Interview with Attorney Marc Lenahan
Click on one of the links below to read Marc's answer:
What sets the Lenahan Law Firm apart from other firms in the area?
In the decades since my first immersion into law, I've never encountered
another injury law firm built the way Lenahan Law Firm is. As a matter
of sheer math, our formula is the best I've ever seen or even heard of.
To understand what I mean by that, you need to understand a dirty &
ugly secret about how most injury firms work: quantity. Most injury attorneys
have over 100 clients each. Yes, each lawyer. Some have 1,000 clients
per lawyer. And that is a secret because even those very clients have
no idea. Those firms certainly don't post that fact on their webpage,
and they don't tell clients when they first meet them that their case
is unlikely to get even 2 hours' worth of attorney time a year.
Contrast that to the Lenahan Law Firm. We have less than 40 cases at a
time here. Not 40 cases per lawyer, but
40 cases in our entire firm. And this firm has four incredibly accomplished attorneys with extremely
different skills and backgrounds: Kathleen for medicine, Wes for appellate
law, Nathan for insurance defense, and me. And each one of us knows every
case because we talk over every case, and the case moves from attorney
to attorney depending on who fits the next battle best.
An especially strange reality of quantity firms is that clients are frequently
deceived by the number of attorneys they see on a commercial or website.
They imagine that if a firm has 10 lawyers, they are hiring a 10-lawyer
team. But that is just not the case. Most every firm like that has their
attorneys working in isolation. They look like a team, but really they
are all alone. And that is how the boss pays them, too. They get paid
only on their own cases. So they never ask for help. And they don't
offer it to each other, either.
But I put my money where my mouth is. Every one of my lawyers gets paid
the same as the others on every single case we close here for a client.
That means that the incentive is to help each other. The better our teamwork,
the better the payday.
All of these things -- lawyers with different skills, so few cases, paying
every lawyer every single time -- make for a very expensive way to run
a law firm, though our fee to the clients is probably structured identically
to the ones who don't do any of this. So don't look for too many
firms to copy our model. But we think that there is no better way to represent
each client and to secure for them the best results any firm could.
Why did you choose to become a personal injury attorney?
When I started law school after having worked in the computer chip industry
for a few years, I chose the classes & professors that had the reputation
for being the toughest because I thought they would prepare me the best.
With those classes, which were focused on the laws surrounding corporate
management and investing, I was picturing myself helping people defrauded
in the stock market and by corporate scams.
And, totally by serendipity one day, I noticed that the lawyer who prosecuted
one of the most important Supreme Court cases on investment law had his
office just a few miles from SMU Law School. I sent him a letter telling
him that, though I didn't know if he needed any help, I wanted to
clerk for him. He hired me that week. To this day, I consider him to be
among the best attorneys I've ever met.
But his practice was not only investment law work; he did a wide variety
of law. And I soon found that I had an unusual knack for finding ways
to help his personal injury clients. I loved doing it. So, after that
summer, I took an after-school clerk position with the attorney who, at
the time, was considered the greatest injury lawyer in Texas. And, even
there, I was able to solve problems that others hadn't.
You limit the amount of cases that you take on – why is that?
Why do we limit the number of cases we fight? Truth is, the question should
be, "Why doesn't everybody?" Every time a law firm adds
a client, they are decreasing the amount of time it can devote to the
clients it already has. So adding clients must be done with an eye on
the ethical obligation to all of the firm's clients.
Law is not a mass-production thing. If we were manufacturing staplers,
then it would okay for us to try to improve profitability by increasing
the quantity of staplers we could make so long as we could make good quality
ones for everybody.
But there is nothing about representing severely injured clients that is
made better by quantity — except a firm's profits. If a firm
can secure $5,000 in fees just by having a legal assistant sending one
form-letter, that is a very good investment for that firm. But it is a
terrible way to get the best result for the client.
Each client is unique. Each injury is unique. If you mass-produce with
severe injury clients' cases, you can make money, but your clients
get a terrible shot at a proper result.
Consider a case where we secured
over $6,500,000 for our clients. The first lawyers the family spoke with told them to
take $50,000 and be done with it. After we were hired, we found $1,000,000
of insurance we felt should apply. A year after that, we found another
$5,000,000 that was hidden from us. And in order to get all of that for
the family, we worked on their case most every single day, and studied
well over 100,000 pages of documents to discover the secrets hidden in
the nuances the documents weaved.
That can't be done if the lawyer only works on a case about 2 hours a year.
As attorneys, we are supposed to be held to a standard that requires that
we place our clients' interests before our own. Pursuant to that ethical
requirement, I believe that no injury attorney should be allowed to practice
the way most actually do. We will never see that change, though. And our
clients don't need it to.
Tell us about some of the honors & awards that you have received:
Well, I've been very lucky in that I've received lot of awards
and honors that sound very impressive. And some of them are very special
to me. For example, I was elected the President of the National Crime
Victim Bar Association for 2014, and that is an organization of hundreds
of the most brilliant, passionate, and caring attorneys anywhere. So it
is an honor I wear with great personal pride.
And if I handed my prospective clients a resume, they'd see a long
list of other honors and awards, too, and we could talk about what each
of them does, and doesn't, mean.
But if I had the choice between having a prospective client of ours read
about my awards or, instead, have them look over the wonderfully kind
testimonials so many of our clients have written for us, I would choose the testimonials
every single time. By looking at what our clients have to say about what
we were able to do for them, and who we were in their lives at the hardest
of times, you can get a much more meaningful insight into why I'm
so proud to do what we do for our clients.
Why do you represent cases on a contingency fee basis?
There is nothing special about injury lawyers accepting cases on a
contingency fee basis. That's what is meant when you hear commercials talking about, "only
pay if you win." The technical way of saying that is "contingency
fee, plus court costs and expenses."
There are firms that do injury work that will, instead, work on a retainer
and an hourly-fee.
But that would be asking way too much of our clients. Given our reputation,
and how hard we work on our cases, that would mean clients would have
to provide retainers of $25,000, then they'd get billed at $500 per
hour for four lawyers, they'd have to pay our expenses as we accrued
them (which can be hundreds of thousands of dollars), and if we lost,
they'd still have to pay our fee!
Who can afford that? And who would want to?
And when the breadwinner in a family is the injured person, and if the
medical bills are growing by $15,000 each day, how could any person in
that situation retain the kind of firm that we try so hard to be?
Instead, we get to say, "We have NEVER asked a single client to write
us a check, ever." And we tell them, if we lose, all you'll get
from us is a hug and an apology. Not a bill.
Wealthy defendants and insurance companies already try to gain an advantage
through their resources. If they knew that every time they set a Hearing
a client would have to decide if it wanted to fight for justice at the
Hearing or feed its family, they'd set Hearings every day.
What is the first thing that you do when you take on a new case?
For us, the first step is a pretty simple one: everybody in the Firm talks
about it together and we arrive at our initial strategy. Over the course
of the case, that strategy might get tweaked a bit, or it might see radical
turns, but we try to handle every one with a thoughtful battle plan.
Early steps almost always include one of us, most often me, getting to
the location of the injury so that we can be sure we understand what happened
the best that we can. I'm a huge believer in doing this. It has helped
our clients over and over and over again, even if there was no way to
predict how it would help at the time of the visit. And getting to do
this is something that would be impossible to do if we had hundreds of cases.
What types of personal injury claims do you handle?
We are a very focused firm. A rule of thumb for what kinds of cases we
consider accepting is anything involving broken bones, emergency surgery,
or worse. To us, those injuries are severe.
We also have rules of thumb for kinds of injury cases we do not take. Two
examples are cases involving post-injury treatment by chiropractors (which
I do not consider to be legitimate medicine nor an ethical business) and
medical malpractice (which is an area of law that I consider to be so
unjust that the odds of helping a client are too low).
Tell us about the other members of your team: Kathleen, Wes & Nathan:
I think my three
lawyers are extraordinary. Kathleen was the first one I hired. I knew
Kathleen from when she and I worked for one of the greats of injury law. She is
a Registered Nurse, a Nurse Practitioner (which requires even more education
and training beyond being a R.N.), and is Board Certified in Pediatrics.
It is no wonder she is also a member of Faculty with a major State University
and is a Past President of the leading organization for Nurse Attorneys
in Texas. Her command of medical issues, and her concern for our clients,
makes her invaluable.
The next attorney to join us was
Wes Back. Wes is Board Certified in Civil Appellate Law. That means he knows
the law in the way judges like. Very, very few firms have appellate attorneys
on their team. Instead, they retain one on a case-by-case basis only when
a case is being appealed. Those firms consider the idea of employing an
appellate attorney full-time as "a luxury." But the way we see
it, it is far better to get the law correct from the beginning so that
there is never an appeal to mess with.
The final piece of my dream team was Nathan Barbera.
Nathan & I litigated cases against each other long before he came to join
us. I said "against each other" because he spent a decade and
a half fighting for defendants and insurance companies. He was even the
Managing Attorney for the entire State of Texas for one of the largest
privately held insurance companies in the United States. That kind of
insight on how insurance companies work & think is tremendously useful
for our clients' cases.
Do you only represent clients who live in Dallas, TX & surrounding areas?
Our headquarters is in Dallas, and we represent clients from all over the
Dallas & Fort Worth area, of course. But we're not just a local
firm. Because we represent only those with such important cases, we go
to where the case requires—no matter where that is.
Most of our cases are for injuries that occurred somewhere in Texas, but
we've achieved notable results under Kentucky law, Florida law, Michigan
law, Virginia law, and Federal law. And in cases like
18-wheeler cases, where the trucking accident happened may be a totally different state
than where we fight the lawsuit.
I became an attorney in North Dakota because it seemed to me that victims
of oil rig accidents and 18-wheeler accidents were not being represented
to my satisfaction, and the people of North Dakota are seeing more of
those injuries than they ever dreamed.
Even so, we don't only accept clients in North Dakota and Texas. We
get calls from all over the U.S. and the world from folks who have done
intensive research in looking for the right lawyers.
And distance just about never matters. As I think about the clients for
whom we've secured about a million dollars or more, most of them have
never stepped foot in our office.
What advice do you most often give to your clients?
I am a simple man when it comes to the "counselor" role in "attorney
For clients who are severely physically injured, I tell them to totally
ignore the legal case and instead to do everything in their power to get
as healthy as they can. If I can eventually hand them three million dollars
or zero, their health matters more.
For our clients who are widows and widowers, when they're ready to
hear it, I tell them that if, someday, they come to be lucky enough to
find true love a second time in their life, they need to have a welcoming heart.
And to our clients who have lost a family member to a wrongful death, I
tell them what a client of ours named Bill taught me in the writings his
family found after he was killed by a construction company's negligence:
"Live life to its fullest."