Jun 5, 2009

When my partners and I first founded Anderson Hemmat close to a decade ago, we had each already spent years in other firms and had a good sense as to what worked well and what did not. Establishing this firm those many years ago was in reality our professional attempt to build a better mouse-trap.

Without having a name for it, our firm's unifying principles include a strong ethical and moral compass. Additionally, each of us share a strong connection to people and recognize that the ability to empathize with our clients is paramount to the service we render. This is a better "mouse-trap": the ability to put ourselves in our client's shoes and make honest and morally correct decisions. Some folks refer to our approach of doing business as sticking by the "Golden Rule." For us, it is just the way we do business - no qualms about it. Today, many thousands of satisfied clients later, we continue the tradition, one well cared for client at a time.

I use the words "moral compass" a lot. In fact, I probably over-use it. To me there is nothing blurry or fuzzy about right and wrong. An attorney, who does a responsible and professional job for his client, should be paid for the efforts that brought benefit to his client. The more effort there is, the more benefit to the client, and attorney's fees should be paid in proportion. But some attorneys think of this business as like roulette. They regularly disregard their moral compass (if they ever had one) and figure whatever they get, regardless of their work effort, is justified. It even has a name: "Jackpot Justice." No doubt about it, this is very wrong.

Attorneys ought to consider those occasions when they should to take less. When an attorney has brought little or no added value to a case, their pay should reflect accordingly. It is attorneys themselves, not the Regulation Counsel or the courts, who should be the first to recognize those occasions and act swiftly in the best interest of their deserving clients.

You either have a strong moral compass or you don't. Those who don't, have no place at Anderson Hemmat.

If you have ever flown over the Rockies you know that there will be some turbulence. Even though I expect it, I still find comfort in hearing from the pilot that he is aware of the turbulence and that we should prepare ourselves for it. Not only does this communication prepare the unsuspecting, it also lets us know that he, the pilot, recognizes and appreciates the challenges ahead and is confident in approaching those challenges. I don't know if this necessarily makes him a better aviator, but it certainly puts me at ease to know that I am on a plane with a pilot who is confident, communicative, and caring.

When people get injured and are forced to take the intimidating step of hiring a lawyer, we recognize how daunting that experience can be. Though a person may take a hundred or more commercial flights in their lifetime, those who hire a trial lawyer are likely to do so only once. Consider that in a routine two hour flight a good pilot will make as many as ten or twelve contacts with his passengers. Those communications will be from the routine, "we are approaching our destination" to the very important "please fasten your safety belt for turbulence ahead."

Just as in aviation, communication with your attorney should be regular and continuous. I have always felt it matters very little how extraordinary our legal services are if the client is not kept informed of what is happening in the process. Unfortunately, I hear of attorneys who fail to ever pick up the telephone or write a single letter to their client even though the claim may take years to resolve.

We find that outrageous and intolerable. Our job is to communicate. Communication is our stock and trade. At Anderson Hemmat, we take the aviator approach of regular and continuous communication. Not only will your calls and questions be answered by your lawyer, but you should expect to hear from us frequently. Does this make us unique? Sadly, yes. But we believe it is better for our clients, and we know how much they appreciate our efforts.

As a child, I recall witnessing my own mother suffer the effects of two consecutive automobile accidents. Neither of the accidents were her fault, but the insurance companies made her feel like the guilty one. She was forced to hire an attorney to get the insurance companies to pay her mounting medical bills, and I went with her to meet the first one. I don't remember his name; he was not very impressive and looked nothing like the cool attorneys on T.V. But my mom thought he was okay and she hired him.

I remember her disappointment when months went by without news from that lawyer. Eventually her anguish and despair overcame her and she finally yielded to the prospect of having to look for another lawyer after she spent so much time trying to get "Mr. Unimpressive" to return her calls. Great relief came once she finally found a good lawyer. He didn't look like Spencer Tracy or Raymond Burr, but he worked hard for my mom and eventually he got the got the insurance companies to do what was right.

Observing how these professionals' actions and inaction's affected my family truly was a major life-lesson for me. I think it was at that point I knew I had to become an attorney too. The calling of a lawyer is to build communities based on the rule of law. Our actions have a ripple-effect throughout families and communities, and thus we must strive to have our professionalism inspire the next generation. Hopefully by so doing, our actions will change deep seated views formed by past experiences with slothful attorneys.

We require our attorneys to treat our clients as they would want to be treated. We expect our staff to remember who our clients really are: mothers, father, brothers, and sisters. We never forget how important these legal issues are to our clients, their families and their communities. With our years of conducting our business with this mind, it is little wonder that we have represented multiple generations of countless families. Being referred by one family member to another is a source of pride for us and when it happens we know we are doing it right.

We believe we are using a different kind of 'mouse trap' and it makes us different. We know it casts a large shadow over other law firms and hope it helps start a trend of a new and improved way of practicing law. Our goal is simple: create goodwill amongst our satisfied clients, and change the sour reputation our profession has, one satisfied client at a time.

That is our business - and business is good.


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