All for One
Far from lone wolves, local law firms see the value in collaboration.
While many people may view law firms as being, for lack of a better term, cut-throat, collaboration among firms in the New Orleans market is more common than most would expect. It turns out that practicing in today’s increasingly global, technologically enhanced legal system means there are obvious benefits in working together.
“I find New Orleans to be a very collegial legal community,” says Edward Harold, managing partner at Fisher & Phillips. “On occasion, I am faced with an issue of first impression or a highly unusual fact pattern, and I will send an email to a few attorneys who might have insight. And they invariably respond. When I have a question outside my field, it is very easy for me to find an attorney with expertise who will take a call and provide an answer.”
There is also some collaboration among firms on operations through the local associations of legal administrators, he adds. These non-lawyer managers meet on a monthly basis to discuss operational issues.
Slidell-based personal injury attorney Frank D’Amico, says his firm collaborates with other law firms not only in areas unrelated to their primary areas of expertise — personal injury, product liability, and wrongful death litigation — but also within their areas of expertise.
“The practice of law is very specialized,” D’Amico says. “We always refer criminal matters, family matters, and issues involving succession law to firms specializing in those areas. There is a definite value in collaboration among law firms. Specifically, in handling a wrongful death case last year, we associated with an attorney specialized in succession law to achieve the best result for our client.”
Fisher & Phillips LLP focuses exclusively on labor and employment law for employers. Since its establishment 70 years ago, it has grown to become a national law firm with more than 330 attorneys and 31 offices nationwide.
“We collaborate financially with other firms to cost-share the expenses of jointly retained experts and medical records.” – Jennifer Adams, partner at Deutsch Kerrigan & Stiles
“Collaboration is very valuable. I think it brings different perspectives to solving a problem,” Harold says. “The combination of different areas of expertise can be very beneficial to clients. If a firm represents clients who operate internationally, then having relationships and collaborating with firms from around the world is important. Having a relationship with a foreign firm that you know and trust introducing your clients to is a valuable service.”
The attorneys of Fowler Rodriguez are internationally recognized as legal experts in the areas of international law, commercial transactions and litigation, construction, criminal law, maritime, environmental, insurance and reinsurance, energy, and defense of liabilities, including personal injury defense and product liability. In addition, they have pioneered a new area of specialization and coined the phrase “maritime criminal defense.” With six offices in the United States, as well as offices in Bogota and Cartagena, Colombia, the firm establishes relationships with other firms both locally and internationally on a case-by-case basis for the benefit of the client.
“Our firm has had relationships and established affiliation agreements with other firms for decades,” says George Fowler, partner with Fowler Rodriguez. “These agreements provide us with a person to go to for assistance with clients when needed. Also, since we have such a vast experience working with cases in Latin America, New Orleans firms often use our expertise for specific cases in South America because of our expertise in certain fields and our bilingual attorneys. When we collaborate with other firms, we do so independently and clients receive a bill from each firm for the services provided.”
“We have been doing business like this, collaborating with other firms, for the whole history of our firm,” he adds. “In addition to our expertise in Latin America, we also have established a niche in the maritime industry and have been able to provide a boots-on-the-ground approach for other firms who are in need of assistance with a maritime case.”
Founded in New Orleans in 1926 by Eberhard Deutsch and Emmett Kerrigan, Deutsch Kerrigan & Stiles law firm prides itself on problem solving and applying enduring principles of craft to serve clients effectively and efficiently. The firm employs more than 60 legal counselors and trial attorneys practicing primarily in the areas of civil litigation, commercial litigation, commercial transactions, construction law, labor and employment law, marine and energy law, professional liability law, and toxic tort and environmental law. The firm operates offices in New Orleans and Gulfport, Mississippi, and represents local, national and international businesses from Fortune 500 companies to small, emerging businesses, as well as state and local governmental bodies, nonprofit organizations, and individuals.
“We collaborate financially with other firms to cost-share the expenses of jointly retained experts and medical records,” says Jennifer Adams, partner at Deutsch Kerrigan & Stiles. “Also, at times we join forces when our client needs are similar regarding strategies of defense.
“I find that the New Orleans law industry is an ‘all for one’ group that often compares notes and best practices, especially in the area of toxic tort defense,” she says. “In the area of asbestos litigation, it is very important for the defense to be jointly focused on state-of-the-art issues, medical and industrial hygiene expert issues across the nation. Additionally, the defense bar likes to keep up with what goes on in other states to see if similar defenses could be used in Louisiana.”
Adams adds that there are instances when other firms and their clients’ needs coincide with her firm’s clients’ needs, and that comparing notes in certain cases is a win-win situation.
“We collaborate quite a bit,” says Lynn Swanson, partner with Jones, Swanson, Huddell & Garrison. “We are in the business to help our clients and be the most efficient with our cases that we can possibly be. If a client needs a counsel in an area that we do not specialize in, we have no problem referring them to a specialist. Just as other firms refer their clients to us if we are specialists in an area that they are not.”
“A lot of attorneys in New Orleans are very close, and some firms have partnered together for years,” she adds. “We share notes and best practices with other firms to make sure we are providing our clients with the best possible services, and collaboration with other firms allows us to gain a skill set that can enhance a case with additional and new information.”
Jones, Swanson, Huddell & Garrison, LLC, is a boutique litigation law firm based in New Orleans, with a second office in Baton Rouge. The firm primarily handles complex commercial and environmental/property disputes. In those litigation arenas, the firm has a strong nationwide presence.
Being a boutique firm, Jones Swanson not only represents large business entrepreneurs and landholders in the state of Louisiana and throughout the southeast region, they also provide customized representation for smaller businesses and individuals. The firm has served as lead counsel in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, California, and Texas, as well as in Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Louisiana, where they’ve successfully litigated high-profile cases against large oil exploration and production companies for damages to and restoration of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands.
“Our firm regularly meets with a group of firms, 10 in total, from across the country to share notes and discuss cases.” – Lynn Swanson, partner with Jones, Swanson, Huddell & Garrison
“Our firm regularly meets with a group of firms, 10 in total, from across the country to share notes and discuss cases,” Swanson says. “We all bring a certain skill set to the table, and it is exciting to learn about other skill sets that will benefit our clients.”
The group was the brainchild of James Swanson, managing partner of Fishman Haygood and Lynn Swanson’s brother.
Members of the legal community quite often collaborate during various national legal association meetings, conferences and while participating in nonprofit or civic group activities. These situations provide attorneys with a place to meet and establish and foster mutually beneficial relationships with fellow attorneys. This provides them with an avenue to sharpen their skills, gain knowledge, solve problems, network and in many instances continue their education.
“The main collaborative efforts in which we engage with other firms are in bar association groups, CLE conferences, and other civic activities,” Harold says. “Many CLE events turn into discussions of new and difficult issues and the best way to approach them.”
“Through the efforts of the Academy of New Orleans Trial Lawyers, I have always found that there is a collaborative, supportive spirit among my colleagues,’ D’Amico says. “Plaintiff’s attorneys, in my opinion, are team players who are willing to share knowledge and support one another.”