safety

55 – Jacob Leibowitz – Overcoming COVID-19: Working Remote & Staying Afloat

In this special Trial Lawyer Nation podcast, Michael discusses COVID-19 with fellow trial lawyer Jacob Leibowitz. This episode focuses on adapting your firm to function in an ever-changing crisis situation, including insights on safety, remote work, technology, cash flow, and employee morale.

The show begins with a discussion on using technology to keep cases moving. Jacob emphasizes the importance of continuing to have depositions utilizing video conferencing technology. Their firm has chosen to use Zoom for depositions, mediations, and client meetings, and they have been successful with it. They discuss the pros and cons of Zoom, highlighting many useful features including video recording, “breakout rooms,” options to increase audio quality, and a way to share exhibits that Jacob argues is even better than the in-person method. The challenges of this technology for depositions, and in many states across the U.S., is the person who swears in the witness needs to be in the same room to make the oath sufficient. Jacob shares how the Supreme Court of Texas has assisted with this. The use of online notaries is also discussed and both Michael and Jacob implore the listeners to reach out in their respective state to determine if this can be a solution.

Originally, Jacob believed mediations via video conferencing would be extremely complicated, but he has been pleasantly surprised by the ease of using breakout rooms in Zoom. While some mediators have resisted, Michael is confident they will come around soon, telling them “Either you’re not getting paid or you’re going to do it this way.” Jacob echoes this thought by stating, “It’s here right now, and we have to adapt to it.” They apply this same reasoning to defense counsel who may have objections. Michael strongly believes if the defense doesn’t bill, they don’t make money, and they don’t survive. Jacob thinks it is the plaintiff lawyer’s responsibility to push the case, educate all parties involved on how to use the technology, and has been kind enough to create a Zoom Deposition Guide to share with everyone. This guide can be shared with defense counsel, mediators, and anyone else hesitant with this process. (A Zoom video tutorial for clients has also been created and can be found here)

The conversation shifts to remote work and how their firm of over 30 employees in different office locations has navigated the transition of physical office space to a virtual office space. The process began with Michael deciding to purchase company laptops for staff who did not have one. This was necessary because his IT company would only allow access to the server through a private VPN on a company-owned computer for security reasons. They discuss other challenges of remote work during a quarantine, including working with kids at home, server capacity, and cloud migration. Jacob then shares valuable advice for other firms to mitigate these challenges by advising “You just need to go full force into this, because you’re going to end up learning a whole lot, and you need to.” The reality is no one knows how long social distancing and a nationwide quarantine will last, so lawyers need to adjust accordingly.

On a serious note, Michael recognizes that regardless of technological innovations, the COVID-19 pandemic will disrupt firms’ cash flow. He shares his experience with a market panic and how he has been proactive in protecting the firm’s finances through pulling out money ahead of time and watching his finances very carefully. He also cautions other firms against laying employees off too soon, citing the proposed stimulus bill (which has now passed) would provide loan forgiveness to small businesses who use the money for payroll. He also understands that sometimes, you have to do whatever is right for your firm to stay afloat during these challenging times.

With all these sudden and extreme changes, employee morale can fall to the wayside. Jacob asks Michael what many listeners must be wondering – How do you keep employee morale up during this process? Michael simply states: “We’re overcommunicating.” His firm has focused on having consistent and frequent video conference calls to communicate on daily tasks, collaborates on larger projects, and even gather socially for a Friday evening virtual happy hour. He explains how important it was to tell his staff they could financially handle a 3-4 month quarantine and not have layoffs, and ensure staff of his focus on keeping everyone safe, be it their health or job security. Jacob compliments Michael on his efforts so far and adds that he feels morale has actually increased since the beginning of this crisis, noting that employees can see the massive amount of effort and reassurance given so far. Michael also believes “overcommunicating” applies to clients and referral attorneys and has made an effort to touch base with everyone in his network. This has led to his firm continuing to receive case referrals because they are being proactive.

Lastly, Jacob and Michael discuss their main takeaways during COVID-19. Jacob sees this time as an opportunity to gain skills to better your practice, spend more time with your family, and push your abilities as an attorney. Michael agrees and adds that it’s more important than ever to take care of yourself physically and mentally. He also emphasizes the importance of patience and thankfulness during these difficult times. Michael ends on a powerful note: “We all need to step up and be leaders – leaders for our firms, leaders for our clients, and leaders for our communities.”

This podcast also covers virtual court hearings, telemedicine, self-insured retentions, Microsoft Teams, why clients are liking the face time with attorneys using Zoom, virtual document signing (www.notarize.com), and the efficiency of technology.

48 – Andy Young – Driving Change and Verdicts as a Truck Driving Lawyer

In this Trial Lawyer Nation podcast, Michael Cowen sits down with Ohio attorney, Andy Young, who like Michael, specializes in trucking cases.

Andy’s journey over the past 20 years of practicing law and ultimately specializing in trucking cases started by accident when his hobby for rehabbing trucks, as well as starting a trucking company, turned out to be more valuable than he expected where he was being asked to speak at various trucking litigation groups. Essentially his passion for “anything on wheels” and his upbringing around big equipment propelled him toward the industry as well. He goes on to establish upfront that he indeed does not hate the trucking industry as some might conclude by having become a trucking attorney. Andy cares deeply for the truck drivers as well as the component of the industry that treats the drivers well while also explaining in great detail the parts of the industry he does not care for, which abuses the drivers and stokes safety issues all in the name of profits. He goes on to say that everything he does “ultimately is in favor of safety and in favor of the truck drivers too.”

Beyond filing lawsuits to try and improve the trucking industry, Andy is also involved in several advocacy efforts having originally become involved through some articles he had written and published back in 2011 on underride crashes, which have evolved all the way through giving testimony to Congress on the issue. He talks through some of the efforts that he’s been a part of in shining a light on the issues that surround truck crashes, specifically underride guards and rear guards, where the industry has made significant strides to reduce fatalities from crashes involving underrides in Europe, but continue to lack in the United States. While Andy has started to see the needle move a little bit in regards to instituting safety features that would prevent such fatalities, he also sees the trailer manufactures resist the urge to make their products safer while using federal regulations as a scapegoat for not making these life-saving improvements. This transitions into Andy sharing how helpful it can be for the families who have lost a family member to a truck crash to become active in safety advocacy as a way to give them some purpose to their loss.

Michael asks Andy, with his unique perspective as a truck driver and running a trucking company, what he’s learned to make him a better trucking lawyer. Undoubtedly, Andy refers to his time behind the wheel as being the most valuable and suggests that those who are looking to be great trucking lawyers do what Michael Cowen did and go to truck driving school to get a more intimate understanding of what truck drivers experience as well as a better understanding of what it’s like to maneuver such large pieces of equipment. Andy also continues to use his truck driving skills as a part of a small race car team where he drives the truck that carries the car and finds himself constantly thinking about his cases every time he gets behind the wheel. This has allowed him to more effectively communicate with truck drivers better and understand things that perhaps other attorneys might not consider. He goes on to describe several examples of how this has come in handy citing personal experiences that have helped him to debunk some theories placed on truck drivers in cases when it comes to the speeds they travel at in relation to what gear they are in, which he notes has “been very, very beneficial.”

The conversation shifts to Andy discussing his great results in the face of some fairly tough fact patterns, where Andy goes into detail regarding his litmus test on how he decides whether to take on a case. It’s worth noting that he does not think it matters whether his client has hit the back of a truck, has had a DUI, were speeding, or had some other issues going on. Instead, he looks at the truck driver and the truck company to see if they created a hazard whereby a crash would not have happened otherwise to determine if the case is worth pursuing or not. He goes into further details on case selection tips, including spending some money upfront to explore how the hazard was created and/or how it was confronted.

Moving the conversation into the courtroom, and wrapping up this podcast, Andy describes some of his techniques and analogies he uses to keep his case in a positive light including one he uses with his clients who are angry about their loss (rightfully so) but are in need of help to not become their case’s worst enemy by displaying their hostility. Another analogy he uses with his clients refers to how to determine what’s important and what’s not at trial, which he’s found to resonate well with his clients when he establishes the analogy with his clients early on. Andy also uses a technique where his client’s home is used as a witness, which is truly fascinating and the way he walks through it, literally and figuratively, can really give things a whole new perspective. Truly some incredible strategies and techniques worth listening to and incorporating into any case that’s going to trial.

 

BACKGROUND

Andrew (Andy) R. Young concentrates his practice on catastrophic truck crashes and wrongful death litigation.  He holds an active, interstate, Class A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and regularly drives his own Peterbilt semi-tractor and 45-foot racecar trailer.  He has testified as a Truck Safety Advocate before the U.S. House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.  He is a member of the Owner Operators Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA).  He has testified on behalf of OOIDA and the Ohio Association for Justice’s Truck Safety Section before the Ohio Senate Transportation Committee.   He serves as an Executive Officer of the AAJ Trucking Litigation Group and is the immediate, past-president of the Lorain County Bar Association (LCBA).  Mr. Young is “AV” rated by Martindale-Hubbell, has been included in Ohio Super Lawyers, and has received numerous awards from AAJ TLG, OAJ, and was the LCBA Member of the Year in 2016.  Mr. Young serves on the Board of Regents for the Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys (ATAA) and serves as the ATAA’s current Education Chair.  He lectures frequently at continuing legal education programs on trucking litigation and trial advocacy.  Mr. Young has served as a Moderator and on the Organization Committee for two industry “Truck Underride Roundtables” hosted at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) at their crash test facility in Ruckersville, Virginia.   Mr. Young is also member of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA).  Mr. Young is a partner with Young and McCarthy, LLP, located in Cleveland, Ohio and works with attorneys throughout the nation.

44 – Natalie Arledge and Dylan Pearcy – Insights on the 2019 ATAA Symposium

In this Trial Lawyer Nation podcast, Michael Cowen sits down with two attorneys from Cowen | Rodriguez | Peacock, Natalie Arledge and Dylan Pearcy, for another installment of TLN Table Talk to discuss the questions on the minds of our listeners. Today’s topics focus specifically on the Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys (ATAA) annual symposium and our biggest takeaways from attending.

A brief background on today’s guests reveals that Natalie has been with Cowen | Rodriguez | Peacock for almost two years after having come from a defense background where she worked on trucking cases, among others, from the other side. Dylan also came from the defense side of things where his docket was roughly 70% small car accident cases of which roughly 50% were trucking cases.

Seeing as the ATAA symposium was a multi-day event, Michael wonders which presentations Natalie and Dylan found the most value in. Natalie explains how she found Robert Collins “What is safety for a trucking company” presentation to be the most valuable for her. In that presentation, they explored many forms and regulations to better identify what safety culture really is for a company whereas previously it had been less defined for her. In other words, not just looking at an individual negligent act, but more so the question of – does this company really care about safety? On the other hand, Dylan gravitated more toward Ken Levinson’s presentation on representing a truck driver as a plaintiff where he gained a deeper perspective on trucking cases. He felt that Ken did a “good job of going into some details about how specific factors come into play when the truck driver is the plaintiff and how they might look at an accident and their responsibilities on the road differently than maybe somebody else would.” Michael points out that Cowen | Rodriguez | Peacock has also represented a number of truck drivers over the years and having done so, has learned the nuances that come into play when a truck driver is the plaintiff.

Natalie also found Jay Vaughn’s presentation on inspecting trucks particularly valuable as it was aimed at better preparing lawyers to know what to look for and ask about when examining a truck. She also gained useful insights on what he carries with him to better understand what he’s looking at, citing that there is always value in looking at a truck or the scene to fully understand the scale of what occurred. Dylan adds to this topic, sharing his experience of truck inspections describing the importance and value of getting dirty and getting involved in the inspection to bring some validity and credibility to the case down the road. This is in contrast to the attorneys who show up to an inspection in a suit while standing back and just observing an expert inspection.
The conversation shifts to technology with an observation by Dylan in regards to what was being used in presentations and how it was being received by the attorneys in the room. The observation is a critical one at it’s core as it is much like what we do in a courtroom when we either use or don’t use technology to deliver our story to the jury and keep them engaged and interested in what we’re presenting for our clients. Michael recalls one of his side conversations at the seminar with Michael Leizerman where he describes part of our job in the courtroom is to entertain the jury in order to keep them engaged, otherwise they’ll tune out.

Dylan flips the script and asks Michael what some of his takeaways from the seminar were to which he describes some of the smaller, yet extremely valuable, tidbits he picked up on in presentations that he’s already heard in the past, but found new value in by catching things he hadn’t heard before. Michael also explains the value he’s received from the seminars just by talking and networking with others in the hallways and at the mixers. He goes on to talk about the relationships he’s built over the years and how his network of attorney friends, now allows him the ability to bounce ideas off of some of the best in the industry, find experts, get insights on other state’s laws, etc., all with just a phone call or an email that is answered fairly quickly.
The conversation wraps up with a discussion on what first time attendees might consider or keep in mind when they attend their first multi-day seminar like the ATAA symposium and how to best leverage the tools and resources available at such conferences.

These Table Talk podcasts could not happen without the interaction and questions that are submitted by our listeners. We are eternally grateful for your feedback and encourage you to continue to send us your thoughts, ideas, and questions as we love sharing our experiences with them.

02 – Joe Fried – From 0 to 60 as a Subject Matter Expert

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In this Trial Lawyer Nation podcast, Michael talks with acclaimed commercial motor vehicle trial attorney, Joe Fried, about his journey of going from 0 to 60 in becoming a trucking industry subject matter expert.

Joe’s calling to enter the field came from some unexpected sources as he explains to Michael the barrage of signs that led him to become a subject matter expert after finishing a large book of business against the Ford Motor Company. Joe describes the evolution of his role as a lawyer and the number one fear that was used as a driving force in his success.

On a larger scale, Joe encourages others to think beyond the boundaries of a case to serve a greater good by doing what’s right not only for the families affected but also what’s right for the industry and the families that can avoid having the same happen to them.

Throughout the podcast, the topic of hyper-specialization is explained both from the positive perspectives of becoming the only person who understands such a narrow subject, but also the trade-offs and sacrifices that need to be made in doing so with your practice. Joe also emphasizes the importance of inclusivity in the industry and using that mantra as a resource instead of something to be afraid of as he gives listeners a generous offer.

Background on Joseph A. Fried:

Joe Fried is one of only a few lawyers in America who limits his legal practice to handling truck and other commercial motor vehicle crash cases.  Based out of Atlanta Georgia, Joe has handled commercial motor vehicle crash cases in over 30 States and has helped recover more than $500 million for clients. He holds several record settlements and verdict.

When he is not actually handling cases, Joe is writing about and teaching other lawyers how to get the best results possible in commercial motor vehicle crash cases.  He has authored books, book chapters, peer-reviewed articles and a Trial Guides DVD specific to this unique field and has given over 250 presentations around the Country specific to this field.

Joe is a nationally recognized leader in trucking litigation.  He is the founder and Founding Director of the Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys, immediate past chair of the American Association of Justice Trucking Litigation Group, and President of the National Trial Lawyers Trucking Division.

Joe brings a diverse background to each case.  He is a former judge and police officer, has real-world training in accident investigation and reconstruction, physics, engineering, and human factors.  At the same time, Joe has hundreds of hours of training in psychodrama, neurolinguistics and story development and is known for his unique ability to find and tell the compelling human story that underlies each of his cases.

For more on Joe Fried visit: https://www.frg-law.com/the-firm/joseph-a-fried/

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