LAWYER OF THE WEEK- Episode 40, Connecticut

LAWYER OF THE WEEK- Episode 40, Connecticut

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Welcome to Lawyer of the Week. Lawyer of
the Week is creating a global community of lawyers, solicitors, and their support
to inform and to encourage each other. My name is Pamela DeNeuve and I help focused
and successful lawyers to move their practice to the next level and to
achieve their peak performance. This week we have a peak performer who’s
sharing their story. Please join us. We hope that you enjoy. Hi,
my name is Pamela DeNeuve and welcome to Lawyer of the Week. I am so pleased for
our guest this week. It’s Leslie Gold McPadden
and she is admitted in the New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and the US
District Court in the District of Connecticut. We’re very pleased to
have her and let me tell you a little bit about Leslie. Leslie’s practice area
includes a wide variety of litigation in all courts with an emphasis on personal
injury, wrongful death, and insurance coverage. She has over 20 years of
experience in all types of litigation, both representing plaintiffs and
defendants, although her primary focus is representing people who have been
seriously injured and individuals who have sustained catastrophic property
losses. Leslie is the founding member and past Chair of the Connecticut Trial
Lawyers Association, Women’s Law Caucus. She’s extremely active in the
Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association and holds a position on the Continuing
Legal Education Lawyers Association Seminars for Lawyers and Staff on
various topics. Leslie is an Executive Member of the Insurance Law Committee of
the Connecticut Bar Association and she’s been an active member of the
Connecticut Bar Association for years and was a member of the Health Law and
Litigation committees. She is an active member of the American Association for
Justice, regularly attending national seminars around the country. She was a
founding member of the Medical Legal Committee of the New Haven County Bar
Association and we could go on. Leslie, we’re so pleased to have you
as our Lawyer of the Week. Oh, thank you so much! I’d like to ask you
our Lawyer of the Week questions: when and what made you decide to become a
lawyer? Well, I graduated from Boston University
in 1987 with a Public Relations degree and I knew that I wanted Public
Relations to be part of what I did but not the sole substance of it. So I
thought, what field would really benefit from that angle and also allow me to
give a voice to people who don’t necessarily have the vehicles and the
ability to speak for themselves, since I’ve sort of always loved to speak. So
law school was a natural fit. Oh, wonderful.
So what made you decide to open your firm? Well, I had worked in various other
types of venues for years- small firms, big firms, I worked inside an insurance
company and none of it quite fit. I went out in 2008 and I actually would
categorize that as a life lesson. I went back into a firm in 2014, I came back out
in 2016 with the lessons I’d learned and really was much more successful and
things moved much more efficiently and rapidly, and my growth cycles have in
turn also worked out much better. I’ve been much more selective about the
type of work I take, although I’ve been asked many times to be people’s partners.
This time around, I have declined and I feel that having control over what type
of cases, how many cases, who I collaborate with has just been a way for
me to be much more successful. Mm-hmm. So we encourage peak performance and you
have really created a robust practice. What would you say is one of
the major reasons that you’ve been able to be successful
with your law firm? Well, I think it’s because, as you mentioned in the opening,
I focus on- at this point in my career, I only work for people who’ve been injured
or unfortunately people who’ve been killed. And so I only do that type of
work and I’m loading my practice with these bigger cases, but what I’m doing
differently from most other people, at least in Connecticut, is I really love
working collaboratively. So my cases are big enough so that I can invite another
attorney on board if I feel that that attorney lends a certain unique quality.
The whole idea of a collaborative model for me diversifies the practice. It also
diversifies the costs of these bigger cases. Most people in Connecticut don’t
perceive benefit to that and they tend to take whatever comes through the door
and they are very reluctant to share cases, where I’m just the opposite and it
allows me to run- my goal is a hundred cases with over a hundred thousand in
value and coverage and I’m quite a ways towards that goal, whereas before when I
opened up in 2008- first of all, I took on a couple of partners. They seemed like
nice people, they asked, and we were taking everything
that walked through the door. And it wasn’t necessarily a profitable model,
even though we had more cases. Mm-hmm. That’s great! So what would you tell
someone who’s- the 2008 experience- like they’ve opened their law
practice and now, you know, it’s not working? What advice could you give them
from your past experiences? Absolutely. I think that you need to keep your
overhead very contained until you have a very good sense of how your cash flow is
going to work. And when I first went out, I thought I needed a lot of the
trappings and tools that I had had at my disposal in
the bigger firms. It’s not necessarily true. You can be very creative- like some
people I collaborate on cases, other people I collaborate on other resources.
We share research tools, we share office space, we share- and by sharing, you
get the benefit of the same tool but for less money. So where most firms now in
Connecticut run at a 40% profit margin, mine is about a 70% profit
margin, whereas before I think the numbers were exactly flopped. That, you know,
I really thought of paying myself as the last thing I needed to do, whereas I’ve
moved that really up into the priority area. That’s excellent! That’s excellent
advice. Now, can you describe some of the challenges that you had to overcome
to be successful initially? Sure. Well, for me, my strength is that I’m a relational
person and that’s, I think, a very good thing because I tend to do well with
other attorneys and that’s where I get most of my work from. By being relational,
I have good working relationships with judges, and claim reps, and my clients and
all of that. But what I found was, I would spend a whole day essentially- I’d go to
lunch with one person. So I’d, you know, start getting ready for it around 11:00,
I’d drive. By the time I got back, it was three o’clock and I really had only
spoken with one person. Now I try to be much more efficient and I actually
started an organization- I call it Connecticut Attorney Networker (CAN). We
meet once a month, I have a hundred and ten members, who are lawyers- it’s a cross
marketing group, as well- and I have one dinner meeting a month. But it allows me
to tag these hundred and ten lawyers who I’ve either worked on cases with or who
I think might be in a position to send me a case at some point. I-
like this month- we have dinner at my office every month- this month, I have a
panel of accountants coming to give advice to lawyers with respect to tax
tips in light of the new tax reforms. So I’ll definitely get 15 or 20 people come
here for dinner. It’s after hours. It’s very casual and warm and supportive.
I do- it’s like going out to lunch with a
hundred and ten people because even the people who don’t come, I stay on their
radar. I just did a membership drive for American Association for Justice. Instead
of calling everybody on the list, I invited a couple of hundred women
lawyers to come to the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut. We did a beautiful
cocktail party there but I was able to touch base with 200 lawyers and, you know,
had face-to-face meetings with 40 of them in one evening. So I think if you
can be efficient but still be very personable, that’s the key to the
operation. Wonderful, wonderful. So I like how you looked and you saw how
much effort and time it took to meet with one person and you actually created
a structure so that you could do more in less time and connect with more people.
And I’m sure everyone who came to the aquarium or comes to your office really
have you top of mind because it’s a pleasant experience. Absolutely. And with
the CAN meetings, I try to pick interesting topics and speakers every
month. And because CLE just became mandatory in Connecticut, people can
actually get their CLE requirement fulfilled just by coming to the meetings.
So it’s a win all the way around. Wonderful. It’s amazing to me how much
business is transferred to me and to everyone else because when you’re in
that relaxed setting, you can kind of open your mind a little bit and, you know,
it’s just been something I look forward to and really everyone looks forward to
once a month. That’s really great! Can you give advice for anyone you think
who’s struggling of how they can reach their goals? Sure. I think you need to
find your community. You need to really identify what cases you’re best at, what
cases are most profitable for you, and then you need to figure out how to get
those cases. I find I almost never refer people to general practitioners because
it’s very unclear what they’re best at. So if you can- in addition to maybe you
do do real estate and a number of things- but in your marketing, promote yourself as
having a niche that maybe other people don’t have. For instance, I started at
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, I’m very interested in medicine, I have a nurse on
my staff. And that gives me a real strength for not only medical malpractice cases,
but also cases that are medically complicated. Sometimes, you know, somebody
has an unusual injury as a result of a car accident
or some other type of negligent action and I love diving deep on the medicine,
and people know me for that. So I think you need to separate yourself from the
pack and then you need to be visible to the people who are most likely to need
your services. Okay. That’s really, really good. Now, you’re- with all these different
organizations, how do you manage your schedule to have such a robust practice
and yet be able to contribute in different ways in the community there in
Connecticut, and in the legal community as well? Well, I think in order to really
have an impact in an organization, you have to have a leadership role. Mm-hmm.
Though I don’t take leadership roles in all of the organizations at the same
time. Mm-hmm. So for instance, I’m Vice President of my
synagogue. I was asked to join a new committee within the Connecticut Trial
Lawyers Association this year and I said to them, I’ll do it after I complete my
two-year term as Vice President. Because I think what you do outside of
the meetings, if you’re a good contributor, that’s how you’re gonna make
a name for yourself and that’s when people are gonna be comfortable
referring you cases. If you just belong to a lot of things but you don’t
participate in a way that advances the organization’s goals, I feel that that’s
actually a detriment to your reputation. Hmm. Okay, that’s really important. So what
legacy would you like to leave? One of my favorite activities is helping young
people, whether they’re students or beginning lawyers, find their path. And in
Connecticut, sometimes we call that “dropping down the ladder behind you.”
Especially for women, because in the injury world that I practice within,
it’s still dominated by men, so I particularly love to help women, although
I also help young men, as well. And I’ve made so many close friends and
relationships and have included those people in the organizations that I lead
and that I belong to. I just think being someone who gives
back, being someone who gives students confidence, being someone who says,
yes, you may have to approach this differently than I did years ago. And the
conventional position in a larger firm may not be the road everyone’s going to
travel but I love being a resource for young people, as well as more seasoned
people, who maybe are not as immersed in my area of law. You know, there’s a lot of
talk about the Millennials- when you speak of young lawyers- and what would
you say to those people who, I think they come -you know, that they believe that
Millennials have particular characteristics and not all of them are
favorable and they don’t really give the Millennials an opportunity- what would
you say to them? I think that- the first thing I learned
about Millennials is they don’t like to be called Millennials. Yes. But I think
you have to judge each person on their own merit. At my event that I just had
Thursday at the aquarium, I invited my law clerk from a couple years ago. And
she actually, after graduating from law school, went and got her LLM from Trinity. Her
name is Maria Morse, and she’s lovely and she’s looking for a job, if anyone out
there happens to be looking for an incredibly smart, hard-working, talented
person. You know, nothing that people say about Millennials is true about her.
She is dedicated, she’s loyal, she’s smart. I think a lot of the younger people have
been told it’s unlikely you’re gonna find a company loyal to you so that
there’s no reason you should feel a loyalty going in the other direction.
I think that’s sad commentary and one by one, it’s our- you know, it’s our job to
disavow that. You know, I know plenty of people of every age that are looking for
an easy road or a quick dollar. I don’t think it exists, at least not in
Connecticut. You get in what you put out on these cases. You put- did I say that
right? Yes. What you bring to the cases is what you get out of the cases. Last year, actually,
after a 10-year road, I got a verdict of 6.824 million
dollars. It surprised a number of people. Wow, I’m sure. Congratulations, by the
way! Thank you. Persistence, putting the right
people on my team, you know- and it was a long, hard-fought battle but every step
of the way was worth it when we got our verdict. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. So
it seems that, Leslie, that you’re leaving legacies for young lawyers,
young women lawyers, and young male lawyers, as well as for your peers. So
that is really admirable. And I just noticed how you, you know, in your
interview here, you actually were looking out for someone else. What was the young
lady’s name again that is looking for a position? Her name’s Maria Morse. Marie Morris? M-o-r-s-e. Morse, okay. You know, I was doing the products liability and
premise case together when she was my clerk. She did tremendous research. We had
a jury charge that was novel to Connecticut, thanks to her good, hard work.
Like I said, she just got her LLM. She’s gonna be a rock star but she needs
her foot in the door. She actually lives in New York. I think
she took a couple of bars. She’s very flexible as to what her first position
might be, keeping a lot of doors open. Excellent. And I’ll keep my ears
open too, in case I hear of something. Sure. So our final question for Lawyer of the
Week is, name one thing that you do to manage your stress levels. My
favorite way to manage my stress level is to play poker. Oh! First of all, I just love being at the casino- the sound of the chips, the people-
it keeps my brain just busy enough so that I don’t think about anything but
the hand I’m playing. Mm-hmm. And I’m pretty good. You know, pretty happy.
Wonderful, wonderful. Well, Leslie, thank you so much for being the Lawyer of the
Week. Is there anything that you might like to say to your fellow Connecticut
lawyers or lawyers- other lawyers, in general- to inspire them? Because you seem
to be very much a person who likes to inspire those around you. Sure. I think
it’s just find your community. You know, and keep an open mind. Whatever you love to do, you know,
let people know because I think sharing and collaborating really makes a lot of
people successful. And from what I understand, when people isolate, they may
get the work of the few people they know or so forth, but they seem pretty unhappy.
So I think by sharing your success and sharing other people’s success, I think
that gives me a lot of new energy, fresh energy. Wonderful, wonderful. Well, thank
you so much for being our Lawyer of the Week. And to our guests- to our
community- we are so happy that you were here with us today and we hope to see
you again next week. Thank you for joining Lawyer of the Week.
As always, I encourage and support each one of you to achieve your own peak
performance, move your law practice to the next level, and create your own
legacy. I love to read your comments about how you achieve peak performance
in your law practice below.

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