In January 2017, Tad will present a program on opening statements as part of Penn Law's Trial Practice Skills Boot Camp. Penn Law invited Tad to join the program faculty in light of the success of the deposition boot camp Tad created and presented at Penn Law the past several years.
Tad LeVan, founding member of LeVan Law Group, was featured today in an article published in The Philadelphia Inquirer. The article, which can be found here, addresses the case he recently filed on behalf of aggrieved individuals throughout Pennsylvania who are precluded from employment in residential health care facilities due to criminal convictions that are often decades old.
On June 4-5, 2015, LeVan Law Group founder Tad LeVan will be presenting "The Art of the Deposition," a two-day interactive hands-on training program for practicing attorneys.
Fresh off creating and teaching a four-day deposition workshop for law students at The University of Pennsylvania Law School, LeVan has created a two-day interactive training course for practicing attorneys that he will present in Philadelphia. Participants will engage in "real world" deposition taking and defending of fact and expert witnesses and receive critiques from a panel of outstanding litigators. The program will also include four panel discussions addressing a variety of relevant topics, including how to effectively question a witness, witness preparation, how to deal with difficult witnesses and obstreperous opposing counsel, and deposing experts.
More information on the program can be found here.
Our society exalts the small. Each year, electronic gadgets become smaller and more compact -- today we wear wrist computers more powerful than machines that years ago took up large cabinets (and decades ago took up several rooms). The numbers of large gas-guzzling automobiles that were once the rage have now been surpassed by smaller, more efficient vehicles. Nanotechnology is on the forefront of incredible breakthroughs in the fields of health-care, electronics, manufacturing and security. We are all witness to the ongoing "nano-fication" of the world.
The practice of law is not immune to these trends. Even as large international law firms continue to grow ever-bigger, incessantly merging and expanding by acquiring smaller firms around the globe, corporate legal clients are increasingly retaining small law firms and boutiques, such as LeVan Law Group LLC, for their legal needs. As the American Bar Association noted: "Corporate legal clients once again seem to be developing an affinity for small law firms.... With increasing frequency, the chief legal officers of leading corporations are now retaining small law firms and even solo practitioners." See Bigger Isn't Always Better When It Comes to Outside Counsel, American Bar Association, Section of Litigation (November 2007).
What accounts for this shift towards smaller firms? Horace W. Jordan, Jr., the co-chair of the ABA Section of Litigation's Corporate Counsel Committee, identifies the two principal causes as "the billable hour and a feeling that the smaller firm might have more flexibility in both arranging billings and understanding the client and its business.” Id. In a similar vein, GE's former general counsel, Ben E. Heineman, Jr., has publicly expressed doubt that large law firms actually provide the superior service, quality and price they claim. See Bigger Isn't Better: One-stop Shopping at Giant Global Firms Has Its Limits, Says GE's Former Top Lawyer, Corporate Counsel (November 2008). In his article, Mr. Heineman notes that the ever-increasing growth of large firms (1) puts enormous pressure on firms to bill more per attorney and more per matter (which, under the traditional billable hour model, translates to clients paying more); (2) creates a significant disconnect between the economic interests of the client, which views "the issue of productivity on a 'total-cost' (single price) per-matter basis," with the interests of the large law firm, which judges productivity on how many billable hours it can extract from each matter; and (3) causes significant impediments to quality control and accountability for the matter. Id.
At LeVan Law Group LLC, we do things differently. First, we've kicked the billable hour model to the curb. We offer a variety of alternative fee arrangements that provide the client with financial predictability from the very start of the matter. There is no economic incentive to increase billing; the terms of the engagement are set from the start. Second, under any of our alternative fee arrangements, the firm takes financial risk with the client, thereby aligning the client's and our respective interests in promptly and efficiently resolving the matter at the earliest possible stage of the proceeding. We are paid to provide you with high-quality legal services in connection with a specific case -- not based upon how long it takes us to accomplish certain tasks. Third, we willingly embrace quality control and accountability considerations and, because of our size, are able to efficiently monitor and control our services to provide clients with the best possible experience. That is equally true for the clients: You will always have direct contact with and the personal attention of the trial attorney who performed the work in question -- not merely the attorney leading a team of unnamed individuals whom you have never met. You know us and we know you.
But why trust an important case to a small boutique like LeVan Law Group LLC? For high-stakes cases, you need a large firm with phalanxes of attorneys prepared for battle, right?
No; usually not. A small group of highly-skilled trial attorneys can handle most litigation matters -- regardless of type, complexity, stakes or value -- better than large masses of lawyers putting time into a case. The highly-skilled smaller group benefits from enhanced continuity and accountability and is more adept at quickly and efficiently responding to the constantly changing landscape of an ongoing litigation matter. This principle is well-known outside the litigation context. When the United States went in to take out Osama bin Laden, we did not send a military division, regiment, brigade, battalion, platoon or even a single company. We sent two dozen highly-trained Navy SEALs. Why? Because the limited number of SEALs could quickly and efficiently get in, get the job done, and get out. Swift team-based decisive action under central control where each member is fully accountable for his or her specific responsibility: The strength of small numbers.
Even the most hotly contested litigation cases cannot remotely compare to military incursions, and I make no such claim, but I do believe that the same "strength of small numbers" principles can be applied to high-stakes litigation matters. With the technology available today, it is no longer necessary to fight an opposing side's large team of lawyers by having (and paying for) your own large team of lawyers. A small set of highly-skilled trial attorneys with laser-focused execution can triumph over the floodlight approach taken by several dozen opposing lawyers. I know this from personal experience: In the national class-action ERISA cases that we successfully prosecuted against JPMorgan Chase and BNY Mellon, the lawyers from the well-respected national firms on the other side outnumbered us 4 or 5 to 1. Notwithstanding this discrepancy, our small team was able to successfully prosecute the actions, fend off defense efforts, prepare the cases for trial, and ultimately achieved settlements in the amount of $430 million.
Davids really can beat Goliaths -- as long as you choose the right warriors.
Don't fall into the trap of believing that only large firms can handle important or high-stakes litigation and appellate matters. Give careful consideration to each dispute and consider whether the laser precision of a small group of highly-trained trial attorneys may be superior to an army of lawyers' floodlight approach.
Think of LeVan Law Group LLC as your litigation strike force. We will get in, get the job done, and get out. The strength of small numbers.
I have three children. Although this is a professional blog, I will occasionally relate a story involving one or more of my kids because they are an important part of who I am as a person. Thankfully, they are also a never-ending source of material.
When my middle child, who is about to turn thirteen, first heard that I was planning to open my own firm, he immediately appointed himself Director of Marketing. Within several days, he had crafted a comprehensive media plan for LeVan Law Group LLC. Among the plan highlights:
Yes, my son apparently thinks I'm Saul Goodman from Breaking Bad. I'm trying to avoid thinking about what that says of my parenting.
My son also rejected the firm logo. It's too professional and doesn't really say anything. In short, it's boring.
But don't worry; he's industrious. He created his own logo. (And is upset that I'm not using it.)
Why should you care about any of this? It's personal, not professional, right?
Well, yes and no. At a certain level, of course you needn't care about the personal life of your counsel. You want an excellent lawyer who excels in the courtroom and what he or she does outside the office is his or her own business. I get it; trust me. I don't want any client feeling empowered to root around in my personal life under the guise of doing "due diligence."
At another level, however, I think it is important for you to know something about who your counsel is as a person -- not just as an attorney -- in order to gain confidence that he or she is a well-rounded individual. Why? Because well-rounded individuals make better trial lawyers. And that's true in a number of separate respects.
First, well-rounded attorneys are better counselors. People who are involved in their communities, who have outside interests about which they are passionate, who regularly communicate with different types of people, and who are actively involved in family (or other group) activities, bring different skill-sets and expectations to complex commercial disputes than those who are tunnel-focused on litigation. Well-rounded attorneys can bring a fresh balance and perspective to the dispute, seeking and often finding solutions that best protect the client's interests while avoiding protracted litigation. In contrast, single-dimensional attorneys facing a dispute will generally revert to what they know best and immediately start up the litigation machine, which isn't always in the client's best interests.
If litigation is necessary, well-rounded attorneys also make better trial lawyers. They have experience interacting with different types of people in every day life and their outside activities have often refined their ability to communicate complex factual and legal issues to different audiences, including the judge and members of the jury. Being a genuine person of the world also makes the well-rounded attorney more relatable to jurors, which is crucial. The hallmark of a great trial lawyer is the ability to create a strong bond with the jurors hearing the case. Who do think can better explain and humanize your side of the case in a way that jurors can trust: a person involved in the community, whom a juror could imagine conversing with at a local event, or one who rarely leaves the office?
Well-rounded attorneys are also happier people. Numerous articles and studies have now definitively confirmed what many of us have known for years: happy people work harder and are more productive and efficient than their less-happy counterparts. Being involved in outside interests and activities not only provides a broader base of knowledge and experience but also increases the likelihood of being happy and, thus, of being a more productive and efficient worker.
At LeVan Law Group LLC, we firmly believe in the benefits that we can offer our clients by being well-rounded trial attorneys. The firm is committed to offering its attorneys and staff a sustainable work-life balance to enable them to become well-rounded individuals and community contributors, not simply cogs in an ever-more-demanding machine. Providing our clients with top-notch litigation and appellate services will always be our top priority -- and we will gladly work through the evenings, weekends or holidays to best protect your interests -- but we are equally mindful of the important benefits that flow, to our clients and firm members alike, from being involved, committed and happy members of our broader community.
So, along with more substantive topics, I plan to blog periodically about my children, my teaching, singing and acting, or my ongoing involvement with my church and other local community organizations. My hope in doing so, beyond mere entertainment, is to provide a glimpse into the commitment, happiness, and involvement in the community that LLG seeks to promote and continuously strives to achieve. Happy balanced people = better trial lawyers. Come check us out and reach your own conclusion.
In the meantime, though, always remember this important maxim: Tad's "Gotcha" Back.(There, son, I said it.)
I've never been much for convention.
As my mother will readily tell you (and then tell you, and tell you, and tell you some more), I came out of the womb destined to challenge claims that a particular course should be adopted because "that's the way it's always been done." It's not that I lack respect for tradition; I recognize the existence, in most instances, of an interesting history explaining the origin and purpose of a particular tradition, which often grew and evolved over time in response to the ever-changing conditions of our world. But tradition often leads to convention. And convention leads to complacency. And complacency? Well, my first thoughts on complacency require use of several words that likely should appear in a professional blog. At least not the first entry. (No promises for entries months from now.) The best I can manage within the bounds of professionalism is that complacency is a innovation-stifling, progress-impeding, anti-growth, unpleasant and often dangerous way to live. Perhaps a better opening line to this blog would have been "I've never been much for complacency."
My own professional path (zigzag?) is illustrative of my complacency aversion. In 1998, after growing up and going to school in Ohio, acting as a law clerk to the Honorable John M. Manos of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, and working for Squire Sanders in Cleveland, I moved to the Philadelphia area, where I didn't know a soul in the legal community. Many accused me of making an unwise career move, leaving behind all of my contacts and friends in the local legal community, but I had the good fortune of landing at Hangley Aronchick Segal & Pudlin, a top-tier litigation boutique. Hangley was the best possible environment for me to mature into an experienced trial and appellate attorney. I had my first solo trial within six months of joining the firm and, in the years that followed, I was regularly trying complex commercial disputes, patent infringement, business disputes and employment matters before judges and juries. I also had the opportunity to argue several high-profile appeals, including a watershed ERISA case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
In 2009, I made the next move that others deemed crazy: I left Hangley -- where, in the interim, I had become shareholder and had been elected to the firm's Board of Directors and Executive Committee -- to join Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check, a nationally-recognized plaintiffs' class-action firm in Radnor, PA. At the time, I had almost no class action experience; that absence, however, was my major push forward: A new challenge. While at Kessler, I principally prosecuted ERISA class-actions, brought on behalf of some of the largest pension plans in the country, against JPMorgan Chase and Bank of New York Mellon for breaches of fiduciary duty committed in connection with large securities lending programs. Over the span of four years, I built and managed a six-person litigation team, successfully fought off the vigorous efforts of several large and well-respected national defense firms, and ultimately resolved those cases -- along with several others -- generating substantial recoveries for the class.
Having accomplished my mission, I left Kessler in early 2013 to spend time with my three children and to contemplate my next adventure. Accusations of an unwise career move again abounded but I knew I needed space to prepare for my next life chapter. While away from the practice, I took time to rediscover many childhood passions. In addition to reading extensively, I began singing with Choral Arts of Southern New Jersey and performed in a semi-professional musical production of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" at The Broadway Theatre in Pitman, NJ -- my first time on stage since college. It was an amazing year of reflection and personal growth that ultimately led to this moment.
I share this history with you for one simply reason: to explain that I did not lightly decide to open LeVan Law Group LLC. I took the time and space to consider carefully all available options for future opportunities and I enthusiastically chose this path. I am passionately behind this new venture and all that it brings to the legal community. Why?
The practice of law is complacent. It astounds me that the billable-hour remains the conventional economic model for providing legal services in this country, particularly when that system is so destructive to the interests of clients and counsel alike. While the billable-hour model has certain advantages (most, but not all, of which are reaped by counsel), it exacts a heavy price. Among other things, it creates the potential for significant economic conflicts between client and counsel, it promotes inefficiency by providing financial incentives for the protraction and delay of legal proceedings rather than the contrary, and it perpetuates a worldview that an attorney's worth is measured principally, if not entirely, by the amount of time he or she spends on a matter rather than the quality of work or result achieved. In many respects, it's madness.
For more than two decades, I have carried the idea that top-quality litigation and appellate services should be available to clients under flat-fee or other alternative models that differ substantially from the conventional billable-hour framework. LeVan Law Group LLC is the embodiment of that idea. While I recognize that we are not the first firm to offer litigation services on an alternative basis, the use of flat-fees and other non-traditional financial arrangements has, with limited exception, generally been confined to smaller, more commoditized types of litigation matters. At LLG, we seek to take non-traditional fee structures to the next level by making them available in nearly every type of case, regardless of size or complexity. We believe the non-traditional fee arrangements that we offer better align our economic interest with those of the client and help promote the goal of shoulder-to-shoulder teamwork we seek to achieve in each matter. We are in it with you; we have skin in the game. A true member of the team.
Having spent nearly 20 years in the law, I readily understand the reluctance that some prospective clients may have to reexamining their relationship with legal counsel or retaining a new venture such a LeVan Law Group LLC. It's not the conventional choice. If you're comfortable with the status quo, LLG is not your best fit. But if you're one of the many feeling dissatisfied with the economics of the modern legal system, if you're looking for exceptionally talented legal counsel who become members of your team rather than additional sources of irritation, if you're looking for legal counsel who will share financial risk with you -- indeed, if you reject complacency and are willing to move beyond convention -- I ask you to consider LeVan Law Group LLC. I am confident you will not be disappointed.
Welcome to Litigation. Evolved.
(Oh. And Mom? I love you dearly. You may want to skip that second paragraph.)
An accomplished trial and appellate lawyer, Tad muses on the modern day practice of law, reflects upon interesting cases, and offers his thoughts on the new normal for the legal community.