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Solo & Small Law Firms

Solo Wins a $4.7 Million Verdict

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Last months, one of our readers, solo Scott P. Schomer of Schomer Law in Torrance, California won an amazing $4.7 million dollar verdict for his client, a grandmother who’d been left homeless after being defrauded of her Beverly Hills home by her former attorney who along with his wife moved into his former client’s house after stealing it out from under her.   To win the case, Schomer went up against four attorneys who represented his client’s former lawyers.  Details on the case can be viewed here in an article from the Los Angeles Daily Record.

Schomer was generous enough to submit to an interview with MyShingle by email, which I’ve posted below.

My Shingle:  How long have you been in solo practice?

Schomer:  I
started my solo practice in January 2002.  Prior to that time I had spent
8 years at big firms and then 3 years at in-house positions and felt I preferred
creating an entrepreneurial atmosphere over returning to corporate life.  I
found another solo attorney in need of assistance and practiced for
approximately two years under his umbrella, although essentially operating my own
practice.  In April 2005 I officially unveiled my own professional
corporation although I continue to share space and other resources with this
same solo.  I had an extensive real estate litigation background and focused
my practice on probate and real estate litigation, particularly in the area of
financial frauds against elders.  Elder abuse is a growing problem and an
area where I enjoy helping those who are really in need of my services.

MyShingle:  Was this your biggest verdict?

The Lederman is my biggest verdict to date; my next largest award was a $1.5 mil. elder\abuse verdict I obtained in March 2005.  When Ms. Lederman arrived in my office, I initially found the story hard to believe–I was shocked that an\nattorney could have so mistreated his client.  After I reviewed the facts, I was certain that defendants would settle quickly because the allegations (which I believe were all proven true) were so outrageous.  Instead, defendants fought me tooth and nail through the entire procedure.  It was not until after the jury verdict that they offered to settle for anything more than a small percentage of their potential liability.  I took the case in December 2003 and we only obtained our jury award in March 2005.  Unfortunately, the case is still going because on May 10th, defendants filed a petition with the US bankruptcy courts.

MyShingle:  Did you handle the case on your own?

Schomer:  I have a paralegal I share with another attorney who helps with office support (answering phones, ordering supplies, filing, service, etc.) but in terms of substantive work\non the case, I did everything from soup to nuts–trial & exhibit binders, briefs, witness preparation, opening & closing statements.

MyShingle:  What advice do you have for other solos who find themselves up against a larger team of lawyers

Schomer:  I
spent enough time in big firms and fighting big firms to realize that at the
end of the day, you are still matching wits against individual attorneys.
Most cases are won and lost on the facts and the preparation work.  The
best advice I can give other solos is the importance of community–developing
a network of other solos.  The Lederman trial lasted almost three weeks
and without being able to call on the services of other attorneys to cover some
of my other cases, I would have been in serious trouble.  I also find
these folks are a great source of business.  By building a good network,
you are in essence creating your own virtual law firm; you get the intellectual
resources of a big firm without the administrative or political headaches that
accompany a more fixed partnership arrangement.

If you have any other questions about the case, feel free to post them in the comments section and perhaps Scott will follow up.  Also, if you have a recent victory and would like to be featured at MyShingle, drop me a line at carolyn.elefant@gmail.com

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