This coming Friday, I will be receiving an “Outstanding Trial Lawyer” award from the Consumer Attorneys of San Diego. “CASD” is honoring me, along with Jessica Sizemore from our firm, for our work obtaining a $16.2 million “slip and fall” verdict for Bill and Elaine Kidd against El Pollo Loco. In that case, Bill slipped and fell in greasy water tracked onto the customer floor by an employee and suffered a “mild traumatic brain injury” as a result. El Pollo Loco claimed that Bill fell because he was drunk, and that he didn’t suffer a brain injury after all. Thankfully, the Bakersfield jury got it right.
This will be the 10th “Outstanding Trial Lawyer” award I have received. CASD has also named me their “Trial Lawyer of the Year” twice. And so, I thought I would write about awards and what they mean to me here.
To begin with, and perhaps obviously, I care about the result leading to the award far more than the award itself. In this case, we were able to help a family that very much needed our help. Particularly in brain injury cases, I find that a successful result like this one can be the difference between a family making it or not. Because of his injury, Bill could no longer provide for his family. Work itself was a hardship. Tensions were high and life was sometimes unbearable. Thankfully, now the Kidds are going to make it, both financially and otherwise. That’s the most important thing for sure.
I care about the result leading to the award far more than the award itself.
As for the awards themselves, my thinking has changed over the years. When I began trying cases for people and families, I had almost immediate and prolific success. Awards like these seemed easy to get and came my way virtually every year. And so, I tended to take them for granted to some degree.
One experience changed that. I was formerly a member of the CASD Board of Directors and one year chaired the “Trial Stars” dinner event. As part of that, I coordinated the presentations and awards to each recipient. One recipient, I remember, was virtually non-stop in his requests that we interview particular people for his video or include things in his presentation. “What is with this guy,” I complained. “He’s acting like he won the Super Bowl. It’s really not that big of a deal. If I don’t win 20 of these over the course of my career, I will be shocked.”
But, we did what he wanted. And then I listened to his acceptance speech. He said something like, “I have been doing this work and coming to dinners like this for the past 20 years. And I always watched the great trial lawyers receiving awards and never thought I would actually be up on the stage myself. But, here I am. Finally. This is one of the greatest nights of my life.” “Wow,” I thought. “Now I get it.” I felt like such a jerk for being annoyed with him. And just as importantly, from that moment on, I treat any award I receive with the humility and appreciation that he showed that evening. I feel like I owe that to him and anyone else that has ever felt that way. I also owe it to both my fellow recipients and the people that worked so hard to pick me to begin with.
…I now realize that any great result we obtain, we earn as a team
There are other reasons too that I appreciate awards now more than ever. One important reason is that I now realize that any great result we obtain, we earn as a team. The awards evening and the award itself is an opportunity for all of us to celebrate all of our work together. I am also especially pleased when, like this year, one of my attorneys earns the award along with me. Jessica, for example, is receiving the award for the second time in the past two years. She is a great lawyer and contributed substantially to the verdict we obtained for the Kidds, so she is very deserving.
I guess that finally, the older I get, the more I realize that few things in life are certain. In the past several years, I have lost many great, talented trial lawyers as friends whose lives were taken too soon. Others have suffered debilitating and career ending disease or declines in health. I have also known lawyers whose trial successes declined later in their careers. I have lost trials myself. All of those personal experiences and observations teach me never to take life or success for granted. For example, I have a feeling that I won’t know in advance when I will receive my last great verdict or award. For all I know, the award I receive this week could be my last one. And so, for all those reasons, I intend to humbly appreciate and honor it just like it was the only one of my life.
Thanks for reading my “Awards” story.