I really enjoy helping people. I always have. I guess this goes all the way back to being the second-oldest of seven close siblings. With two working parents, it was ingrained in us to always watch out for our younger siblings at all times. So I think that's originally where I began to enjoy helping people.
Of course, when you're responsible for other people, that means more than being a nice guy. It means being vigilant, it means being understanding, and it means being a problem solver. Later, it became what inspired my career path to become an attorney.
Following my first year at Loyola University Law School in New Orleans, I was fortunate to clerk at Orleans Parish Criminal Court. Right away, I was enthralled. Though most law clerks would just volunteer for a few weeks or the summer and then move on, I clerked every morning in the Division E courtroom for the public defenders' office for the next year and a half. I knew I was in the right place. I knew I wanted to help people, and I knew I wanted to be in the courtroom.
In June 2005, two months before Hurricane Katrina, I sat for the Louisiana bar exam in the Superdome in New Orleans. By the time I learned that I had passed a few months later, almost everyone I knew in New Orleans had lost almost everything they had owned. Many of us knew people who did not survive the hurricane.
In response, I quickly began representing homeowners against insurance companies. As we all know, almost all the homes in New Orleans had been destroyed to some extent, and almost all the insurance companies were ripping off the homeowners and business owners left and right. At the end of the day, I represented over 100 homeowners, and to this day still consider this work to be among my greatest accomplishments. When doing this work, I never needed to consider if a case was “worth it” because I knew I was on the right side, doing the right thing.
This approach continues to pervade my law practice up through this day. I am consumed with solving people's problems, and about making things right for them. I fight for individuals and small businesses, and I have never represented a corporation or insurance company. I handle civil matters exclusively, not criminal cases. I have developed a broad civil litigation practice, aggressively prosecuting plaintiff cases in the areas of personal injury, auto accidents, insurance litigation, premises liability, workers compensation, succession litigation, and general civil litigation.
In short, if someone has been wronged in any sort that wasn't their fault, I work zealously to make things right for them. If someone has a problem they can't handle, I work enthusiastically to solve that problem. That's what I do, that's what I've always done, and that's what I love to do – to look out for people, to solve problems they can't handle, and to make things right for them.
What motivates me in my job every day are the folks that call me and need my help. Most times, these are people who are in need, or at times when they're in despair, or when their luck is a little bit down because they've been in an accident, or they've been hurt or wronged in any sort that wasn't their fault. I love practicing law because I enjoy helping these people. And the fact that these people call me with problems they can't solve motivates me because it gives me an opportunity to help them.
I know I'm excited to come into the office every morning because I'm going to help somebody get something done that they were unable to do own their own. What I also greatly enjoy is that most times, my clients don't even have to come to me with any money, they just have to come to me with a problem. I'll finance their case, I'll help them out, and I'll do everything in my power to get them a recovery, and to put them back together the best we can.
So that's what I enjoy doing, and that's what motivates me to come into them office every day and work harder that the day before. But I also enjoy my work a great deal because I'm good at what I do, because I've been working very hard at it for a while now. In my mind, this experience is critical. Every time you help somebody you learn something about them, and you learn something about the process, which is the legal system, and you learn how to help people better. I'm also good at what I do, because I enjoy what I do, and I believe that if you enjoy what you're doing, you're just going to be better at it. You're going to have more fun doing it, and you're going to get more enjoyment and satisfaction out of doing it.
So I get a tremendous amount of joy and satisfaction out of helping people, even though it's unfortunate that I meet them at a time of need. I'm able to turn things around for them most times, and take that time of need and turn it into a time when they can at least get what they deserve. One reason I can do this is the tenacity with which I handle my cases, and my enthusiastic ability to never give up. Every single time I'm talking to a defendant, or an insurance company, or any opposing party, I'm advocating for my client, and I'm fighting for them. And I want to fight. I enjoy the fight. Because I know that I'm helping my client by fighting for them. And that motivates me, and that's why I'm good at what I do.
My Favorite Part of Practicing Law
Most attorneys say that their favorite part of practicing law is the end of the case. That makes sense, because if their case is handled well, then that's when the dispute is resolved. That's when the hard work pays off, and that's when folks get paid. And from the client's perspective, that's when the case is over. However, the end is not my most favorite part of practicing law.
My favorite part of practicing law is actually at the beginning of the case, when a new client and I agree that I will represent him or her. That initial meeting where we shake hands and agree to proceed is my favorite part because this client freely chooses me as his or her attorney, and I freely choose to accept them as my client. At this point, I fully understand that they depend upon us to aggressively pursue justice on their behalf. I consider this to be a sacred trust. So in my mind this is an extremely powerful and poignant moment.
The process generally works like this. First, folks call me because they are referred by my former clients, or are referred by other attorneys, or they have found me online. We generally speak for a bit just to make sure I'm not wasting their time in having them come into my office for a free consultation. If it seems worthwhile to meet in person at my office, then we will schedule that consultation.
To be clear, both that phone call and that free consultation are always with me personally. Not an assistant, not a secretary, not another attorney who won't be handling your case. You and I speak, you and I meet, and then I become your attorney, and I will be the person who is handling your case, not an associate or paralegal. If you have a question, you call me, not someone else.
Also, to be clear again, both that phone call and the consultation at my office are totally free and without obligation. In fact, I do not charge for any consultations – ever. Many attorneys give free consultations for only certain types of cases. Not me. All initial calls and the consultations are always free and entirely without charge or obligation. I want clients to contact me, and I don't ever want them to have any reason not to contact me.
At our initial meeting in person, I would ask that the client bring all materials that could be possibly related to the issue at hand. After I personally review all these materials, I listen to try to understand the problem, and to understand how the client sees the problem, and how the client might envision a solution. And then we discuss potential solutions. Then, if the client decides they want me to be their attorney, and if I decide to commit to being their attorney, then the client and I will both sign a contract of employment which will make me their attorney and allow me to begin taking action as such. Typically, I really like to shake hands at this point, as a symbolic gesture of my commitment.
This handshake is probably my most favorite specific part of practicing law. When we shake hands, I am always feel a sense of humility and gratitude that a person wishes to place their trust in me as their attorney. I consider that trust to be sacred. Often times, the problem that they are presenting to me is extremely important and burdensome for them, and often life changing. I let them know that they no longer need to worry about the situation, and that I will handle from there on out. So it is exceedingly satisfying for me to be able to extend that comfort and assurance to someone who is in such a difficult situation that they find themselves in an attorney's office seeking help. For me, it is a turning point in that person's situation – when things start to get better. Also, that relief is just a preview of the positive outcome that I am committed to obtaining for that individual.
Whom I Have Helped
My practice areas are somewhat broad, so I have helped a number of different types of people, coming to me with a diverse set of problems. What these folks have in common is that they are all facing problems or injuries that they cannot solve by themselves.
I help people who have been injured. Broadly speaking, these types of cases are referred to as personally injury cases. Most often that means people who have been involved in car accidents or trucking accidents. And that also included folks who have been injured in biking or pedestrian accidents. These accidents can include catastrophic injuries and even death. The automobile-related accidents often involving drinking and driving claims, and/or underinsured and uninsured motorist claims.
I also help personal injury clients who have been injured in slip and fall, trip and fall, and other premise liability accidents. These cases can include unsafe conditions created by foreign substances on floors, or construction defects such as faulty steps or dark unlit hallways, or design defects such as improperly designed entrances. These accidents can also include catastrophic injuries and even death.
Unfortunately, these personal injury clients almost always come to me in pain – physical pain, mental anguish, and emotional distress. I work to get them the medical care them need immediately, and without charge. And I also work to get them recovery for their physical pain, mental anguish, and emotional distress, as well as medical bills, lost wages from time off of work, and other losses.
In my mind, helping folks who have been injured in a personal injury matter is tremendously rewarding. Just assisting an individual in recovering from the medical injuries is alone very meaningful, especially when they arrive wounded and weary, after a tragic event has changed their lives. But then to be able to work to make things right for them, and to make them whole again, and eventually deliver a significant recovery for them, is in my mind just enormously gratifying.
I also help people who have been injured while at work. These types of cases are referred to as workers' compensation cases. Folks who are injured at work are entitled to be paid their lost wages and all their medical bills. And it doesn't matter whose fault the injury was. These types of injuries can be minor, but they can also be catastrophic, and even fatal.
I love helping people who have been injured on the job. Not only do I make sure their lost wages are paid, but I make sure all their medical bills are paid and all the medical services they need are provided. This is important not for their legal case, not for their health. And it gets them back to work as soon as they are able. Plus, most often I am able to provide a settlement check at the conclusion of these types of cases, which a client will almost never be able to achieve on their own.
I also help people who are involved with insurance disputes. That is, when insurance companies refuse to pay the full amount – or any amount – of what they are supposed to pay. This includes helping folks whose house has been damaged by a hurricane, flood, tornado, or fire. It also includes helping folks who are beneficiaries of life insurance policies, when the insurance company won't pay. Or really any time when any type of insurance company denies coverage, meaning that they say you aren't covered and therefore deserve nothing.
Fighting for people against insurance companies is really rewarding. I think most people today understand that insurance companies are in the business of taking more money from people than they pay out to them after a loss. And that means denying or reducing claims. Folks in New Orleans and in Louisiana continue to see this year after year, with perhaps the biggest wake-up call coming after Katrina. Jurors know this, and insurance companies know that jurors here know this, and this is why folks with an insurance dispute really need an attorney who is successful at trial. Even if they don't end up going to trial, the insurance companies will only pay top dollar if they know the opposing attorney is willing and able to succeed at trial.
One really gratifying part of handling claims against insurance companies, which many folks are not aware of, is that the insurance companies can be held liable for 200% penalties plus attorney's fees for failing to properly and timely evaluate and pay claims. That means that if you were entitled to $100K on an insurance claim, but the insurance company failed to have a valid reason to deny your claim, you could end up being paid $400K – that's $100K in the claim value, $200K in penalties, and $100K in attorney's fees. These are specific types of damages often referred to as “bad faith” damages due to the “bad faith” actions of the insurance company. From a legal perspective, these “bad faith” claims need to be handled in a very particular manner, so you really need an attorney who know exactly how to do that and has a successful track record of doing that. And even if you don't receive the entire $400K, as in the example above, asserting properly a “bad faith” claim can give you the leverage to end up with a settlement of at least what you should have properly received in the first place.
I also help people who need help with successions, particularly when there are disputes at issue. This process is often referred to as the “probate” process, or as “probate litigation” when disputes are involved. Many attorneys handle the simple straightforward succession process, and I do handle those matters efficiently and appropriately. And in almost all cases, attorney's fees can be taken out of the estate (which means the property of the decedent).
But where I really excel, and have a track record of success, is when disputes arise in the succession process. That means there needs to be court hearings in front of a judge to resolve something that the parties cannot agree on. Again, this is referred to as probate litigation. For example, such a dispute could be if a party disputes the validity of a will, perhaps if it was made improperly or under duress or medication. Or if a party disputes the amount that each heir should receive, or even who the heirs rightfully are. Or if a party disputes the expenses used within a succession by the succession representative. Or if a party disputes who the succession representative should be. Or if a party needs to remove a succession representative based on that succession representative's actions.
I enjoy working handling successions for people because it can be very gratifying to help someone get past legal issues, particularly when they have recently love a loved one. In fact, I have come to see that a lot of times, other parties can get a little irrational concerning succession issues, following the death of a family member or close friend, due to the emotional stress of that loss. That means that they can try to take unfair or inappropriate actions, or seek money that isn't theirs, or take money that isn't theirs, or refuse to give or return property that isn't theirs. So that's where an experienced attorney can step in and return some calm and order to an otherwise volatile situation. So I recognize how important it is for my clients know that they can trust me to do that, and to understand how I am going to do that for them.
General Civil Litigation
I also help people who have problems which they can't solve on their own, but might need to be resolved through the legal process. Broadly speaking, these types of cases are referred to as “general civil litigation.” This generally means that there's a dispute that, if not resolved between the parties, needs to go in front of a judge or jury.
Examples of general civil litigation would include if a bank would not return funds improperly taken from your account. Or if you co-owned a property with someone who would not allow you access to the property, or if you needed to sell that co-owned property. Or if someone stole money from you, either in a personal situation or a business environment. Or if you had a contract with another person or business, and they refused to honor the terms of that contract. Or if you are being denied the money or property you are entitled to. Or if you are any type of business-related dispute. Or if you are being attacked in a lawsuit, meaning someone is suing you.
Essentially, I help these folks with their problems, often times when they are being wronged or treated unfairly. I give them options, and then I solve their problems. Most often we try to stay out of court if possible, but if that's not possible, I do not hesitate to take the issues to a judge or jury in order to resolve the problems as quickly as possible, and at as little cost as possible. I have the skill and experience to succeed in the courtroom, and often when an opposing party recognizes that, they back down.
So most folks who come to me do see their problems resolved, and this can be very fulfilling. I can take the burden off of someone else, handle it efficiently and appropriately, and leave them in a much better situation than they came to me with. And that's why I love to help people with these situations, no matter how unique or difficult.
What I Have Accomplished
Since I began my law practice, I have helped hundreds of clients. In some cases, little or no litigation (or filing a lawsuit or taking legal action) is needed. When no legal action is necessary, it is often because an insurance company or other opposing party respect my history of litigation to the degree that they would rather resolve the matter quickly instead of going to court. However, in many cases, litigation (or going to court) is necessary in order to make things right for my clients. I have worked hard to accomplish a great deal in this regard.
I have recovered over $7 million dollars in insurance claims and lawsuits. I have also recovered millions of dollars in personal injury claims and workers compensation benefits. In the courtroom, I have successfully taken numerous cases to trial, both judge and jury trials. In probate litigation, I have invalidated wills and removed succession representatives. On the appellate level, I have overturned trial court judgments in the appeals court level. Outside of the courtroom, I have compelled banks, corporations, businesses and other parties to return or provide millions of dollars in funds or property unjustly taken.
Some of the most meaningful cases I have handled were Katrina-related homeowners insurance cases. As we all remember, most folks' homes in and around New Orleans were damaged if not destroyed by Katrina. And just when it seemed things couldn't get worse for most people, they started to deal with their insurance companies. Most times the insurance companies would refuse to pay for certain items, blaming those damages on the levee-breach floods, when we all knew the hurricane force winds and rain arrived well in advance of the flood waters. Almost all the time, the insurance companies would pay less per item (by stating a lower available replacement price), when we all knew how expensive those replacement items were in the years following Katrina. And sometimes, the insurance companies would just straight up refuse to pay a single penny, by denying coverage altogether.
So clients would arrive at my office often mentally, emotionally, and financially drained after everything that had occurred with Katrina and then their insurance company. These folks were in rough shape, but were determined, and just needed some help. I would immediately get a construction expert out at their property (or what was left of their property) to formulate the actual damages. Then I would painstakingly litigate those damages with the opposing insurance company until a successful outcome could be reached. Often in these cases, that meant filing suit, conducting discovery (the process of getting information and files from the insurance company), conducting depositions, and pressing the case towards trial. In many of these cases, I would ardently pursue “bad faith” claims against the insurance companies.
All in all, I represented over 100 homeowners, and recovered over $5 million for these folks and their families. This work taught me the value of doing the right thing for the right reason. I knew that by helping a family rebuild their home or busniess, I was also helping a community rebuild, because often times after Katrina people were just waiting for other people to start rebuilding, so that they were not the only house in a neighborhood full of slabs.
Another very meaningful case that I handled recently, was a workers compensation case wherein my client shattered his foot and ankle after falling from a ladder while performing construction work on the job. This was a hard-working man a family to support, who had suffered a long-term catastrophic injury. How the case was handled would have a life-changing effect on both this great guy and his family.
Upon this man agreeing to hire me, I promptly found him better and more qualified doctors, and successfully forced the insurance company to pay for these physicians and other treatments which they had previously refused. In many of the workers compensation cases I handle, proper medical treatment is the most important issue, and this situation was no different. In addition, I closely reviewed the rate at which his wages were calculated by the insurance company and found them to be incorrect. I filed a claim with the Office of Workers Compensation and had the judge compel the insurance company to pay the proper wage, including back-pay.
Moreover, to force insurance company to proper understand the severe nature of my client's injuries (and thus to compensate him appropriately), multiple physicians had to be deposed on an array of very complicated medical issues. At the end of the day, my client ended up receiving all the medical treatment he desired, received all the lost wages he was entitled to, and walked away from the situation with a final settlement of over $310,000.00.
Finally, in a recent case, a defendant and its insurance company destroyed critical evidence in a construction defect case wherein my client had suffered catastrophic injuries. My client had fallen on injured herself very badly on a severely decrepit step, on which people were falling nearly every day. Well, several days before our inspection of the step, the defense of course repaired the step to an entirely new condition, depriving us of our evidence, even though they knew how important the evidence was to our lawsuit, and even assured me that they would not change the step's condition.
Many attorneys may have just let it go, and tried to pursue the case without challenging the defense's actions. Instead, I filed a separate cause of action for “spoliation of the evidence,” which is otherwise known as improper destruction of evidence. The trial court judge dismissed that action after a hearing, but since I knew what was done was wrong, I appealed that judgment to the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Again, many attorneys may have just let it go at that point, but I could not.
Following two separate oral arguments at the Fourth Circuit, a panel a five appellate court judges overturned the trial court's decision and ruled in our favor. This allowed us to fully prosecute my client's case. That published court opinion can be read here. In fact, that case, due to it being published, then became precedent law for other cases. That means that lower courts now need to follow and abide by the law set forth in that opinion. This is critically important due to the complex and recently evolving issues surrounding spoliation of the evidence. Thus, I was able to not only help my client with this hard-fought victory, but I was able to help others by providing precedent law that other attorneys and courts can look to in deciding how to properly handle similar cases.
My Communication Policy
I strive to treat others the way I would want to be treated. That certainly extends to my communication policy with my clients.
For example, one thing that absolutely drives me crazy is when other attorneys do not promptly return my phone calls. Also, I cannot stand when I have to talk with two or three other people before getting to speak with the attorney I actually need to talk to.
So long ago, I pledged to never have these problems arise when my clients want to communicate with me. I love working with my clients, and my clients will have direct access to me throughout their case.
First, almost all phone calls from my clients to me are returned by me on the same day on which my clients reach out to me. Sometimes, if for instance I'm in trial, I will return that call in the evening, unless the client wishes otherwise. If not the same day, I have a strict 24-hour policy. That is, I will return a client's phone call within 24 hours.
Second, my clients will never have an issue getting through to me. When you call my office, your call will be answered by either a secretary or often myself. The secretary will transfer the call to me directly – not to someone else - and I will take that call unless I am in a meeting or on another call.
Last, as far as communications from my office to my clients, I work with my clients to develop the communications approach that works best for them. Some clients want to know every detail about everything that is going on in their case. Other clients just want to know when their check has arrived. Most clients are somewhere in between – they'll call when they want an update, and would also like to receive an update whenever an important development occurs. No matter the client's preference, I am always more than happy to approach our communications however the client wishes. For me, the client is always the boss, and the client always comes first.
My Pro Bono Work
Pro bono translates roughly, in Latin, as ‘for the public good.' In the legal world, pro bono refers to volunteer work done by attorneys in order to help those in need of legal assistance, but who lack the financial means to obtain such services normally.
I believe that pro bono legal representation is really important. To whom much is given, much will be required. In my mind, all attorneys should participate in pro bono work, as such work demonstrates a genuine commitment to our community.
For those reasons, I regularly provide pro bono legal representation to New Orleans-area individuals and families in need. That is, to the extent my schedule permits, I will often provide free legal representation to those who could not otherwise afford.
In addition to the pro bono work acquired directly through my private practice, another way I provide pro bono legal representation is through my active service as a Modest Means Panel Member with the New Orleans Bar Association. Through this panel, I regularly provide legal services - typically handling successions and other probate issues – to qualified individuals and families though the bar association.
Who I Am Outside of the Office
Outside of the office I am a devoted husband, uncle, and godfather. I am also a fiercely proud resident of New Orleans.
In my spare time, I enjoy playing the piano. I believe everyone is an artist in some way, and my family is full of artists. My wife is a full-time ballet teacher and former professional, my brother is a professional modern artist, and my father is a physician, sculptor and artist. For me, I find that playing piano enhances my creativity, which extends through other parts of my life. Creativity and the arts have greatly enhanced my practice of law, which is in fact an art, not a science.
I also enjoy exercising each day, and being mindful of health and nutrition. Being healthy makes me feel good physically, but also I find myself to be mentally much sharper when healthy. In addition, I find early morning exercise to be meditative.
Recently I have found an interest in photography. As in life, and in work, there are always different angles and perspectives to take on things, and photography has helped me understand how I view and approach situations. I find light fascinating, and try to always perceive issues in perhaps a different light, or at least try to understand the importance of seeing things in a different light. With the exception of the pictures I am in, I took all the photographs on this website, just like I wrote all the words on the site as well.
And of course I love living in and being in New Orleans. Many of my most favorite memories are at the mardi gras parades with my nieces, nephews, and godsons. Our “spots” are on St. Charles at Harmony, and on Magazine at Bordeaux. I also attend at least one home Saints game per year, and I enjoy Saturday afternoon walks with my wife in the French Quarter.
- Bar Admissions:
- Louisiana (2005)
- U.S. District Court Eastern District of Louisiana (2006)
- Loyola University School of Law, New Orleans, Louisiana: J.D. (2005)
- Hamilton College, Clinton, New York: B.A., Classical Languages Major (2000)
- Professional Associations:
- Louisiana State Bar Association
- New Orleans Bar Association
- Louisiana Association for Justice