sometimes we need a reminder…just like the one given by my 14-year old son on a cloudy, late spring day at the races.

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Why Lawyers Hate Meetings

john : June 30, 2014 5:06 pm : Articles

(How to Unlock This Powerful Weapon for Creating Focus, Alignment, and Accountability)

It’s no wonder lawyers hate meetings.

From the minute you step in to a meeting at your law firm, there is meaningless chit-chat and gossip, some members of your staff (maybe you) show up ten minutes late and by the time everyone’s there, you’ve wasted 15 minutes of your best work-time. Most meetings at law firms are disjointed and unorganized—the subjects are random and bounce around among your staff. And making things worse, the meeting lasts 1 ½ hours and just destroys the middle of your workday. more »

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The Anatomy of a Killer Lawyer Video

john : April 4, 2014 5:46 pm : Articles

(How you can CRASH the YouTube Party and turn your Website into a Client Magnet)

It’s impossible to deny: Lawyer videos on the web are crap.  The Internet is crammed pack of just one lawyer talking head after another talking about their big courtroom victories—the bravado of lawyers is shameless.  But consumers don’t care about you and they sure as hell aren’t paying attention to the “talking head” lawyer videos on the web. more »

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How to Differentiate your Law Firm in your Retainer Agreement

john : February 20, 2014 2:52 pm : Articles

The ultimate goal is to differentiate your law practice from every other lawyer. Easier said than done, right?  But here’s one thing you can do now that will instantly make your practice different.

In New York, lawyers are ethically permitted to accept complete responsibility for case expenses in the event there is no monetary recovery, i.e., you lose the case.  And let’s face a simple truth, our clients (at least 99% of them) don’t have the assets or income to reimburse us for cases expenses if you they lose their case.  Then why do we still insist that our clients are responsible for case expenses when you know they won’t be able to pay them? more »

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The Best Advice I Ever Got

john : February 20, 2014 2:51 pm : Articles

(3 simple secrets for success I wish I had known a long time ago)

At the time, it just seemed like rude thing to say.

Here’s the story: I’m fresh out of law school and trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.  I’m taking any new client I can get my hands on and I’m struggling, but starting to make some inroads at my father’s law practice in upstate New York.  My lawyer/dad was feeding me a new case every here and there and I was starting to grow a client base accepting just about any new client who walked through the door.  I was beginning to think I knew what was I doing and starting to build confidence. more »

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The Hard, Cold Truth about Social Media for Lawyers

john : February 20, 2014 2:49 pm : Articles

(WARNING: You won’t like hearing this)

Most lawyers have a token presence on social media. Maybe you have a fan page on Facebook or a profile on Twitter and perhaps you occasionally post on Facebook and Twitter.  But social media hasn’t done squat for you and you’re convinced that all of the talk about social media is just hype. more »

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How to Create Trust with Complete Strangers…in an Untrusting World

john : February 20, 2014 2:48 pm : Articles

(How you can win the BATTLE AGAINST OBSCURITY with a formula for success that is ignored by 99.99% of lawyers)

Every lawyer website looks the same.

Just about every lawyer website has a long video about the success stories of the partners with story after story about the lawyers’ verdicts and settlements. Of course, every lawyer website displays the law schools the lawyers in the firm attended and their professional accomplishments.  Blah, blah, blah. It’s no wonder lawyers don’t get cases from their websites. more »

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How to Create Trust with Complete Strangers…in an Untrusting World

john : December 20, 2013 3:08 am : Articles

(How you can win the BATTLE AGAINST OBSCURITY with a formula for success that is ignored by 99.99% of lawyers)

Every lawyer website looks the same.

Just about every lawyer website has a long video about the success stories of the partners with story after story about the lawyers’ verdicts and settlements. Of course, every lawyer website displays the law schools the lawyers in the firm attended and their professional accomplishments.  Blah, blah, blah. It’s no wonder lawyers don’t get cases from their websites. more »

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Why you should NEVER use a release authorization issued by the Department of Health

john : December 20, 2013 3:07 am : Articles

Here’s a common scenario: the defense lawyers send you release authorizations on standard pre-printed forms issued by the New York State Department of Health (Office of Court Administration Form 960).  With the stamp of approval of the Department of Health, there can’t be anything wrong with these release authorizations, right?  Not so fast, my friend. more »

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Discover the Secrets to Getting Inside the Minds of the Jurors in your Next Trial

john : December 20, 2013 3:07 am : Articles

After finally getting your case to trial, you are locked, ready and loaded for sweet victory. Your fact and expert witnesses are ready to go, your exhibits are pre-marked and stipulated into evidence and you are certain the jury will soon reward you with a great plaintiff’s verdict.  You are confident the case is close to a sure-thing. more »

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The Difference between Winners and Losers

john : December 20, 2013 3:06 am : Articles

It happens every year around New Year’s Eve.  This will be the year you change everything. Big, bold New Year’s resolutions are made deep in your mind—maybe you promise to lose 8 pounds, join a fitness club or make more money—your goals are set as a traditional way of starting the New Year. And truth be told, you’ve got the best intentions in the world and yes, you make a commitment, this will be the year you make things happen and change your life. more »

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How you can CRUSH the email Monster lurking behind the corner…and just tempting you to waste your day

john : December 20, 2013 3:05 am : Articles

(and the one question you should ask throughout your workday)

Each day we are inundated with emails that are pointless.  All it takes is just one person to press “Reply to All” and a monster is created.  All of sudden half of your office is sending you a string of pointless Reply to All and swamping your email box with a completely meaningless, silly email.  You delete the string of emails (I don’t bother reading them) but why should you even have to? more »

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How to Unleash the Power of the Internet for your Website

john : December 20, 2013 3:05 am : Articles

It’s a meeting that all of us have had.  You’re frustrated with your website and you want answers from your webmaster.  It’s time to hold the webmaster accountable for the almost complete lack of new cases from your website and you’re sick and tired of spending a ton of cash for a website that doesn’t produce results.  Perhaps it’s time to move on to another webmaster or just give up. more »

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Why Lawyer Advertising Sucks!!

john : December 20, 2013 3:04 am : Articles

Are you a better lawyer than the guy with the big bad double truck yellow pages advertisement? You know this guy—the one with a big photo of his face plastered all over buses, billboards and yellow page ads (some of these guys are a little scary looking if you ask me). more »

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Why Mass Marketing Sucks!

john : December 20, 2013 3:04 am : Articles

It’s impossible to ignore.

The loud, obnoxious lawyer advertisements are everywhere.  From lawyer billboards to a seemingly endless run of lawyer TV ads, it never seems to end.  The consumer is bombarded by mass marketing by lawyers every day and virtually every hour of the day they ignore another pointless lawyer advertisement. more »

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The Straight Truth about Medical Malpractice

john : December 20, 2013 3:03 am : Articles

Big business, insurance companies, physicians and hospitals spend millions to convince you that lawyers and their frivolous lawsuits have to be stopped. The answer, according to this conglomerate of business and insurance companies, will be to stop lawyers by creating new laws that limit the rights of injury victims.  A cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases will be top on their agenda. more »

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A Lesson in Life from a Shyster Lawyer

john : December 19, 2013 9:28 pm : Articles

This was a lawyer’s worst nightmare.

One screw-up after the next ranging from missed court conferences, failing to file discovery responses in compliance with court-ordered deadlines and even worse, having the case dismissed for failing to file a note of issue after being served with a 90-day demand.  This New York City plaintiffs’ law firm (then known as Napoli, Kaiser & Bern) was having a really bad day…okay maybe a bad couple of years. more »

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How to spot a diamond in the rough

john : December 19, 2013 9:27 pm : Articles

(and make money on medical malpractice cases)

Here’s the scenario: A client calls you with news that his wife was misdiagnosed by a physician and he wants to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit. Your mind races with thoughts.

The first question is whether you simply tell your client to call a medical malpractice lawyer or perhaps bring the client in for a meeting at your office.  Should you tell the client that you don’t handle medical malpractice? Should you try to get information about the claim? more »

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The World’s Biggest Hoax on Lawyers

john : December 19, 2013 9:27 pm : Articles

Your first big verdict finally comes in!  You’re on the road to fame and fortune as a trial lawyer…or so you thought.

 

As the great result fades away, you expect a flood of new clients and referrals.  But something funny happens.  The phone doesn’t ring and you’re left wondering what happened.  You thought that the great outcome would bring your new clients and more money, but that never happens.  You’re left scratching your head and wondering what you did wrong. more »

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The Three Biggest Myths about Medical Malpractice

john : December 19, 2013 9:26 pm : Articles

(And three SURPRISING FACTS that no other malpractice lawyer will tell you)

Medical malpractice gets a bad rap. Yeah, I know, the limits on legal fees under New York’s “sliding scale” stink and yes, pre-lawsuit settlements are rare.  But let’s cut through the myths about medical malpractice law and explore the reasons that perhaps you shouldn’t just pack up your briefcase and give up on medical malpractice law just yet. more »

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How to Hire your next Superstar Employee

john : December 19, 2013 9:16 pm : Articles

It’s so tempting to take the easy way out.  When it comes to hiring a new employee, it’s just so easy to take the first candidate that has a nice smile, appears motivated and seems somewhat bright.  Hey, you’ve got a ton of work to do, and the hiring process is getting in the way of your real work.  The temptation to just hire the first person and get it over with, but there’s one big problem: more »

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The HUGE MISTAKE that all Lawyers make (and what you can do to avoid it)

john : December 19, 2013 9:15 pm : Articles

You know you should expect it, but every time it happens, you’re just as surprised.

When you get a tremendous settlement or verdict in a big case, your client wants to adopt you as a new member of their family. It’s not just a handshake and smiles—it’s hugs and kisses with your client when their case ends. You’ve built a strong and lasting relationship with your client over the course of the lawsuit and love is in the air.  After all of the details of the case are finalized, you part ways with your client certain of one thing: you will be their hero for life. more »

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How to get the best settlement for your next case

john : December 19, 2013 9:15 pm : Articles

Picture this scenario: you’ve toiled for years with cases that “just pay the bills”, but you’ve finally got the perfect case.  This ideal case has everything: great liability, massive damages and unlimited insurance coverage. The Life Care Plan projects future medical care that will cost $20 million and loss of earnings adds $3 million to the damages and that’s before you even get to the enormous non-economic damages. This is the case you’ve always been waiting for your whole career. Everything’s perfect, right? more »

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Three SIMPLE Rules for Ruthlessly Managing your Time

john : December 19, 2013 9:13 pm : Articles

(How you can become instantly more productive by following three simple rules…and still get home in time for dinner with your family)

We’ve all had these days.  You get to work with a specific plan in place and soon enough, unexpected time bombs hit your plate. It might be the lawyer friend who just want to “take a second to pick your mind”, a friend from law school who wants to talk fantasy football or perhaps the needy client who only needs your ear for a second.  Either way, you get sidetracked and before you know it, 4:00 p.m. rolls around and you haven’t accomplished a damn thing. more »

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From the beginning of the case until its end, EVERYTHING MUST BE MEASURED!

john : December 19, 2013 9:13 pm : Articles

(Your Key Performance Indicators are crucial to determining your success)

When a lawsuit ends with a settlement or verdict in favor of your client, the office staff congratulates you and your friends and family are effusive in their praise.  The goodwill around your office lasts for a few days as the buzz about the great result starts to wear down.  You begin thinking of moving on to other cases and putting the case behind you. more »

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The First (and most important) Step to Creating the Law Practice of your Dreams

john : December 19, 2013 9:12 pm : Articles

Whenever you ask your lawyer friends how they’re doing, you always get the same answer.  The answer is so matter-of-fact that you could answer the question before you’re finished asking: “I am so busy you wouldn’t believe it.”  It seems that lawyers are just like everyone: extremely busy.  You run around doing lawyer stuff that you never seem to have time to sit down and just think, “Why am I doing this?more »

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How to Decide Whether you Should Take the Case

john : December 19, 2013 9:11 pm : Articles

(Make Sure You DO THE MATH Before You Accept your Next Case)

Have you ever regretted accepting a case…sometimes just after you sign the retainer agreement? There could be a million reasons—maybe your client is a contract killer for the mob, is a cross-dressing crack addict or spent 15 years in Sing-Sing for defrauding the mentally handicapped (yes, these are just a few of my clients).  But more often than not, you second-guess your decision to accept the case because in hindsight you reach the conclusion that it JUST WASN’T WORTH IT. more »

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How to Squeeze More Time out of your Day (and get a lot more done)

john : December 19, 2013 9:10 pm : Articles

You’ve heard this conversation a million times. You ask a friend how they are doing at work and you get the same answer, “You would not believe how busy I am.” Yada, yada, yada.  Everyone’s busy, right?  Even your best friend’s mother, who sits at home watching soap operas, is “so busy you wouldn’t believe it”. more »

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Why Lawyer Websites SUCK!!!

john : December 19, 2013 9:10 pm : Articles

The big day finally arrives: your new whiz-bang website is finally ready to be launched.  You’ve spent a king’s ransom on your new website and you’re ready for the big payoff.  Your new website’s got everything: fancy flash animation, award-winning logos and stories of your big verdicts and settlements.  Now, you’re ready to conquer the internet world! more »

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The Greatest Business Card you will ever have

john : December 19, 2013 9:09 pm : Articles

Just think, when is the last time you held on to a business card that you got from another lawyer?  Sure, maybe you kept the business card in your wallet for a couple of days just ‘cause you felt guilty tossing it out right away.  But 99% of the time, you toss the business cards into the garbage and never give them another thought. more »

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