Illinois

46 – Tim Whiting – The Journey of a Trial Lawyer with Perseverance

In this Trial Lawyer Nation podcast, Michael Cowen sits down with Tim Whiting, of the Whiting Law Group in Chicago, for a conversation exploring the journey which has led to Tim’s outstanding $9M settlement on a recent trucking case.

While Tim primarily handles trucking cases in his practice, this wasn’t always the case. Tim’s story begins from humble beginnings and feeling “poor” as a young boy. When given a homework assignment about what he wanted to be when he grew up, the only thing he could think of was not to be poor. In the process of researching what he wanted to be, he stumbled upon a book by Melvin Belli, a prominent lawyer known as “The King of Torts” which immediately locked him into the desire to become a lawyer and not feel poor.

Tim went on to law school on a wrestling scholarship, which also led to an introduction by his wrestling coach to a well-connected attorney who ultimately introduced Tim to his first job at a large insurance defense firm in Chicago. After about 5 years, feeling miserable as ever, still struggling financially, and watching some good and not so good plaintiff lawyers win large sums of money for their clients, Tim decided “that was the side of the fence I needed to be on” which led to his decision to be a plaintiff lawyer. Ironically, when he told his then boss that he was quitting to start his own plaintiff’s firm, his boss not only laughed at him, but also told him he’d fail within 6 months and he’d keep his chair open for when he comes back.

Starting his firm from his apartment, Tim was hungry for success and started calling up defense and plaintiff lawyers that he had met and taking them out to coffee to give them his sales pitch and tell them he would be very available to their clients and get great results for them. One case led to another and he found some success which led to his nomination for the Top 40 under 40 award in Chicago. Things continued to grow as he moved into an office suite, hired his first assistant, and brought on 4 other lawyers all to find himself several years later still feeling pretty unhappy, even though he was no longer poor. Having a kind of one-on-one intervention with himself, he thought inside “if this is what it looks like the rest of the way, this is not what I want” as he was running rampant doing all kinds of cases with a large docket and feeling some self-doubt having never really experienced any formal trial training. This is when he decided to scale back to 3 lawyers and take on about half the number of cases.

Feeling better already during this process, he happened to take on a trucking case where the company had $1M but the losses were much more. Having never been a part of any attorney organizations before, and as fate would have it, the AAJ conference was in Chicago that year and Tim decided to go. For those who have been to an AAJ conference before, you can imagine all the great information Tim was able to absorb through AAJ’s Trucking Litigation Group listening to people like Michael Leizerman and other top trucking lawyers speak, and also chasing down Joe Fried in the hall (a story that lives in infamy to this day). Tim credits this conference, Joe Fried, Michael Leizerman, and other great trucking attorneys for inspiring him to make the leap and have a more trucking focused practice.

This podcast continues through Tim’s journey going to Trial Lawyers College later in his career, with he and Michael then sharing their opinions on when is the right time for an attorney to devote the time and energy to Thunderhead Ranch. Tim also shares a quote he used to have on his mirror in his wrestling years “Champions aren’t born, they’re built” and how he continues to build himself in a way that is insightful and meaningful every day. His genuine and very honest conversation in this episode makes it clear Tim is proud of his work and has not only excelled in his journey to becoming a successful trial lawyer, he is still on his journey. Michael agrees that the journey is never over and adds, “You can’t just go to one program and become a master.” You need to continually be learning, bringing the conclusion of this episode together where Tim’s journey has resulted in a recent $9M trucking case and he describes how his continued learning has led to it all.

 

BACKGROUND

Timothy M. Whiting is a Nationally board-certified truck accident* trial attorney. Tim has received Board Certification in Truck Accident Law from The National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA). To qualify for this prestigious certification, Mr. Whiting was required to demonstrate extensive legal experience in truck accident law, as well and meet rigorous objective quality standards as required by the NTBA.

He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Law School and is licensed to practice in both Illinois and Wisconsin. As a trial lawyer, Tim has represented victims of trucking accidents, auto accidents, construction accidents, medical malpractice and serious personal injury cases across the country, winning jury verdicts and settlements in over 10 counties across four states. Since 2019, Tim has committed solely to the representation of individuals or their loved ones who have been harmed in trucking crashes.
To further his own understanding of representing victims of truck accidents, Tim obtained a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). After passing intense testing and driver training, Tim is legally qualified to drive a 18-wheeler truck. This experience has allowed Tim to have a better understanding of how to safely operate a semi-truck and trailer and what may have gone wrong that led to his clients or their loved ones being harmed in a trucking accident.

Due to Tim’s success and commitment in handling serious truck wrecks in Illinois, Wisconsin and in several of the other parts of the United States, he is regularly sought out by other lawyers around the country to either co-counsel or consult on their respective clients’ cases who were harmed in serious trucking accidents.
Tim has been invited to join the nationally recognized Gerry Spence Trial Lawyers College (TLC) as part of the class of July 2019 – the 37th class to graduate from their 3-week program since the College began in 1994. 1,976 graduates have preceded Tim, and with an ever-increasingly rigorous pool of candidates, his selection was of the highest honor of a trial lawyer in the country.
As a result of his accomplishments in representing victims of truck accidents and serious personal injury, Tim has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Illinois by the National Trial Lawyers Association since 2008.

In 2015, he was named a Leading Lawyer for Personal Injury Law, an honor earned by fewer than 5% of attorneys in Illinois.

Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, a top legal publication rating lawyer’s abilities, ranked Tim AV Preeminent, the highest rating a lawyer can receive for Legal Ability and Success in personal injury. (AV Preeminent is a significant rating accomplishment – a testament to the fact that a lawyer’s peers rank him or her at the highest level of professional excellence.)

In 2018, Tim was named as one of the – Top 10 trucking accident trial lawyers by The National Trial Lawyers Association, for his tireless work and proven success in protecting the rights of those injured or killed in truck crashes.

Previously, Tim had been named by the Law Bulletin Publishing Company as one of the Top 40 Lawyers Under Age 40 in Illinois.

Tim has been appointed to the Executive Board, the Board of Regents, and the chair of the New Lawyers Division for the Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys (ATAA).

Tim also serves on the Executive Board of the American Associations of Justice (AAJ) Interstate Trucking Litigation Group.

Tim serves on the Board of Catholic Charities and its Legal Advisory Committee. He is also active in the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois by fundraising and raising awareness about kidney disease and live kidney donation. Tim serves on the Advisory Council for the Northwestern Medicine Comprehensive Transplant Center to promote and advance the mission of transplants to save lives. He also is committed to his local communities, by personally supporting a number of local organizations and their efforts to provide for the homeless and underprivileged people of Chicago.

Website: www.wlglaw.net
Email: twhiting@wlglaw.net
Phone: (312) 372-1655
Address: 901 W. Jackson Blvd., Suite 400, Chicago, IL 60607

40 – Ken Levinson – Focus Groups and Metaphors

In this Trial Lawyer Nation podcast, Michael Cowen sits down with Ken Levinson, a successful trial attorney who is also very active with his trial consultant focus group practice, for a discussion on how his unique practice is getting big results in the courtroom. Ken selfishly loves his “split practice” primarily because of its process of constant learning which comes with both sides of his practice, noting that he’d never want to give either of them up.

The conversation begins by exploring focus groups, as Ken talks through how they help in cases because lawyers are able to find out what resonates with people and then test it before ever stepping into the courtroom. “Over time, I’ve learned the better approach is to accept what people tell you. Listen, and in a neutral way, find out what’s going on.” Ken goes on to say “I don’t want to fall in love with my case or a witness or a theory without really stepping back and almost looking at your case in a different way” which is exactly what focus groups help him do while pointing to the teachings of Michael Leizerman [link to Michael Leizerman episode] of needing to have a “Zen mind” or a beginners mind. He adds “I think we get lost in the language of being a lawyer and I’ve really tried to train myself to talk like real folks in everyday life about our cases.” Michael then points out how it is incredibly important to be yourself, noting the power that authenticity brings to human communication both inside and out of the courtroom.

After working with so many great lawyers, Michael wonders what Ken has seen separates the good from the elite. Ken points out two factors he’s seen in elite lawyers: 1. They know their cases inside and out and although they may seem to talk very casually about things in the courtroom, they actually work extremely hard; and 2. The better trial lawyers he’s gotten to know are always learning. Ken goes on to point out there are some firms he might do 20+ focus groups for in a given year, and although they have been getting multi-million dollar verdicts for decades now, they are always learning, testing, reading, revising, and thinking about how to improve.

Michael speaks to his own experiences on learning and how over the years, while there are some basic human things that don’t change, many things do change over time and thus, lawyers need to be open to continuing to learn in order to be effective in the courtroom. Ken follows up to describe some of the other things he’s doing to continually get better, such as reading a lot on decision-making, psychology, and metaphors, then discussing what he’s learned with friends and colleagues, testing things for himself in focus groups, case preparations, depositions, and in the courtroom. He also goes to seminars and holds in-house trainings. Ken also discusses some of the ideas he’s learned from R. Rex Parris [link to Rex episode] on metaphors and how he’s been able to incorporate them into his courtroom proceedings.

Talking more about Ken’s experiences with focus groups and testing theories within them, he describes a few exercises he’s used to better understand the imagery that focus group juries associate with their case using simple techniques. Then he takes things a step further to discuss the findings, one-on-one, with the focus group participants. Through this process, he’s discovered many great metaphors and images that have helped his cases as well as some that needed to be tweaked or reworked for a case, noting that it’s better to find out and understand things which can negatively impact your case prior to trial, than during it, of course.

Beyond running his law firm and focus groups, Ken has also written books and articles, which begs the question – how does he have time for all of this? Ken describes his methods of time management which include getting up several hours before his wife and kids, but also includes time blocking and scheduling things based on his own understanding of the best times for him to get work done, which he details more in this episode. Michael also talks through the structures he’s implemented in his life and his firm to help to “move the ball forward” toward accomplishing his goals.

Michael turns the conversation toward what lawyers can do to set themselves up to achieve their goals, whether it is getting a $43 million verdict or a $6 million settlement, to which Ken turns the table a little bit and points out some great advice he had heard from Michael about taking on the right cases and turning away the others. Michael elaborates on this point and discusses the juxtaposition of the normal mentality associated with turning down cases, which really hits the nail on the head in terms of getting more of the types of cases lawyers want to get and building their practice.

Their conversation rounds out in a discussion revolving around the terms Ken has seen come up over and over in focus groups involving trucking cases specifically. Ken talks about terms he’s found to be important to focus groups and juries alike such as “professional driver,” and ideas revolving around vision and forgiveness. Truly insightful information that Ken discusses more in depth, which not only brings perspective to trucking cases at their face value, but also the impact focus groups can have in helping to bring another element of humanity into our cases by getting the perspectives of what’s important in the eyes of others.

 

BACKGROUND

Ken Levinson is a passionate advocate for accident survivors and child safety. For more than 20 years, he has represented disenfranchised clients against corporate giants. By using the law, the court system and his skill as a lawyer, his goal is to level the playing field for those facing the most challenging times of their lives.

 

Leadership

  • Former Section Chair of the American Association for Justice  Motor Vehicle Collision, Highway and Premises Liability Section
  • Vice Chair of the American Association for Justice Trucking Group
  • Board Member of the American Association for Justice National College of Advocacy
  • Co-chair of Overcoming Jury Bias Litigation Group
  • Regional Coordinator of the American Association for Justice Chicago Student Trial Advocacy Competition
  • American Association of Justice Board of Advocates
  • American Association for Justice Law Schools Committee
  • American Association for Justice Voter Protection Committee
  • Committee Chair of the American Association for Justice Litigation Group Coordination Committee
  • Press Advisory Board American Association for Justice
  • Chair Chicago Bar Association Solo & Small Firm Practice Committee

Ken also serves as chair of the section’s Practice Resources Committee, which compiles documents such as pleadings, research, expert reports and other information that might be helpful to fellow trial lawyers. As part of AAJ, Ken acts as Secretary of Motor Vehicle Collision, Highway, and Premises Liability Section and Chair of the newsletter committee; he has served as Education/CLE Vice-Chair of the Trucking Litigation Group (2014–2015) and Co-chair of Publications Committee (2013-2014). Additional memberships include the Chicago Bar Association, where Ken has also been the Solo & Small Firm Practice Committee Chair from 2009-2019, Vice Chair (2008 – 2009), and the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, where he is currently a member of its Board of Managers. Under ITLA, Ken is also a co-chair of the legislative committee. In 2010, Ken was elected to serve a three-year term on the Trial Lawyers College Alumni Board. He is currently serving on the editorial board of The Warrior, the Trial Lawyers College magazine.

Ken has written numerous articles for prestigious lawyer publications and spoken at dozens of conventions for trial lawyers and American Bar Association organizations. Ken also recently appeared on an episode of the Trial Lawyer Nation podcast.

 

Honors and Awards

Ken is currently the Vice Chair of the American Association of Justice Trucking Group. Ken also formerly served as Chair of the American Association for Justice Motor Vehicle Collision, Highway and Premises Liability Section and  Illinois Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice, a designation that carries Illinois Trial Lawyers Association (ITLA) Board status. He has been recognized by Leading Lawyers and Super Lawyers magazines as one of the top attorneys in Illinois, including the Super Lawyers Top 100 in 2012, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. He is the co-author of Litigating Major Automobile Injury and Death Cases, a two-volume reference series designed to help attorneys build strong cases for their clients by highlighting real-life case studies related to Major Auto Injury and Death. The book is published by AAJ Press/Thomson Reuters.

Named one of The 40 Lawyers Under 40 to Watch in Illinois by the Law Bulletin Publishing Company, Ken is among a select group of trial attorneys that has graduated from legendary lawyer Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyers College, which is dedicated to training and educating lawyers who represent people against corporate and government oppression. Ken is one of only 100 trial lawyers from Illinois selected for The American Trial Lawyers Association, where membership is by invitation only.

 

Education

After receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree from Hobart College in 1989 and his Juris Doctor in 1992 from Case Western Reserve University School of Law, Ken was appointed an Assistant Illinois Attorney General, representing state agencies and employees in civil matters, including both personal injury and civil rights cases. He has been admitted to practice before the Illinois Supreme Court and the Northern District of Illinois, United States District Court since 1992. Levinson is also admitted to the Federal Trial Bar.

 

Personal

Ken volunteers his time and resources to a variety of community and charitable organizations in the Chicago area, such as sponsoring the Tristin Speaks Benefit, which raised funds for autism awareness. Ken is a former member of The Citizens’ Council of LaGrange, a non-partisan community group that promotes better government through the recruiting and evaluation of candidates for local public office, having co-chaired the Council’s Qualifications Committee. Ken participated in the 39-mile, two-day Avon Breast Cancer Walk and the St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer. Ken also supports Art in Motion, an event hosted by the Associate Board to raise funds for the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, now known as the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab.

Ken is an area native, born in Chicago and currently living in LaGrange, IL. He is happily married and the father of three boys, keeping him very active in youth and sports-related activities. One of his favorite pastimes is to go with his wife to their sons’ high school varsity games and in-state and out of state tournaments for basketball and volleyball.

Ken can be reached at all hours via email: Ken@LevinsonStefani.com

 

RESOURCES

How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market by Gerald Zaltman

Marketing Metaphoria: What Deep Metaphors Reveal About the Minds of Consumers by Gerald Zaltman

Metaphors We Live By author George Lakoff and Mark Johnson

 

 

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