Michael Cowen, and his guests, explore critical topics distinctive to the legal profession - specifically focusing on developing extremely efficient law practices, securing a competitive edge in the industry, and wildly excelling in the courtroom.
118 – Deena Buchanan – An Inside View of How Insurance Companies Value Cases
Big insurance cases can become complicated quickly. The ins and outs, layers of coverage, and strategies aren’t a one-size-fits-all, but learning from someone who has spent years putting on the parachute and jumping out the plane can save you from many of the headaches that follow.
With a storied career ranging from big law and excess coverage, to truck accident and personal injury, Deena Buchanan has earned the skills to pay the bills and chooses to pay it forward. Since her switch from big law and Fortune 500 in-house counsel to the plaintiff side of law, Deena holds valuable insight that can apply to both sides of the court.
In episode 118, Michael Cowen speaks with Deena Buchanan, Managing Partner at Buchanan Law Firm, LLC. On this educational episode of Trial Lawyer Nation, Michael and Deena also discuss what it’s like running a law firm, giving advice and brainstorming with less experienced attorneys, different excess cases, not settling against major corporations, and much more.
Name: Deena Buchanan
About: Deena Buchanan brings more than 20 years of experience, thoughtfulness and a commitment to strong advocacy to every case she handles.
Deena has been a trial attorney since she was admitted to practice, and she’s earned high regards from judges, clients and other attorneys. She’s known for her thorough preparation, her oral advocacy skills during trial proceedings, and her poise and composure in any situation. She has tried employment, personal injury and wrongful death actions. She’s also represented insurance companies and major corporations, for many years, so she knows what to expect from the other side.
Though she has considerable experience in a number of jurisdictions, Deena focuses her current practice on controversies arising in New Mexico. She has a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the laws and procedures in New Mexico, as well as local trial practice.
Company: Managing Partner, Buchanan Law Firm, LLC
Top takeaways from this episode
How do you know when there is excess coverage? It can be easy to overlook the specifics in big insurance cases, especially when there’s a large settlement offer. However, by doing this, lawyers often leave money on the table. By asking in discovery early and often about the coverage you see, you can pick out wordings and layerings being used to hide the actual amount your client could be up for.
You need to build relationships with adjusters and decision makers. Often with insurance cases, your information is based on what is collected and provided by the defense lawyer. They’re often overworked or a true believer in the case and want to make it difficult for you to get the policy information you need. This is why it’s important to build relationships with adjusters who can get you the information you need, work around the people withholding or dragging their feet, and build your name in the industry.
You can drive up the value of your case. By serving with complaint, pushing in discovery with motions to compel, and giving notice for depositions early, you can push the value of your case for your client up. You’re showing that you’re serious both to your client and to who you’re going after, showing you won’t settle for less or be pushed around. By doing this it strengthens a long term relationship with your client, not just adjusters, and opens the chance for them to gain higher compensation more quickly.
[02:35] Deena’s Background that led her to a successful career in law: How a career spanning many different areas can prepare you for your next steps.
[10:32] Don’t settle when there’s money on the table: It’s common for lawyers to settle for less money when they don’t...
117 – Isabella Santellan – How to Build a Referral-Based Practice
When it comes to personal injury law, the client-firm relationship can be fairly transactional. Most clients aren’t talking about their personal injury cases with their network, and lawyers hope that their clients don’t get injured again and become repeat customers.
But when you have mostly transactional, single-case relationships with clients, how can you gain more business? If your personal injury clients aren’t telling their network about you, who will?
One of the most rewarding methods for gaining more business is referral marketing. Creating longstanding attorney referral relationships gives you a pipeline for more cases, helps you build a reputation, and keeps your firm top of mind in the industry. However, in order to succeed with referral-based marketing, you have to cultivate your relationships and think about what the other person wants.
According to Michael Cowen and the team at Cowen Rodriguez Peacock, you have to give back in order to grow your referral-based business. Take referring attorneys out to lunch or to an event that they would enjoy. Or, give them a gift that’s personalized (and doesn’t have your firm’s name or logo on it). However you decide to show gratitude to your referral partners, it’s important that you create a system to follow up, check in every now and then, and continue nurturing that relationship.
Above all, Michael says that it’s important to create a culture of sharing and respect and keep your promises with referring attorneys. You don’t have to take every case that comes your way, and you can’t guarantee the outcome of a case. You can, however, promise to work hard, keep clients informed, and honor the deal you made.
In episode 117, Isabella Santellan, the Marketing Assistant at Cowen Rodriguez Peacock, asks Michael Cowen all of the essential questions about building a referral-based business and tending to referral relationships. Listen to this episode of Trial Lawyer Nation to hear Michael’s advice on building a referral network and nurturing relationships, turning down referral cases, and simplifying the referral process for your firm.
Name: Isabella Santellan
About: Isabella Santellan is the Marketing Assistant at Cowen Rodriguez Peacock. She was born and raised in San Antonio, TX and recently received her B.B.A in Management from the University of Texas at San Antonio. As the Marketing Assistant, Isabella runs the firm’s social media, helps plan events, and works to ensure they provide an unforgettable experience to everyone they work with. In her free time, Isabella enjoys traveling, golfing, and spending time with her family.
Company: Cowen Rodriguez Peacock
Top takeaways from this episode
Start with the people you already know (and don’t be too picky about cases). It’s difficult to come out of law school and have the reputation and network needed to create a referral-based business. Michael Cowen suggests you get your foot in the door by being hungry, humble, and persistent. Take cases from those who are already in your network and expand your business from there.
Give your referring attorneys what they want. It’s important to stay top of mind when you’re building a referral-based business. How do you do this? Michael says you need to give back to your referral partners. Take your referring attorneys to lunch or to an event that they might enjoy. You could also give them a call, send a handwritten thank you note, or give them a gift (without your firm’s name or logo on it). However you show gratitude, you have to do so with the other person in mind.
Nurture your existing referrals.
116 – Michael Bonamarte – What Does It Take to Win a $20 Million Verdict?
Michael Bonamarte wasn’t always set on being a trial lawyer. In college, he started out on a pre-med track, eventually discovering a passion for the law. Now, he runs a successful firm with 20 years under his belt — and a $20 million verdict. What does it take to reach this level of success?
Throughout his career, Michael soaked up knowledge from the greats in his industry. From mentors and partners to books and other educational tools, Michael made sure he was learning everything he could so that he could go to bat for his clients. Because of this passion and drive, Michael won a plethora of large cases.
One of these large cases received a successful $20 million verdict. This multimillion-dollar case covered a difficult birthing complication, where the baby, AJ, was diagnosed with fetal growth restriction at 40 weeks. Significant changes in the fetal heart rate strips were not brought to the attending doctor’s attention, and ultimately, AJ suffered brain damage. Although he should live a regular life expectancy, AJ’s neurological function is limited and he will likely need custodial care for the rest of his life.
Due to the technicalities of the case, Michael knew he needed support from great experts. With the help of both law firm partners and medical experts, Michael was able to solidify the win. The medical experts could explain the points that matter and simplify complex terms for the jury. The defense, who argued that fetal growth restriction was caused by a genetic growth issue, didn’t have the necessary experts to strengthen their argument, which contributed to Michael and his team’s big win.
Throughout his career, Michael has had plenty of multimillion-dollar wins. Now, as a managing partner of his firm, Michael is helping other lawyers find that same success. By investing in the firm, making himself accessible to younger lawyers, and sharing all of his insight and knowledge, Michael is helping shape the next generation of lawyers winning million-dollar verdicts.
In episode 116, Michael Cowen is in conversation with Michael Bonamarte, Managing Partner at Levin & Perconti, to get all of the details on the $20 million verdict. Michael walks through the big case, from the opening statement and jury selection to the closing arguments and ultimate win. On this insightful episode of Trial Lawyer Nation, Michael also discusses what it’s like running a law firm, how he built up his skills early in his career, and the best ways to bounce back from a loss.
Name: Michael Bonamarte
About: Michael Bonamarte, IV is a nationally recognized trial attorney who has achieved outstanding results in a number of high-profile nursing home, wrongful death, birth injury, and medical malpractice cases. He is committed to protecting and vindicating the rights of people who have been injured due to systemic flaws and corporations choosing profits over people. Michael is currently a Managing Partner at Levin & Perconti law firm in Chicago, Illinois.
Company: Levin & Perconti
Connect: Email | 312-516-1129
Top takeaways from this episode
You have to be a sponge to develop your skills as a trial lawyer. Michael Bonamarte has a passion for representing people who have been wronged. But passion doesn’t always mean you have the skills to succeed. So how do you develop your skills? According to Michael, you have to be a sponge and soak up all of the insight from other lawyers, mentors, and resources in your field.
A strong argument requires the right experts.
115 – Malorie Peacock – How to Get Compelling Testimony From Treating Doctors
Getting credible testimony from treating doctors can make or break your case. In this episode, Michael and Malorie are sharing their strategies to get powerful testimony from treating doctors, work through common challenges, and help build your case.
While the personal knowledge of the treating physician establishes significantly more credibility than a hired expert, it’s imperative the doctor communicates well and speaks in a way the jury can understand — without all of the medical jargon.
Remember: treating doctors aren’t professional testifiers. The lawyer needs to ensure that the treating doctor is prepared to give efficient, compelling testimony. You’re the guide who’s questions will lead the doctor along the trail of your strategy, and avoid getting stuck in the weeds of mundane details.
Malorie’s strategies to guide the story include magic words and visuals. Magic words or questions ensure you get what you need from the witness and end up with valuable testimony. Visuals (like diagrams, animations, or demonstrations) can help the jury visualize the story — as long as your visuals are relevant to your trial strategy. To wrap everything up, Malorie suggests you leave the jury with the major takeaway from your witness…just make sure it connects to the next part of your case.
Tune in to episode 115 as Michael and Malorie discuss strategies and best practices for working with treating doctors, the do’s and don’ts of getting valuable testimony, preparing the witness, and utilizing their testimony to build a compelling story for the jury.
Name: Malorie J. Peacock
About: Malorie J. Peacock is a Partner at Cowen Rodriguez Peacock. She was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas and received her J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center. During her time with Cowen Rodriguez Peacock, Malorie has worked on numerous commercial vehicle, trucking, and wrongful death cases. Malorie brings close attention to detail, commitment to finding safety issues and areas of neglect, continued utilization of technology and cutting-edge visuals in cases, along with a sincere passion to help those who have been hurt, to each and every case.
Company: Cowen Rodriguez Peacock
Top takeaways from this episode
* Testimony from treating doctors can be crucial for a win. A treating doctor can testify from a place of personal knowledge, showing the jury what happened from a medical perspective. They have more credibility than someone you might hire, and because of their longer history with the client, they’re harder to cross-examine.
Bringing in treating doctors has its share of challenges. Although treating doctors can be critical for a case, there are often challenges when bringing them in to testify. Doctors speak their own language; they often use medical jargon that the average person won’t understand. So, if you want to work through these challenges, you need to make sure your treating doctor is using colloquial language and is a great communicator.
You should think about your case from a storytelling perspective. It can be easy for a treating doctor to get into every detail of the medical procedure, condition, or patient visit. As a lawyer, you want to guide the treating doctor and make sure they stay on track, only sharing details that are relevant to your case strategy. Be careful not to be leading or argumentative, but build your story with key components and questions that make the testimony understandable.
114 – Brandon Thompson – Winning Medical Malpractice Cases
Anuj Thapa wanted the American dream. A college student from Nepal who came to the United States to pursue mechanical engineering, Anuj had big dreams of getting his degree and becoming the breadwinner for his family members at home in Nepal.
But his aspirations were destroyed by a leg injury that led to a painful condition called compartment syndrome. Due to the neglect of his doctors, the damage that Anuj suffered after his surgery left him disabled.
Luckily for Anuj, he got one of the most esteemed medical malpractice lawyers in the country to try his case, Ciresi Conlin’s Brandon E. Thompson. With 17 years of experience in the medical malpractice law arena, he was able to win Anuj $111 million in damages. The defense’s argument? They claimed that Anuj — a 19-year-old in the U.S. on a student visa — was lying about when and where he developed compartment syndrome.
“That was a gift to us that they framed the case that way because it allowed us, throughout the case, to paint this as a credibility contest,” Brandon said. “Find me another case where you’ve got somebody who truly has had their American dream torn away from them in the way that his was.”
For Brandon, presenting cases to the jury with empathy is the key to success — and he’s had a lot of it. Tune in to this episode of Trial Lawyer Nation as host Michael Cowen talks with Brandon about all things medical malpractice: from the weaknesses of liability arguments to the secrets of getting a jury on your side.
Name: Brandon E. Thompson
About: Brandon Thompson’s entire legal career has been dedicated to representing individuals and families who have suffered from the negligence of medical professionals. There is no greater professional honor for Brandon than being asked to help people when they are facing the darkest times of their lives.
Brandon is one of the foremost trial lawyers of his generation. He has won numerous multi-million jury trials — including some of the largest-ever jury verdicts in the State of Minnesota for clients harmed by serious medical malpractice — and has negotiated many millions of dollars of settlements for his clients. He is a member of a number of elite national and international trial organizations, and in 2018 was invited to be the youngest-ever Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious organization of trial lawyers in the world.
Brandon’s work ethic and compassion were a product of his blue-collar upbringing; his grandfather was a mechanic, his dad was an electrician at the Ford plant, and he was the first person in his family to go to college. The father of three children, including a young daughter with extraordinary medical needs, he empathizes with his clients in a way few lawyers truly can.
Company: Ciresi Conlin, LLP
Top takeaways from this episode
* Look beyond liability. When choosing which cases to defend, one of the biggest mistakes lawyers can make is choosing a claim based on liability claims alone. Liability is not always as strong as it seems, so the first criterion should always be the seriousness of the injury or damages.
* Differentiate your case. One of the best things medical malpractice lawyers can do to win over a jury is to differentiate their case and show how it is an outlier.
* Avoid credibility arguments. In the case Brandon won for Nepali student Anuj Thapa, the hospital’s biggest mistake was using credibility as their primary defense. In this case, it was deeply improbable that someone like Anuj, who risked everything to pursue his “American dream,” would lie about his injury.
113 – Malorie Peacock – Michael and Malorie’s Latest Trial
On a good day, a personal injury trial can feel like an uphill battle. Now, add a small inhospitable venue, a less-than-sympathetic client, and a slew of video witnesses into the mix. That’s exactly where Michael and Malorie found themselves recently trying a commercial vehicle case. In this episode of the Trial Lawyer Nation, they’re here to reflect on the trial and discuss the unique challenges they faced, the strategies they employed, and actionable lessons you can take into your next trial.
To set the stage, the case involved an oilfield worker rear-ended on the highway. He suffered significant structural injuries, returned to work for a year, and ultimately had a hip replacement and additional therapies.
While liability was never in doubt, damages is where Michael and Malorie faced an uphill battle. The first challenge was that the client’s medical records said he had degenerative disc disease from childhood. How do you establish that his injuries are attributable to the motor vehicle wreck?
To complicate matters, the client returned to work, performing the same responsibilities as before the accident, only seeking treatment sporadically. To keep things interesting, the judge allowed the admission of evidence of the client’s cocaine use around the time of his treatment. These are just a few of the issues that threatened to derail our damages claims.
Join us on this episode to hear the details of the case, including our future-focused approach, witnesses and experts we called and why, the unique way we presented the medical and non-economic damages witnesses, and much more on this new episode of Trial Lawyer Nation featuring Malorie Peacock.
Name: Malorie Peacock
About: Malorie J. Peacock is a Partner at Cowen Rodriguez Peacock. She was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, and received her J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center. During her time with Cowen Rodriguez Peacock, Malorie has worked on numerous commercial vehicle, trucking, and wrongful death cases. Malorie brings close attention to detail, commitment to finding safety issues and areas of neglect, continued utilization of technology, and cutting-edge visuals in cases, along with a sincere passion for helping those who have been hurt in every case.
Company: Cowen Rodriguez Peacock
Top takeaways from this episode
You don’t need to prove your whole case with one witness. A witness to establish damages does not have to know everything about the client’s life or know them before and after the crash and be able to compare. Instead, it has to be someone involved. The key is to string together tidbits of information into a coherent story.
Before using video depositions during a trial, you need to know the critical predicate questions in your jurisdiction to lay the foundation to use that either as a demonstrative or to get it admitted into evidence because it makes a giant difference. You also want to make sure your videos are reasonably short and engaging. None of the videos in this case exceeded 25 minutes.
Your client may not be likable, but you must protect and fight for them. Some clients are tough to love, but if you take their case, you want to protect them as best you can from the jury selection process and throughout the trial by looking out for obvious sentiments that could go against your client.
[01:45] The case many lawyers didn’t want to touch (Including us): Malorie Peacock provides the background for the commercial vehicle accident case.
[02:33] The challenges with the case: Michael lays out the challenges and how it looked like an impossible case to win.
Michael Cowen needs a new mic—he always sounds like he’s underwater.
The content is great though! Thanks
As a young Plaintiff’s trial lawyer this podcast is one of my absolute favorites. Michael, Delisi, Mallory, and team are the real deal. The podcast episodes are always packed with great material/guests but they are also willing to respond to emails and answer questions. Recommend this podcast to any and all Plaintiff lawyers of any age or background.
Insightful Perspective on Real-Life Trial Issues
I’ve been listening for a long time and feel like I know Michael, Delisi, Malorie and the rest of the team!! I truly enjoy Michael’s thoughtful, introspective discussion of his trial experiences, hearing about his own journey learning to trust the jury, and all of the accomplished and equally-forthcoming guests they have on for insightful conversation about the joys, sorrows and pitfalls of litigation. Thank you, Michael and team!!