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Community Involvement and Humility: A Rainmaker Interview with Mark Richardson

Alex M Lierz

Community Involvement and Humility: A Rainmaker Interview with Mark Richardson
Paul Bradbury via Getty Images

Mark Richardson is a partner at Rembolt Ludtke in Nebraska with a strong primary focus on plaintiffs’ personal injury and wrongful death litigation. Richardson has pursued litigation in state and federal court, ranging from Omaha to Valentine to North Platte to Red Cloud and almost everywhere in between. Richardson handles personal injury and wrongful death claims involving product liability, motor vehicle negligence, premise liability, and workplace injuries resulting from third-party negligence.

How long have you been practicing law?

Nine years. I started working with Rembolt Ludtke after law school in 2011. 

What kind of practice do you currently have?

I work as a partner at a law firm with 25 other attorneys. I am one of three attorneys who primarily do personal injury work at the firm. Almost 100 percent of my practice involves plaintiffs’ personal injury work with a few other insurance-coverage matters.

Did you always want to go into personal injury?

Since my second year in law school, I always wanted to work in personal injury. Right out of law school, I took on a variety of cases, including divorce work, for the first three years, but I knew my practice would evolve into primarily personal injury work. 

How did you develop your personal injury practice? 

When I started devoting my time to personal injury work, I was only the second attorney [in my firm] working in that practice area and the only one working full-time in the area. We went from having 10 to 15 active cases to well over 50 cases now. It was a slow build in terms of the size of the practice, but some of it was natural with the firm having more capacity with me working there. We developed our practice by networking with greater Nebraska attorneys with smaller practices that didn’t do personal injury work. This purposeful networking and heavy involvement within the professional community, including the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), helped us build the practice we have today.

How do you maintain these connections and build your network? 

I always make a point of stopping by and saying hi to my referral sources when I am in town. At the end of the year when we send Christmas cards, we will include information on a hot-button personal injury topic that year. We also send thank-you cards for every referral and frequently enter into work-share agreements when warranted. These work-share agreements are incredibly beneficial to helping maintain these connections because it allows our referral sources to stay involved in the case and see how we do things, and eventually become more comfortable with referring additional cases to us.

How did you land your biggest case? 

A partner came into my office at 5:30 p.m. about a new lead on a personal injury case. That evening, we called the potential clients together and had a series of conversations over the course of several weeks. I knew that the clients were interviewing other attorneys, and so I spent more time visiting with them on the phone and going to their residence for in-person visits. Ultimately, we were retained because they felt more comfortable with us as individuals, and the time invested into making that connection paid off.

What business-development habits and techniques have you personally found to be most effective? 

Being involved within the community—NATA—and keeping in contact with referral sources. At the end of the day, it also comes down to doing outstanding legal work.

What do you find is the hardest thing about business development?

The hardest thing about business development is that you do not always have objective measures for how business development is doing. Everything is very anecdotal. The best measure for how I am doing with business development is seeing how busy I am and what cases I am getting referred. There is a lot of subjectivity because you cannot trace an exact causal link. There is always a time crunch, too. You have to choose between putting time in and pushing cases along versus taking two days off to attend or present at a conference to be seen and develop your reputation.

What advice would you give to a new attorney trying to develop a personal injury practice?

Get out of your office. You can work your files, you can work your cases, and you can put in 100 hours on each case, but you are not going to get any new cases in the door if you are not getting out there. Meet judges and go to social events and fundraisers to meet others in your practice area and community. The more connected you are, the more likely the next big case will come to you.

What is one thing that you know now about business development that you wish you knew earlier in your career?

One of the hardest things to balance in business development is the balance between having a sense of humility and still marketing yourself. Both are extremely important when you encounter a potential referral source or client because both want to see humility and have the best attorney for the case. Humility is a vastly overlooked trait, but it has to be genuine. You genuinely have to understand that you are not the epicenter of the universe and that there is always something new for you to learn. If you don’t have a good sense of humility, you run the risk of appearing overly confident, or even cocky. Some people are naturally confident, and others grow into it. It is a process of growing, learning, and working hard; and it can be the difference between a client trusting you with their case and as a person, and not.