Winning Jury Trials, Experience, and Advice for Young Lawyers
Ted Molis, HMR
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Willie G. Johnson, Jr., founder and president of The Johnson Law Group jury trial lawyers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana about their practice and his love of out strategizing his opposing counsel during pre-trial and jury trial litigation.
Mr. Johnson is a well-known trial attorney in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He graduated from Tulane University with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering with pre-medical studies, and he attended graduate school at Louisiana State University while pursuing a PhD in Chemical Engineering and thereafter received his J.D. and B.C.L from the Paul M. Hebert Law Center of LSU. Before becoming a lawyer he provided engineering consulting services while with the firm Walk, Haydel & Associates located in New Orleans.
After working on a major toxic tort case, he was drawn to legal pursuits. He was the first African American partner in a major insurance defense law firm for more than a decade, where he passionately defended insurance interests spanning from medical malpractice to commercial litigation.
As he grew in his skill and management experience, his prayerful focus led to the founding of the Johnson Law Group where they primarily represent plaintiffs in personal injury cases along with commercial and/or corporate interests when called upon. He’s a member of both the National Trial Lawyers’ “Top 100 Trial Lawyers” and “Top 10 Trucking Trial Lawyers”
He takes around 10 cases to jury trial a year, which is probably in the top 5% of all lawyers in the state of Louisiana and is routinely sought out by other attorneys to take their cases to trial because of his success record.
“I have a true desire to litigate on behalf of people.”
The Johnson Law Group handles a broad mixture of cases. He’s taken premises liability cases to trial and gotten almost half a million dollars on his average trip and fall as well as large recoveries for medium size cases where he presented surgical recommendations. Many of his catastrophic cases he would prepare for trial, only to have them either settle the day of trial or the weekend before trial.
One of his many cases that HMR has provided medical funding for was a large trucking collision case that he was brought in on to take to trial. His client was eligible for workers’ compensation but they opted to avoid the pitfalls and delays associated with workers’ compensation. “He had the classic symptoms of a traumatic brain injury which was litigated, and he had consistent treatment for that. He had several surgeries including spine surgery, shoulder surgery, and knee surgery” Mr. Johnson told me “On day one of the trial, while we were preparing to choose the jury, the case settled for a healthy 7 digit recovery.”
Mr. Johnson feels blessed for his many years of trial successes. It’s typical that his larger cases settle before trial, “they always tend to resolve the day of or the weekend before. I have a known reputation for trying jury trials and being successful and it gives me leverage and a significant advantage over the defense attorneys and the insurers and I think that leads to the higher recovery rates for my plaintiff.”
What are a few things you have learned from taking so many cases to trial?
A jury trial for me is a significant moment because of the risk involved. You can win it all or you can win nothing even on a case that you should win.
Whenever I step foot in a jury trial with 12 strangers and one alternate, I’m asking these people for something and I’ve never met them before. I only have a few days to convince them of my character, my client’s cause of action, and the mission that we serve, it’s a very tall task. So every jury trial to me is significant. Every victory, every time a jury was convinced of my cause on behalf of my client has been very fulfilling.
I have heard from other attorneys that defense counsel will try to discount the severity of the injury if surgery has not yet been performed. I asked if in Mr. Johnson’s experience he found that a plaintiff, with a chronic injury, needed to have had the surgery done before he entered the courtroom to be taken seriously.
I fight to get maximum recovery on surgery recommendations and when surgery has already occurred, but more often than not I’m getting a maximum recovery on recommendations only.
Let me tell you why. In my experience, if the defense attorney and/or the insurer knows that you do not have a track record or reputation for trying jury trials they may not pay a significant amount of money for the claim. But if the lawyer that faces them has a clear track record for jury trial litigation, successful jury trial litigation they may pay more money.
I have put in my time and I have a track record for multiple successful jury trials so when the insurers and the adjusters become aware that I am prosecuting the case on behalf of a plaintiff I am able to take a surgery recommendation and get a strong recovery.
You’ve worked with HMR dozens of times, why do you keep coming back?
HMR has wonderful, wonderful customer service. Their business model keeps the litigation budget effectively streamlined and optimized, which means we can focus on litigating rather than budgeting. They really do significantly give me the ability to aggressively litigate on the issues of liability and concentrate on pretrial strategy rather than consuming my time with budgeting. The fact that they don’t require personal guarantees is also very significant.
“HMR can be a great resource for lawyers that have a proven track record for jury trial litigation.”
What advice do you have for young attorneys?
One of the things I would advise young lawyers is there needs to be a concerted effort for them to search for mentors as early as possible so that they have a very real perspective of what the practice of law involves and the various phases of a practice. There needs to be a very definite first suit of mentors and mentorships to be exposed to the various areas of the law so that they have a good understanding of what different lawyers do.
Another word of advice for young lawyers is that they need to have a significant passion for the laborious nature of a litigation practice or almost any kind of law. At some point the money isn’t enough to maintain significant interest and certainly the stress is something that can drive you out of the practice so there needs to be a real desire to pursue a particular area or kind of law. There needs to be a true passion to assist the client in their time of need, in their time of voicelessness.
That’s one of the things that keeps me working long hours, I have a passion for the mission. I have a true desire to litigate on behalf of people. I have a true desire to strategize the case and leverage opposing council. I’m uplifted whenever I am out strategizing my opposing counsel and playing chess if you will.
There is a significant pleasing joy that I get when I’m sitting with my case research and I’m anticipating opposing counsel’s next move and then I preemptively respond before he makes his next move. It is quintessential chess, and for me that’s what makes me work long hours. Not to pay the bills, but to have a mastery of litigation.
“I respect the law and I trust my skill.”
Mr. Johnson and the Johnson Law Group practice in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, and Georgia. Mr. Johnson and his staff can be contacted at 225-717-7070 (Baton Rouge Office), 504-493-7070 (New Orleans Office), 337-704-7048 (Lafayette Office) or [email protected] and [email protected].
“HMR has wonderful, wonderful customer service. Their business model keeps the litigation budget effectively streamlined and optimized, which means we can focus on litigating rather than budgeting.”
HMR can be your medical funding solution. We may be able to pay for your client’s medical care now, whether the injury only requires physical therapy treatment or involves the most complex in-patient brain injury treatment that results in hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills.
No case is too large for us.
Contact us now or give us a call at 888-377-1245 to discuss your personal injury case
We will quickly review your case, and may purchase medically necessary bills from medical providers promptly upon approval. We purchase medical accounts receivables from a nationwide network of high quality medical providers, or we can work with your plaintiff’s provider of choice. The choice is always theirs.