MILITARY TRAINING Brings Peace of Mind to Legal Clients
Court proceedings and legal negotiations are often framed in military terms in which attorneys face opposing forces, employ strategies and tactics, and even engage in verbal combat. Real-world military experience and service to country helped form the basis for the rapid rise and expanding legal reputation of Daniel Kim, founder of The Law Offices of Daniel Kim.
Lessons learned in combat zone survival apply equally well to succeeding in the highly competitive world of the legal profession. Kim says, “The biggest thing is time management. An attorney must be able to make moves in a calculated manner. In a war zone you have strategic goals and you have tactical goals. Every movement has a purpose and that certainly applies in practicing the law. Composure and making sure that things are done in a very calculated manner are essential to serving the needs of a client and in building a successful practice.”
Kim was stationed overseas as a paralegal for the United States Army JAG Corps in Baghdad, Iraq, and below the 38th Parallel in South Korea where he was recognized as the top enlisted JAG member in the Asia Pacific region. During this period of service as a full-time soldier in a war zone, he was also a full-time student obtaining his bachelor’s degree online with the University of Maryland. He completed his bachelor’s degree in three years with distinction. Kim served in an area in which there was a need for constant preparation. His hours were “crazy” because he woke up at 5 a.m. and spent the day as a service member. When the day ended about 6 p.m. he would go to school in the evenings, and later study on his own. The routine repeated daily, so efficient management of time and energy was crucial.
“The extreme time management I learned to balance my work with my studies paved the way for me to apply such rigorous commitment to building my practice,” he says.
That practice has grown at a rapid rate and an equally rapid-growing list of clients has made Kim one of the top Personal Injury attorneys in California. Founded five years ago, The Law Offices of Daniel Kim currently employs between 25-30 administrators, certified paralegals, legal assistants, case managers, private investigators, and attorneys.
“We do not claim to be a jack of all trades. We only do one thing and that’s representing clients in car accidents, and we do it very well,” Kim says. The firm has settled more than $100 million in settlements and verdicts. Kim been awarded 20 separate awards from being recognized as one of the Top 40 Trial Lawyers Under 40 for California by The National Trial Lawyers, to being selected among the Nation’s Top One Percent by the National Association of Distinguished Counsel and being awarded with the Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent Rating.
BECOMING THE “PATCH ADAMS” OF PERSONAL INJURY
Growing up, Kim knew he would choose a career in medicine or the law because he felt a strong desire to help people at the times when people need help most. He eventually chose the law because he felt he could more appropriately apply his background, experience, and creativity in resolving situations for people in that arena.
Kim worked briefly at personal injury law firms during law school and immediately thereafter where he saw that many firms lost their focus on their clients’ needs. Kim believes strongly that Personal Injury is a customer service-oriented practice where the client should be the focus. “I wanted to build an organization that consciously strived to be the ‘Patch Adams’ personal injury law firm of California.” Patch Adams is the medical doctor, social activist and clown who was the subject of a major motion picture starring Robin Williams.
Kim wanted to create a firm that treated clients as people and not merely case files, but rather as husbands or wives, parents or siblings or children with real problems who need real solutions. Achieving such results begins with having genuine compassion and patience with clients and a genuine belief that this type of work is much like a public service.
Personal involvement in personal injury added a dramatic impetus to his drive to create a client-centric practice. After moving to California in 2010 and while still attending law school, Kim’s wife, Mina, was involved in an automobile accident when another, larger vehicle broadsided her and nearly totaled her vehicle. She was pregnant at the time. Following the accident, she developed severe on-going pain that was never resolved. Liability was not in dispute. They hired an attorney through a personal referral, believing that all attorneys are alike, and the results should be the same. Unfortunately for the couple, this was not true. The case took about 2.5 years to resolve. The couple had to settle for just $500.00. “This is when I realized the attorney behind the case makes all the difference in the world. So, this is how the journey began. I knew that I could do a better job,” Kim says. His real-world business approach and his commitment to running an efficient yet client-centric firm helped create one of California’s premiere Personal Injury firms.
Efficiency is key in building any business, especially a legal business. Kim believes that efficiency is not a vague concept but is measurable through organized analytics. He compares the legal arena to the sports arena. He cites how analytics have completely changed the game of basketball to prove his point.
“As a basketball fanatic, I know that analytics allowed teams to dissect in granular detail play selection, scoring, defense, player rest, and even the use of hacking for players with lower free throw percentages. I apply the same concept to building a law firm and the use of case management software. I need to know what specific areas of improvement I need to make through use of reports to make sure specific teams within my organization better serve clients in general to maximize their case values,” he says.
A BUSINESS APPROACH FOR MORE PERSONAL SERVICE
“I come from a very business-oriented mindset focused on efficiency. That’s how you offer better service to your clients. It’s a constant way of asking, ‘How can I make things better?’ I am not necessarily an attorney who owns a business, but I am a businessman who happens to be an attorney.” He cites as an example of his approach to a case handled in the early days of his practice. He represented a client named Jason, a man married 15 years and with four minor children. He worked long hours as a mechanic during the day and as a driver at night to make sure his family was taken care of. One night, as he was stopped at a red light, he was rear ended by a large F-350 driving nearly 50 miles an hour. This accident changed his life forever as Jason needed multiple back surgeries in his recovery. He could no longer work as a mechanic or drive. As the sole bread winner of his family, he became depressed as he felt helpless to protect and provide for his family. His family nearly became homeless as they had to move into their relative’s home to stay afloat, especially in needing the help to take care of their small kids.
Kim took the case and teamed up with a videography company that produced a day-in-the-life video of Jason and his family. In this project, he got to know very closely Jason’s wife, the four children, his brother, sister, uncle, friends, and former mechanic co-workers.
“It was in this case I realized that the injured client is only the start of the ripple effect. Accidents truly affect every family member and the ripple effect goes much further than
I previously imagined. Following that case, my outlook in representing injured clients from automobile accidents became so much more meaningful and sensitive to the entire family. I try my very best to treat the client as family and give them the same advice I would give to my own mother or sister,” Kim says.
A MORE PERSONAL PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER
Kim describes his firm as a Class A personal injury law firm that provides white-glove service to injured clients. Their corporate motto is “A More Personal Personal Injury Lawyer,” which to Kim means taking a hands-on approach with clients and staff without slipping into the trap of micromanaging.
His philosophy is to provide enough communication and contact so his staff knows how he works and the nuances of his expectations so that he is confident that they will handle a case or a situation as he would handle it. “I have the belief that ultimately you must be the go-to person of the field you are in because of the knowledge you have acquired,” he says.
Kim says that an attorney representing people who are injured should have a deep medical understanding about the symptoms, conditions, and procedures utilized to remedy the conditions to abate the person’s symptoms. This gaining of knowledge would be directly applicable to the work of the attorneys, legal assistants, and all personnel at the firm. “We’re not medical professionals, so we never offer medical advice, but I believe it is essential that staff are empowered to better understand what our clients are going through and empathize with them. That requires that we have the needed foundational medical knowledge.”
To back up that belief, Kim has chiropractors, physical therapists, radiologists, pain management physicians, orthopedic surgeons, neurologists, audiologists, optometrists, and other specialists come to the office twice every month to provide medical seminars to all his staff. He expects and challenges his staff to always hone their knowledge because that knowledge will make them more effective at their position and will have a positive effect firm wide.
Although Kim and his team do employ strategies and tactics when facing opposing forces, the military-influenced and client-centric business approach creates an efficient framework for genuine service from “a more personal personal injury lawyer.”