Jennifer Goforth Gregory 2013-06-12 00:44:05
Restoring Relationships & Turn of the Century Service When the office door opens at Miller Weber Kory LLP, it is not uncommon for lawyers Jeff Miller, Doug Weber and Gabe Kory to welcome a familiar face. Former clients often stop by, sharing news of weddings and babies or just to say hello. Each December, the firm mailbox is chockfull of holiday greetings from former clients, some of whom were first represented 20 years ago. And when a client passes away, the families often invite the attorneys and staff to celebrate their loved one’s life at the funeral. Those kinds of relationships are the legacy developed from years of representing plaintiffs in major injury and death claims. “If you are able to connect with people and provide them with a service during a difficult time in their life, that has real value. Later, when times are better, they remember and want to share the good stories with you, as well,” Weber says. The partners at Miller Weber Kory unanimously agree that “relationships” are at the heart of the firm: whether it be with their clients, each other, among the office staff or other lawyers. Each of the partners enforces limits on his case load to make sure that he has the time to get to know his clients as individuals. Clients work directly with an attorney, instead of primarily through paralegals and office staff, as in some law offices. “Because we have multiple bilingual lawyers, our Spanish speaking clients can speak directly with a lawyer instead of through an interpreter,” Kory says. “Our clients can then establish a relationship with their lawyer in their own native language.” Creating a cooperative and familial environment within the firm is also a priority. “There is no competition among us for cases or for credit, and we work on most cases collaboratively,” Miller says. “We do the work necessary to get justice for our clients, but try to do so in a professional way. None of us is close to retirement, and we’re going to see the same judges, experts and opposing counsel many times.” The firm also values long term employees, who work hard for their clients, but also work to make the office a pleasant place to be. If you stop by in the afternoon, you might stumble into a birthday party or celebration of a client success, complete with cake and ice cream. “Practicing law is stressful work, and we think it’s important to take time to be happy when something good happens,” says Kory. Outside the office, the partners’ interests diverge. Weber is a metal artist and has multiple pieces throughout the office, from a wall sculpture to a large scale kaleidoscope. Kory is renovating a mid-century modern home by noted architect Ralph Haver, and is involved in a Scottsdale entertainment venture. Miller is a musician, and plays charitable fundraisers with cover band “box of rocks” and has released two CDs of original music with modern rock band “psych 101.” The firm’s focus on relationships is a part of the reason for the firm’s success as a business, with more than half of the caseload resulting from lawyer referrals. “Many of our cases come from other lawyers who don’t have the particular experience or funds to pursue a major injury case. Many of our cases are pursued through joint representation agreements,” Miller says. Because of the recession, many recent law school graduates were unable to find a job with a law firm, so they opted to open their own firm — often without the benefit of any working relationships with more experienced lawyers. “We have reached out to young lawyers in the area and tried to be a resource to them to help with training and mentoring,” Weber says. “It’s a win-win for everyone when we can help them to improve their skills, do a good job for their clients and work on cases we might not otherwise have seen. We often become friends with these attorneys and develop lasting relationships.” The lawyers also make giving back to the community a priority both in their personal and professional lives. The firm contributes to the Lodestar Day Resource Center, a Phoenix nonprofit that provides social support services, job assistance, convenience items, education and creative outlets to help end homelessness. Miller was one of the founding board members of the organization, while Doug Weber’s son has interned at the downtown facility. The firm also supports the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz. This nonprofit is dedicated to improving the quality of life in Santa Cruz County. The foundation is involved with hundreds of local organizations and also assists in border issues. “We have clients on both sides of the border. These issues affect many of our clients, so we feel their work is very important,” Kory says. handling complicated Personal injury cases Miller Weber Kory represents clients with serious injury or death claims in complicated personal injury cases, including trucking and commercial vehicle accidents, nursing home abuse and neglect, medical and professional malpractice, automobile and motorcycle accidents and construction site accidents. Miller holds a certification as a specialist by the Arizona State Bar in personal injury and wrongful death. While the firm’s office is located in downtown Phoenix, their cases are not limited to the metro area. “We work on cases stretching across the state,” Kory says. They currently have litigation pending in five different counties in Arizona. Because many of the industries the firm litigates against are highly regulated, the lawyers spend considerable time on regulations, including federal, state and OSHA regulations. “We’ve spent the time to learn what the regulations say and mean, and then use that information to find sometimes egregious violations,” says Miller. “We have gotten some very good results for our clients this way. It is certainly possible to recover money for a client in a commercial trucking case or a nursing home case without employing the specific regulatory scheme attached to that industry, but we believe that ignoring these established standards does a client a disservice.” Kory handles the majority of the firm’s nursing home neglect and abuse cases. “Usually when the families come into our office for nursing home abuse cases, they feel that they are out of options. They’ve been voicing their concerns about their loved ones repeatedly, but no one has listened,” Kory says. “There is a tremendous satisfaction in helping someone find answers and holding people accountable for what has been done to their loved ones.” Medical malpractice suits are also a focus of the firm. In 2005, Miller had the largest verdict in Arizona and was featured in the New York Times with a $21 million verdict in a psychiatric malpractice suit, an area of special interest for him. Based on his experiences with such cases, he has been invited to speak to a psychiatry convention regarding practices which tend to generate litigation. Miller also handles malpractice cases involving babies and children, especially those with birth injuries and cerebral palsy. Weber and Miller use their background and familiarity with the construction industry to represent clients who have been injured in construction accidents. “We know a lot about the right and wrong way to manage a construction job and are able to further apply the OSHA regulations to our clients’ best advantage,” Weber said. Trucking negligence is another practice area where the firm uses its intimate knowledge of the industry and regulations to achieve justice for their clients. Miller is a CLE instructor in trucking negligence and educates both lawyers and trucking professionals on issues and regulations. Old-Fashioned service in a historic office Before forming their firm two years ago, the three partners previously practiced law together at Roush McCracken Guerrero Miller & Ortega. Prior to that, Miller and Weber had known each other for more than 20 years and had talked occasionally of starting a firm together. According to Miller, “I’ve been really fortunate to learn trial work from one of the masters on the defense side, Bill Jones, as well as from a master on the plaintiff side, Chuck Roush. Now I’ve got two more great guys to work with for the rest of my career.” While laying the ground work of their firm, the partners went on the hunt for the perfect office location. They decided that the historic home and medical office of one of Phoenix’s most famous early doctors was ideal. The compound, which includes a carriage house and a separate bungalow, was built in 1907. Over the years, the buildings became a rooming house and rentals and fell into disrepair. Before the home could be demolished, the prior owners were able to obtain grants to save the historic structures. After the firm purchased the buildings, the partners returned the home to its former glory with the restoration of the interior and the addition of period and modern décor. When clients come to the office, they don’t ride an elevator to the top floor of a clinical office building and they don’t park in a five story parking garage, they pull up to a property that has been occupied since before statehood. A couple of doors down, a hitching post still remains from the days of horse and buggy. The old doctor used to welcome his patients to tie their horses up in that same spot when they arrived for their appointments. Because the lawyers view their clients like family, it is only fitting that they welcome them into a homelike office. The firm even works hard to make visiting defense lawyers feel at home when at the office for mediation. “We use the separate bungalow that was built in 1920 for defense lawyers so that they have privacy and their own space when negotiating,” Kory says. Friends of the firm sometimes use the bungalow to meet with clients of their own downtown. Quirky architecture from the original house can be found throughout the office, including a sink in Miller’s office, which used to be one of the doctor’s examining rooms. The lawyers have added finishing touches to help further incorporate historical elements into the décor, such as antique cameras, pottery and photographs from the turn of the century. The attorneys feel that practicing law in the historic home is an expression of their approach to both the legal profession and client relationships. “We all three came from modest backgrounds and small communities. Each of us holds a strong respect for the way law was practiced 100 years ago when it was really viewed as a service profession instead of a way to make money,” Miller says. “We’re happy for the opportunity to be a resource for advice or referrals for our clients, even if their concern involves an area of law we don’t practice. People ought to believe they will get honest information from you, whatever their need. That’s why we often preface our advice to clients with ‘If you were my mother or brother, I would tell you to….,’ because the advice we give our clients is the exact same advice we would give our family.”
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