Congratulations to the firm on your 30-year anniversary. Such a milestone must inspire reflection on where you’ve been and how far you’ve come. What can you share about the firm’s beginnings?
When I started the firm 30 years ago, I was, pretty much, a one-man band. I was lucky because I started with about 170 clients. I had worked out an arrangement to take the cases with me. I also brought my secretary. I admired her courage because she had faith that I’d be able to pay her.
In order to survive, I needed to get new business. Fortunately, I continued to get business from people that I had represented previously. Though I tried to stay within my area of expertise (workers’ compensation and personal injury), I had to try virtually every new case that came through the door. Just to add a little more pressure to my situation, my wife gave birth to our first son, Brandon, less than two months before I started the firm. Now that was really putting faith in me.
Obviously, my gamble paid off.
You’ve clearly come a long way since being a “one-man band” (with a steadfast secretary). How has the firm evolved through the years?
Today, we have 28 lawyers (and we’re looking to hire a few more) and close to 90 employees. We have a CEO (not me, but my partner, Ben Boscolo), another partner, Tom Teodori, a COO, a CFO, a Process & Systems Manager, a full-time HR professional, in-house bookkeeping, outside bookkeeping, and an outside accountant. We also have plans to hire a Controller.
As far as new business goes, we believe that quantity is the enemy of quality.
What is most interesting and challenging about handling cases in your firm’s market?
We are in a unique market. We practice in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Even more amazing, considering that our practice is largely personal injury, is that these three jurisdictions still follow the doctrine of contributory negligence. This means that if the plaintiff is even 1% responsible for the event that caused his injury, he is barred from recovery.
Other than that, the three jurisdictions are markedly different. Maryland and the District of Columbia both have judge-given voir dire and non-economic caps of damages. Virginia allows the lawyers to conduct voir dire, which potentially allows more insight into potential basis and has no cap on non-economic damages which gives rise to awards in the millions for “pain and suffering.” This means that ChasenBoscolo has staffs dedicated to each practice area. We have many lawyers who are licensed to practice in two jurisdictions and a few who are or will be licensed in all three. But I’d say our biggest challenge, with three offices, is insuring that our practice, procedure, and culture are identical in each office.
What are the firm’s goals for the next 30 years?
Looking ahead to the next 30 years, we are still growing. Every day we try to get better. Just as I’m a work in progress, so is the firm. Ben, Tom, and I think that we’ve created something that will outlive us. We are developing the next generation of leaders for ChasenBoscolo. We have created an Emerging Leaders Group, with a two-year training program where we work on developing leadership and management skills. Every year, we ask our lawyers to share with us their personal, professional
and financial goals, and we try to help them achieve them.
Also, we continue to live our core values of 1) Take Care of the Clients, 2) Be the Best, 3) Own It, and 4) We Are Family. We use the books, “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits” and “Scaling Up” by Verne Harnish as strategy guides for managing our business. Arnie Malham helped bring these strategies to us, resulting in our BHAG (big hairy audacious goal), calling for more than doubling the number of successful (by our definition) business units in less than 30 years. The state of the firm is sound,
and we are on the right path.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share in closing?
I’ve been blessed to work with Ben and Tom these last 29 years. Though we have not always agreed on every issue we face, we have always been able to find a solution that we can all support. We come at problems differently. One of us likes to charge ahead. One of us is very deliberate. The third member of the triumvirate is the conciliator. So far, it has worked for us and allowed us to build an incredible firm.