1 ORANGE COUNTY Volume 106, 2015 $6.95 Staff Infection Norm Hulcher Low Batting Average? Or Too Few At-Bats? Mike O Horo McIntyre s Civil Alert Monty A. McIntyre Breathing New Life into a Law Firm s Aging Receivables Jake Krocheski Preventing Partnership Implosions Before It s Too Late Nancy Byerly Jones Top Competencies a Lawyer Needs to Succeed Larry Bodine Law Firm of the Month Easton & Easton A FAMILY S FIGHT FOR JUSTICE
2 A Family s Fight for Justice LAW FIRM OF THE MONTH Easton & Easton, LLP has made the pursuit of justice for victims of serious personal injury and wrongful death a family affair. by Jennifer Hadley When Doug Easton patriarch of the Easton family and founder of Costa Mesa-based Easton & Easton, LLP (formerly the Law Offices of W. Douglas Easton) was just 10 years old, he discovered he wanted to become an attorney. My teacher was trying to teach civics to the class by holding mock trials whenever a student was alleged to have violated school rules. Students were appointed as prosecutor and defender, other students were empaneled as jurors, while those who observed the infraction were witnesses. I was chosen to defend a boy caught running in the halls, he recalls with a smile. Doug won that first case by convincing the jury that the student s urgent need to use the restroom was of sufficient gravity to justify flouting school rules. I didn t know then that the legal rationale for my defense was the hoary common law principle of necessitas non habet legem necessity has no law, he laughs. His teacher took note, however, praising Doug and encouraging him to become an attorney. Doug liked that idea. Today, more than 60 years later, Doug is proud that the idea stuck and has allowed him to build a very successful personal injury practice with his sons. We are a family of attorneys specializing in personal injury litigation. After years of dedicating our lives to helping those who have suffered serious injury or the wrongful death of a loved one due to the negligence of another, we ve become particularly skilled in our area of practice. It is our closeness and great working relationship that allows us to synergize our efforts into something profound for our clients. As a family of lawyers, we go to lunch together almost every day and see each other most weekends, and we are constantly discussing all of our cases with one another to consider new ideas and strategies that will help the interests of our clients, he says. This family synergy seems to be one of the keys to their success. The Family Tree s Roots in Law It s worth noting that, although Doug Easton became interested in the law as a young boy, he didn t necessarily take a direct route to that career path. While I wanted to be an attorney at a young age, I didn t develop the study habits in high school necessary to become such. I lacked maturity and preferred partying with my friends to studying during my first year in college, he says candidly. After his second semester, Doug realized that he needed to do a bit of growing up before focusing his efforts on his education. He found the perfect opportunity to do precisely that by 16 Attorney Journal Orange County Volume 106, 2015
3 Easton & Easton Partners: Brian W. Easton, W. Douglas Easton and Matthew D. Easton
4 Managing Partner: W. Douglas Easton serving a mission for his church. He soon set off to Finland for 2.5 years as a Mormon missionary. Forced to study and learn Finnish (one of the world s hardest languages) on his own in Finland, Doug s study habits improved exponentially, and by the time he had completed his mission, he was ready to hit the books. He did so with such vigor and success that he was ultimately accepted to law school at Boalt Hall (UC Berkley), considered one of the nation s top 5 law schools at the time. Upon graduation, Doug initially went to work for an insurance defense firm, which represented multiple large insurance companies. He cut his teeth by learning the personal injury side of law from a defense perspective. On occasion, however, he was able to take on a plaintiff s claim, provided it posed no conflict with his firm s insurance company clients. It was then that Doug first recognized what guided the future of his practice: There was a lot more soul satisfaction in using my skills to obtain fair compensation for a needy, deserving injured person, than there was in using those same skills to save money for an insurance company. While it is always satisfying to represent your client well even an insurance company there is a quantum difference of satisfaction in successfully representing an injured person for whom the recovery will affect their life in a very beneficial way. After a few years, Doug who was raising 5 children with his wife Rae decided to move to a business litigation firm. In addition to trying numerous business litigation cases, Doug also represented all of the firm s personal injury clients. By the time the firm dissolved in 1991, Doug had a case load that was exclusively plaintiff s personal injury cases. Moreover, he and Rae had added two more children to the mix, and almost all 7 children were taking a greater interest in their father s line of work as he transitioned into starting his own firm. Planting New Seeds of Advocacy Brian Easton, Doug s oldest son, spent much of his childhood skiing, snowboarding and riding mountain bikes. While he may have had big dreams of becoming a professional athlete, those were not the genes with which he was blessed. But he was a great student. As he finished college, he found himself turning to his father for career advice. By this point, Doug had already established the Law Offices of W. Douglas Easton and was enjoying success in the exclusive representation of the seriously injured. Consequently, he advised Brian to take the L-SAT and go to law school. He said that I couldn t go wrong being an attorney, and that it had worked out wonderfully for him, so I followed his advice, Brian remembers. Upon passing the Bar, Brian interviewed with several large firms, before ultimately deciding that he wanted to work with his father. In 1996, he became the second Easton in the family firm after graduating law school cum laude. He quickly became an integral part of the firm, using his charm and affability to resolve difficult cases, and was made partner in Meanwhile, Matthew Easton was also growing up and beginning to think about his own future. I asked for a briefcase like my father s when I was 4 years old. I m told that one day I put on my church suit, filled my briefcase with crayons and coloring books, and told the family I was going to work with dad. Being the kind of dad that he is, he actually took me to work and I sat across from him at his desk all day doing my work coloring. From there Matt s passion for the work he saw his father doing only grew. I loved public speaking, debating, and formal writing. My family told me that I really just enjoyed arguing my point of view any chance I got, he says with a chuckle. By the time he was in high school he was spending his summers working at the firm. I wanted to be as prepared as possible to join the firm once I graduated from law school. There was never another path that I wanted to follow. In 2009, Matt joined the firm after maintaining a full academic scholarship throughout all 3 years of law school, making Law Review, Moot Court, and Trial Advocacy Honors Boards, and graduating magna cum laude. The years of preparation for this career path before and during law school allowed him to truly hit the ground running. Since his arrival at the firm, Matt has helped the firm transition to using advanced litigation technologies in their trial practice to great success. Due to the skill and experience he has developed in this field, 18 Attorney Journal Orange County Volume 106, 2015
5 he will be teaching a Litigation and Trial Technology class as an Adjunct Professor at Whittier Law School beginning January 2015, just one year after making partner at Easton & Easton. Over time, other Easton family members would also join the family business. Doug s son John worked for the firm for a few years, before relocating to Utah where he now owns one of the premier criminal defense practices in his area. The family matriarch, Rae Easton, serves as the firm s office manager and accountant. She really runs the place, Doug quips. Dee Jones and Kristy Wieser, Doug and Rae s two daughters, work as a paralegal and executive secretary, respectively. And most recently, their youngest son, Travis Easton, joined the firm upon passing the California Bar in November of A Flourishing Family Firm The firm now operates from gorgeous offices with stunning views on the 18 th floor of the prestigious Center Tower next to South Coast Plaza, but it continues to maintain the same business philosophies and principles that Doug has adhered to for many decades. I became a member of the Bar at a time when the rules of professional conduct forbade most forms of attorney advertising, Doug explains. Consequently, the firm was built based on wordof-mouth referral business, primarily from past clients. My father developed a philosophy that if he simply achieved great results for clients in each case no matter how big, or small, or prestigious the case might be it would lead to a happy client and a strong potential referral source. In short, do good and good will happen, Brian says. This philosophy has been passed down to the younger generation of Easton attorneys, and the results have been extraordinary to say the least. We ve found it a great testament to our skill, expertise and results that the vast majority of our new cases come to us from happy, grateful, well-served past clients recommending us to their friends and loved ones. However, a similarly high testament to our services has come from past defense attorneys who we have worked against, Matt notes. On this point Brian adds, One of the most surprising and greatest votes of confidence we regularly receive comes from defense attorneys we have faced over the years who thereafter refer their friends and family to us for plaintiff s representation. Most of these defense attorneys cannot accept a referral fee because of the potential conflict of interest it could create. They have no personal interest in the referral of our firm. They also have the unique position of having witnessed firsthand the skills, expertise, and ethics of hundreds of plaintiff s trial attorneys over the years. We are honored that so many of these defense attorneys refer their loved ones, friends and staff to our firm for representation. We have even been honored over the years to represent several defense trial attorneys who have been injured by another s negligence. Indeed, the firm has a very specialized field of practice, but those who come to Easton & Easton and consequently refer yet others to the family of attorneys, come from all walks of The Entire Easton Family Doug and Rae with all 7 children and their spouses, and all 16 grandchildren.
6 life. Our typical client is seriously injured or suffering the loss of a loved one. This is the unifying factor of our clients. They are businessmen, homemakers, doctors, attorneys, college professors, school teachers, athletes, actors, children, students, mothers, fathers, poor, wealthy, young and old alike, says Matt. It doesn t matter where they come from or what their history entails. They are suffering some kind of serious loss at the hand of another s negligence and wrongdoing, and we are needed to right this wrong. We are there to ensure that they receive just compensation from an insurance carrier that has trained its staff solely for the purpose of preventing just compensation, he adds. Doug continues, We believe every case can be unique, important and special at its heart, regardless of whether the case is a tragic wrongful death, a painful trip and fall, or a typical rear-end auto accident. If we agree to represent a client, then we believe they have suffered some kind of significant loss in their life, and it is our job and duty to convey the magnitude and importance of that loss to the jury, defense attorney, and/or insurance career. Recent victories Easton & Easton has obtained for its clients include a $2.75 million settlement in the case of Schenk v. Joe s Street Sweeping. In this case, Easton & Easton represented two 80-year-old parents for the wrongful death of their 55-yearold son, who was killed by a negligently driven street sweeper. When we took this case we reviewed many verdicts and settlements throughout Southern California and were hardpressed to find any for 80-year-old parents to a child of such advanced age, with no loss of income or other economic or punitive damage to speak of, in excess of $1 million. Most were well below that mark. Had we accepted the rubrics and methodologies that insurance companies would apply to this case, then the case would likely have concluded somewhere in that range. But as we investigated the story of the decedent and his parents, and more particularly the unique bond of these parents with their son, we came to believe that the true value of this case was much, much greater, Matt says. After conveying to the defendant s insurance carrier the unique circumstances that the Easton s believed would yield a significant verdict from a sympathetic jury, mediation was sought early in the litigation. With a final settlement of $2.75 million, Doug, Brian and Matt Easton all received city commendations from the City of Lancaster for their work in the case and the remarkable result. Nurturing the Next Generation of Easton Attorneys With a firm resume that includes consecutive Super Lawyers awards for Doug and Super Lawyers Rising Stars for Matt; repeat selection to U.S. News Best Law Firms in Southern California each year; listings in National Trial Lawyers Top 100 in California for Doug and Brian, and National Trial Lawyers Top 40 Under 40 for Matt; and inclusion amongst Best Lawyers in America, the Los Angeles Times Magazine s Southern California s Best Lawyers, and an AV Preeminent rating for more than 30 years for Doug; what else do Doug, Brian, and Matt have to accomplish? A lot, as it turns out. We are adding a new attorney in Travis, so we will be able to take on more cases in the coming years. For several years now we have been operating at max capacity handling all of the cases that we can handle without compromising the work provided to our clients. While there are lots of plaintiff s firms that expand their business by hiring multiple paralegals and auxiliary staff to handle the bulk of the work for the attorneys, that is not where we are headed. We achieve better results for our clients because an attorney intimately handles every single case. There are no rubber stamp signatures in our office, symbolic or otherwise, says Doug emphatically. This is a point that has always been important to him throughout his career and has been instilled in his children as well. Make no mistake though, Doug Easton has no plans to retire, even though he briefly considered it some years before. But after Brian and Matt joined the firm, he wondered, What would I ever retire to do? I see my family every day at work, where we toil in a righteous cause and love what we do. It s a pretty good life. He continues, There is no way to plan for the way we have been blessed. Even if one starts their own successful firm, they can never plan to be able to employ their children, and there is no way to know their children will want to practice law. I m blessed that my sons and daughters want to work with me, and I ll be able to pass on the legacy of years of work to my children that I love. As a matter of fact, for this tight-knit family of advocates, the fact that they work together is one of life s greatest gifts. Doug says sincerely, While running a law firm brings plenty of challenges, nothing about working with family has been challenging. I go to lunch with my sons every day. The children still come to dinner every other Sunday with their children. We spend a lot of time together and continue to enjoy each other s company every day. This is a boon for our clients, as it allows us to enjoy working closely together and constantly helping and supporting one another in order to achieve the best results possible for our clients. As usual, Brian, Matt, and Travis all agree with their father a family of lawyers in perfect harmony. n Contact: Easton & Easton, LLP Town Center Drive Suite 1850 Costa Mesa, CA Attorney Journal Orange County Volume 106, 2015
7 EXPERIENCE W. DOUGLAS EASTON» EDUCATION & EMPLOYMENT BACKGROUND Brigham Young University BA cum laude (1967) UC Berkeley Law (Boalt Hall) JD (1970) California Bar Admittance (January 1971) Partner at Wise, Kilpatrick & Clayton Partner at Drummy, Garrett, King & Harrison Founded the Law Offices of W. Douglas Easton (1991) Managing Partner of Easton & Easton, LLP (2014» HONORS U.S. News Best Law Firms in Southern California Easton & Easton, LLP (2014 Best Lawyers in America (2007 Southern California s Best Lawyers Los Angeles Times Magazine (2007 Super Lawyers Southern California (2009 National Trial Lawyers Top 100 in California (2012 Martindale-Hubbell s Highest AV Preeminent Rating (30 Years) City Commendation for $2.75 Million Settlement City of Lancaster (2013) Professional of the Year in Medical Malpractice Straithmore s Who s Who (2008) Served as Orange County Superior Court Temporary Judge Served as Arbitrator and Settlement Judge for Orange County Superior Courts Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Consumer Attorneys of California Public Justice Association American Association for Justice Orange County Trial Lawyers Association J. Reuben Clark Law Society MATTHEW D. EASTON» EDUCATION & EMPLOYMENT BACKGROUND Brigham Young University BA (2006) Whittier Law School JD magna cum laude Top 10% (2009) California Bar Admittance (December 2009) Attorney at Law Offices of W. Douglas Easton ( ) Partner at Easton & Easton, LLP (2014 Adjunct Professor at Whittier Law School Trial Technology & Advocacy (Winter 2015» HONORS U.S. News Best Law Firms in Southern California Easton & Easton, LLP (2014 National Trial Lawyers Top 40 Under 40 in California (2014 Super Lawyers Rising Stars Southern California (2014 City Commendation for $2.75 Million Settlement City of Lancaster (2013) Best Oral Advocate Susan E. McGuigan Oral Advocacy Competition (2007) Chief Justice Moot Court Honors Board Whittier Law School ( ) Law Review Whittier Law School ( ) Trial Advocacy Honors Board Whittier Law School ( ) Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles American Association for Justice Orange County Trial Lawyers Association (2013 J. Reuben Clark Law Society» PUBLICATIONS Disparate Outcomes Among Medical Malpractice Victims: A New Look at an Equal Protection Challenge to MICRA Whittier Law Review Volume 30, Number 1 (Fall 2008) BRIAN W. EASTON» EDUCATION & EMPLOYMENT BACKGROUND Brigham Young University BA magna cum laude (1992) Brigham Young University Law School JD cum laude (1995) California Bar Admittance (December 1995) Attorney at Law Offices of W. Douglas Easton ( ) Partner at Easton & Easton, LLP (2014» HONORS U.S. News Best Law Firms in Southern California Easton & Easton, LLP (2014 National Trial Lawyers Top 100 in California (2012 City Commendation for $2.75 Million Settlement City of Lancaster (2013) Moot Court Honors Board Brigham Young University Law School ( ) Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Orange County Bar Association Society of Fellows Orange County Bar Association American Bar Association Orange County Trial Lawyers Association J. Reuben Clark Law Society» PUBLICATIONS Crisis Intervention for Legal Counselors Journal of Dispute Resolution Brigham Young University (1996) Attorney Journal Orange County Volume 106,