The Client-Centric Practice
DeMayo Law Group
Susan Barfield (00:06):
Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining another Case Works stream. We are joined today by Michael DeMayo, who is founder of the DeMayo Law Firm out of North Carolina. And Michael has created this client-centric approach for how they nurture and care for their clients that we’re going to be speaking about today. Michael, first, thank you so much for taking time to visit with me today and to share this message about, we’re going to talk about it, what you’ve coined as the DeMayo way.
Michael DeMayo (00:39):
Absolutely. Happy to be with you.
Susan Barfield (00:41):
Yeah. So, one thing everyone always wants to know, and I’m always curious about is, what made you decide to go to law school? And let’s just start there.
Michael DeMayo (00:55):
Well, it’s kind of a funny story. And I’m not sure, in retrospect, when I think back at the first advisors, the unofficial advisors that gave me kind of the insight and the brilliant wisdom to become a lawyer… And it actually timely that you actually are interviewing me because this weekend, this last week, and I went to Washington DC for my 40th high school reunion. Yes, I went to high school when everyone rode dinosaurs. That’s how old I am. But I went to a Jesuit prep school. And for those of you that don’t know, Jesuits are a order of the Catholic priesthood that focus on two things. They focus on education and service to the poor. And so we had an all boys school in inner city DC about three blocks from the capital, but a lot of the priests that taught us had PhDs from Harvard and Yale, a lot of Ivy League. So, very, very smart priests, but they were hard A’s, rhymes with “rasses”.
I don’t want to curse on your… But they didn’t think twice about throwing us into walls and smacking us upside the head. And God forbid if you would use the Lord’s name in vain, you would get some serious bodily harm inflicted on your body. So, to this day, I probably use way too many F bombs and that sort of thing, but I do not use the Lord’s name in vain. That lesson was ingrained in my head. But it’s funny because someone asked me that at the reunion and I reiterated it in a Facebook post what a great time we had at our reunion.
But I remember my sophomore year, one of the priests, and I think that he said it probably more in exasperation than more kind of giving me career advice, I believe the comment, and I think I’m quoting, and I’m going to keep the priest’s name anonymous because I think it’s appropriate not to kind of impute in any way, implicate him in any manner, but I believe the exact quote was, “Son, you would argue with a brick wall and win. You should be a lawyer, or you should really consider a career as a lawyer.”
And I remember as a sophomore in high school going, “Huh? Someone will pay me to just argue with them?” And I’m sure I was arguing some point. It was either in class or with the priest in particular, maybe it was whether or not I should get jug or detention or something. Then I said, “Wow, this is a career that people will actually pay me to argue?” I probably didn’t have the high moral ground or whatever, but I was like, that’s a novel concept, because my father was a teacher, my mother was a social work. And I was like… And so anyway, the seed was planted that I could talk, argue, and actually be compensated for doing that. And the other thing the Jesuits do, at least [inaudible 00:03:57], our motto was mend for others.
So, the whole idea was helping other people. And in our high school we had a soup kitchen. So, our senior year, we all had what was called eagle projects, and one of the projects was you would feed the hungry. I mean, we were literally in a bad neighborhood in inner city DC, even though we were three blocks from the capital. So, another thing that was instilled in us, service to the poor or service to… I think I taught sixth graders math, which knowing my math skills, those kids probably are still struggling to this day. But ultimately, I think service to others, mend for others was instilled in me. So, those two things, believe it or not, being an attorney and helping others dovetailed very nicely into a career as a personal injury attorney. So, I didn’t get the traditional advice that people get, I guess from their parents or from career advice that you get maybe from career services.
I mean, I knew when I went to undergrad at Wake Forest, and I just knew I was going to be a lawyer, and I kind of knew that I was going to be a PI lawyer. I went to Chapel Hill Law School. I did the traditional internships at the big silk stocking firms both my first and second year. And even though I’d gotten offers at these firms, I said, I can’t do this for the rest of my life. I can’t say, “No, we’re not responsible. No, we’re not going to pay.”
Susan Barfield (05:23):
Michael DeMayo (05:24):
We’re not corporate America. I just knew I couldn’t do that. So, I kind of knew, from an early age, that not only was I going to be an attorney, that had to be some sort of advocate that had to talk a lot and had to be able to argue, maybe arguing is not the… Advocate. I think advocate is a better way of saying arguing. But also that I had to advocate for humans, for individuals that maybe needed justice as opposed to corporate America. And there’s plenty of places for those individuals. Some of my best friends do that. It just wasn’t for me. So, ironically, maybe it was a priest who was a little exasperated or a little irritated with me, but yeah, “Son, you would argue with a brick wall and win. You should be a lawyer.” And I remember that. And ever since then I’m like, “Huh? I’m going to be a lawyer. That’s what I should be.”
Susan Barfield (06:19):
Yeah. That’s awesome. That’s a great story. I guess one of the… Another thing that I’m interested to hear about, I mean, you’ve got a large, well respected firm with a large number of outstanding attorneys. What are the lessons that you’ve learned over the years?
Michael DeMayo (06:38):
So, when I first started my practice, I was kind of in a unique position. I went to work right out of law school for a smaller plaintiffs firm. And then a year and a half in, I started my own firm. And that’s a funny story in and of itself that I won’t get into. But I realized that certainly a year and a half into your practice, in a career, you don’t know a whole lot. And when I opened up my practice, I was beating myself up quite a bit because I was making a lot of mistakes. In fact, my joke, but it’s not really a joke, was I did everything wrong at least once. In fact, I did everything wrong when I opened up my practice, and I was getting kind of down on myself. And then I realized that I had to give myself some grace, but I made a deal with my myself.
I said, all right, I’m going to allow myself to make mistakes, but I’m not going to allow myself to make the same mistake twice. So, I started memorializing everything I did. For example, setting up the practice. Now, you can’t do that when you’re working on a client’s case, obviously. You don’t get to do a do over, because you can’t be practicing law on your clients. But as far as setting up a law practice, I did that. And as I built the practice and literally did everything wrong, the first time, I learned. And I didn’t get so down on myself, and I just started paying attention and learning and asking a lot of questions to lawyers that would help me, lawyers that would give me information or business people that would give me information. And I tried, to this day, to be a mentor anyone. Today, someone called that wanted to get into the mass tort space.
Now, normally, the young… I didn’t see him because it was a phone call, but sounded like a young man. He has his own practice in Manhattan, New York. And he was just so appreciative. He goes, “I can’t believe I got you on the phone, someone of your stature,” this and that. I said, “Ah, what’s stature?” And he says, “I really appreciate you taking the time.” And I said… He says, “If ever I can do anything, you, come to New York, you need office.” I said, “I’ll tell you what, you make me a promise. When you’re successful in 5, 10, 15 years, do me a favor, you be a mentor to someone. If someone needs some advice or help or you can give them a leg up or you can tell them something about how you started your practice…” I said, “How are you being competitive in Manhattan of all places, a personal injury attorney in the middle of Manhattan?”
And he told me how he’d gotten a leg in or leg up. And I said… I’m a believer that we’re all put on this earth to help each other, as attorneys, as human beings. And there’s plenty of business for each other, there’s plenty of… I mean, help each other be a better father, a better mentor, a better lawyer, a better human being, a better mother, better vendor and case manager. Whatever it is you do, if you have something that you do that’s unique or you think that you do it better or there’s a practice that you think that provides, for example, better service… And I may have gotten a little bit away from your question, but ultimately, there’s a lot of impressive lawyers out there. There’s a lot of lawyers that get excellent verdicts and settlements, but a lot of clients don’t know that.
They just know, for example, how they’re treated and how they’re spoken to. And I realized early on that the way I was going to distinguish our firm and our practice was how we were going to approach and how we were going to treat each and every one of our clients. And I didn’t want to have good or very good or excellent. I wanted to have exceptional customer service with every client, so that every time we touched a client, anytime there was an interaction, I wanted to set expectations. And then I wanted every time to exceed that expectation, so that at the end of that experience, we produced Delaw disciples, literally, not any comments there don’t, we’re not trying to compete with God or any religion there. We obviously deferred it God or [inaudible 00:11:10] or Jesus or any religion that you go with, but we don’t obviously want repeat customers because then that’s a whole nother problem in and of itself, if it’s a mass hort or if it’s a single event case.
But over 54%, we average 54 to 56% of our cases, come from referrals. We spend millions of dollars a year on advertising to get single event cases, but the majority of our cases, over half, come from past clients, because they literally go out and they’re disciples. I mean, they literally say you can’t go anywhere else. And it’s sort of like if your tooth hurts. And you say, “Oh, my tooth hurts. I need a root canal.” Well, what are you going to do? First thing you’re going to do is you’re going to go to your mother, your brother, your sister, your father, your uncle, your best friend, your girlfriend, your guy, friend, whatever, and say, “Hey, I need a root canal.” And they’re going to say, “Go to my dentist. Go to my periodontist and [inaudible 00:12:08],” because they’re going to trust that you’re going to send them to the person that’s going to do the best job for them that you’ve had a good experience with.
Yeah, I mean we get great verdicts. I mean, we resolved a case this month that’s confidential right now. That’s probably going to be the highest settlement verdict in North Carolina for the year. And horrific circumstances, wrongful death. I wouldn’t wish it on any family. And that family is very appreciative of the result. It’s not going to bring back that father, that husband, but I was more conscious of the fact that I didn’t want to put that family through a trial than the amount of money we got. Could we have gotten them more money? Maybe, if we’d gone to trial… And we have a [inaudible 00:12:56] in another month.
But I told the wife and the mother, “No, you can’t do this.” And she’s like, “I trust you. I’ve trusted you for three and a half years.” And I looked at it, what would I want? I’m not married. I raised four kids alone. Sometimes I want to kill the four kids alone, but that’s a whole nother story. They’re teenagers. For anyone that has teenagers, you understand. Why does God give you… God gives you teenagers so that death doesn’t come as such a disappointment, just so you know. It’s just a joke. It’s a joke. But the reality is that we forget sometimes, as lawyers or whatever we do in our career, that there’s a humanistic side to what we do.
Each client, each individual we represent, they’re not our clients if they haven’t gone through something. They’ve gone through some shit, some [inaudible 00:13:52] shit, mentally, emotionally and physically, and you got to deal with that, you got to be sensitive to that. So, we try to train our staff to be empathetic, sympathetic, kind. They shouldn’t get hurt again. The insurance company’s out to hurt them again financially. I mean, their job is to get rid of them as quickly, as cheaply, and as quietly as possible. Our job is to do the reverse. I mean, I would say listen, your job, if you’re the client, is to get better. Our job is to do everything else. If you do your job and we do our job, this is going to come out as best again.
I mean, obviously, you would’ve preferred to not be catastrophically injured or go through this or have lost a loved one, but we’re not God and we’re not a magician. We can’t wave this magic wand and make this go away. So, we’re going to do the next best thing. We’re going to have you focus on healing, either if that’s an emotional healing from the loss or healing from a medical standpoint or to maximum medical improvement. And then we’re going to do the best we can to focus on getting you compensated. And unfortunately, the legal system, all we’ve got is… The recompense is money. That’s it. So, I think I may have expounded a little bit on your question, but-
Susan Barfield (15:12):
No, that’s good.
Michael DeMayo (15:14):
There’s a lot of lawyers that have influenced the way I think-
Susan Barfield (15:16):
Michael DeMayo (15:17):
… about getting results and outcomes. But I’ll be honest with you, the people that have influenced me on how to treat people I think are probably my mother, who was a nun before she was my mother. She’s always served people before she’s served herself. And as a kid, I used to resent that. And now as what I do, as a lawyer, I get it. And sometimes I see a lot of the tendencies of what I try to impose in our service oriented law firm, I see where I get that from. So, I think that was probably a good lesson for me. I used to say, as a kid I’d say, “I’m not going to be like you. I’m going to be important and rich.” And she’d say, “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.” And I think I figured that out. I think I figured that out, and she was right.
When we represent folks, they’re struggling having a hard time. And so our goal and job is to make sure that we’re keeping them in touch and communicating with them so they understand… I mean the worst thing you can do is… Let’s say someone’s hurt and then say, “You know what? Don’t worry about it. Don’t bother us. We’re going to take care of this.” And then just not communicate with them because there’s this sense of… You’re in this, what’s going on? And you feel uncertain and there’s no communication. I mean, that’s the worst thing. If you’re thrust into a position where you don’t have any understanding of knowledge, what’s going on, you have all these questions, all these uncertainties, all these unanswered questions, and no one’s given you any answers, of course you’re going to feel very uncomfortable. You’re going to have a lot of anxiety, a lot of frustration.
Whereas on the other hand, you go at the beginning you say, “Hey, this is probably what this is going to look like. Here’s a reasonable framework of what to expect. This is what it’s going to look like. We’re going to check in with you at reasonable benchmarks. But if you have any problems or questions other than that along the way, feel free to contact us. And here we go.” And then set that expectation and then exceed that along the way, along the way, along the way. Well, that’s not a business relationship anymore. We’ve created a friend. You’re part of the family and you feel like you’re in the fold, and that’s what we want it to be. We don’t want you to be hurt. Because if you’re part of the family, I don’t want you hurt. I don’t want to have to come back to me. But if you have anyone that we can help, you sure are always going to make sure that you’re going to get that person to us because we’re going to take care of the,.
Susan Barfield (18:01):
And talking about this, this is the DeMayo way. And I got to personally experience this when I visited with you a few months ago. This culture, what you’re talking about is… It’s kind of the intentional… I mean, it’s this culture that you have within your firm, and it’s palpable the moment… I remember when I first walked in the front door of your firm. It started with the employee that greeted us.
Michael DeMayo (18:36):
That’s the concierge. That’s the concierge.
Susan Barfield (18:38):
Okay. Well, and then I was so excited when you and I talked about the expectation you have. What you just outlined is not just the expectation you have on your single event cases, but also for your mass tort cases. And I mean, you really want this proactive outbound communication being done every month with your clients. And I think it’s exceptional. I think that it’s a high expectation that is great. And I wanted to just expound a little bit on it some of the things that you shared that day that we connected have left an imprint on my mind and I’ve shared with my team, but I’d love for you to… You talked about… You’ve conveyed the… Your employees, every time they’re talking with a client, you want them to take away a nugget of information about [inaudible 00:19:38]
Michael DeMayo (19:38):
Well, so let’s talk about, since that’s what we’re working on right now and it’s really become a kind of critically important focus for me right now, is these [inaudible 00:19:52] clients, the Marines and their family members. So, for a moment, let’s not focus on the horrific circumstances and what the government has done to members of the Marine Corps and their family who, let’s remember, volunteered to put their lives on the line for you and me to go to foreign lands and protect us and our country from everything, to defend us and put their lives on, literally their lives on the line so that you and I can have the freedoms and the democracy that we’ve had for the last 200 plus years. So, let’s not take that for granted, number one. I mean, these are people that… I didn’t volunteer for the military, and I don’t have that level of honor and valor.
I mean, I think I’m a good human being, but I’m not that level of human being. Okay? So, let’s think about that for a second. Okay? And then, we, because we’re also the government… We, as a collective one, we are the government and we go and poison these people, and we don’t tell them for 30 plus years. And we don’t just poison them, we poison the people they love, their wives, their children, the people that support them, the cooks, and the people that, the infrastructure, the whole nine yards. And we know we’re poisoning them because we’re serving them up toxic water, a toxic water supply. So, they’re bathing in it, they’re they’re cooking with it, they’re swimming in it. When they’re waterproofing their babies in the pools, think about that, they’re dipping their children in the… When you waterproof your little baby, boom, boom, boom, hey, I’m giving you in 30 years, or Parkinson’s disease in 60 years, just horrific.
In North Carolina, we make a lot of sweet and unsweet tea. We’re making our tea, or the Marines, they work out every day that buffalo trucks driving around. So, I mean, get over that. When your head’s spinning with that whole concept, people that haven’t really been watching the commercials or whatever, because I was talking at my reunion and I said, “Think about the Aaron Brockovich movie and multiply that on steroids by 4,000 times. And instead of a evil DuPont or whatever chemical company, it’s the evil government, and we’re doing it to Marines.” And it was really sad because one of our classmates, right after he got out of high school missed our graduation to go sign up for the Marines, and his brother, two years younger, died three years ago from one of the cancers that’s implicated, and he was stationed at Camp Lejeune.
And about four of my classmates were like, “Can I get your number? I’m going to get and so and so’s widow to call you.” And I go, wow, you talk about hitting home, boom, right there. So, what’s the importance of calling these marines and/or their widows and/or their executors and/or their kids because the demographics somewhere in their sixties or sixty fives. Well, let’s think about that. For 30 plus years, they’ve been in the dark. They know that their family members or they have been struggling with all these cancers and health conditions and no one’s told them anything. Well, let me correct that. They’ve been told they’re denied for disability. They’ve been told they’re not eligible for even the most basic VA benefits. They have been told that. They’ve been told there was no unusual spike in all these cancers and health conditions, even though the government knew that, right?
And so the least we can do is call them every 30 days and give them an update on this litigation. And that’s the least we can do, number one. Number two, a lot of them are confused and getting wrong information. So, we’re still having incidents. This is a very tight community and they’re sharing information. Well, unfortunately, some of them are getting wrong information and they’re passing in that information amongst themselves. Every week, we have to field calls that, “I’ve been told this, this, and this.” That’s incorrect. “I’ve been told for example, that I’m going to lose my VA benefits if I make a Camp Lejeune claim.” That is completely false, completely false. There might be a slight set off if the benefits directly tied to… For example, if someone has Parkinson’s disease, which usually they’re not getting VA benefits for Parkinson’s disease, there might be a set off, but we’ll deal with that.
And they’re not going to get hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands. Okay? They’re getting a nominal sum on a monthly basis. And so they’re absolutely going to come out better if they make a claim. Okay? They’re not going to be denied their benefits. Okay? And it’s a very high bar for the VA to even deduct that from their benefits. Okay? So, they’re being told things by the VA case managers to scare them into not making claims. Oh my God. Are you kidding me? Let’s poison them. Let’s deny them benefits. And now the one shot they’ve had in 30 plus years for reparations, where the government actually says, “Oh yeah, we’ve been killing them and not telling them. We feel guilty. Let’s actually put a bill through Congress that gives them a very tight window, two years, because it’s a two year statute of limitations, where they can actually have a shot at getting some recovery, their own recovery. We’re going to lie to them so they don’t get any money.”
Now, the other thing is, a fair amount of these folks think, “I’m not going to get a lawyer, these greedy lawyers.” And I’m going to say exactly what they’re saying, “These greedy ambulance chasing lawyers that are charging 40%, why would I do that? I’m going to get a package from the government in the mail.” There’s no package coming. There’s no package coming from the government. You’re going to be waiting and at the year, two years and one day, you will no longer be able to get a dime. Okay? So, I don’t know how we tell these folks different, but they have got to get a lawyer to help them with this. Okay?
If we have to lower our fee, whatever we have to do, but they have to sign up for this and they need a lawyer. Number one, first, we got to help them get their form 95, and number two. Okay? Then after six months, we got to file it in the Eastern District of North Carolina. The other thing that has happened recently that’s extremely important is a lot of out-of-state lawyers swooped in and said, “We’re going to help you.” Well, guess what? The judges said, “No, you’re not. You better be North Carolina counsel to do it.” Now, why is it important we’re getting personal information? Well, first of all, we do need a lot of information about their health conditions, where they worked, where they lived to fill out the forms, but we want to know them as human beings. We want to know something about them.
We do it with our own clients, not just on mass torts, but we do it in mass torts as well, because that’s how you form a relationship. How do you develop friends? You have things in common, right? But the reason why we talk to the client about that nugget is because they have stuff like that going on in their lives too. Okay? They have a dog that has to go to the vet that’s struggling. They have a kitty cat they lost a week or two ago. They have a grandson that just made honor roll. Okay? They have a nephew that got fired because he was smoking dope behind the Taco Bell, whatever it is. And that’s the important stuff that’s going on in their lives.
Susan Barfield (28:17):
Michael DeMayo (28:17):
Okay? We all have things. Okay? And just because… And I think that is what makes us human. We’re always with our clients when things are down. They’ve been in an accident, they’ve been in a wreck, they’ve been poisoned by the government in a mass tort. Okay? We’re there by their side. We’re going to help them get their life back together. We’re going to put their life back together. That’s not the time when they need to be dealing with some snarly, matter of fact case manager or lawyer. They need to be talking to someone who’s empathetic and kind and sympathetic, someone who’s going to listen to them. Sometimes people just want to talk. Sometimes we send out a birthday card or a holiday card or a card because someone has lost a loved one, and it’s sad, but they’ll call us back and they’ll say, “That’s the only card I got. Thank you so much.” It’s sad that that’s the only card they got, but it’s nice that at least we send them a card.
But we do a thing where, and I stole this, I acquired this from another law firm, where if a client tells us something, they send me the a card and it has everyone in the office initials, and I’ll write something and everyone will sign it. And we get just such positive comments from people on that, just on the fact that we take the time. It’s funny, the smallest touches and the smallest little details are important. I mean, think about it, when you hand write a note to someone saying, “I hope you get better soon,” or “Congratulations on your wedding,” or “Congratulations on having a new savage, boy or a girl.” I know they’re not going to be savages forever, but right now in my household, they’re savages. But anyway, so the importance of when you talk to someone, when you’re calling one of our clients, don’t go through a checklist.
Okay? Yeah, you need to get information, but you’re having a human contact with a human being, and it matters. Okay? So, you’re making a connection, developing a relationship. If you’re not going to do that, don’t bother to make the call. And when you’re calling, have a smile on your face. If not, don’t bother to make the call. I used to train the receptionist when we first started the firm, and I would put a mirror in front of them. And I’d go, “Look in the mirror. If you’re not smiling, don’t pick up the phone.” It was like me, the receptionist, three other people. I’d say, “If you’re not smiling, let the phone ring and I’ll pick it up.” And then we grew, and then we had 30 people, 40 people, and I could still see the phone ringing. And if the phone ring more than twice or three times, I’d pick it up.
I’ll never forget one day a lawyer, I said, “Good morning, good afternoon, DeMayo Offices.” It was professional friendliness. And the lawyer says, “Michael?” “Yes.” “What are you doing answering the phone?” I said, “Well, apparently no one else wanted to answer the answer the phone.” And everyone flipped out. And I said, “I’m not angry.” I said, “But we answer the phone after two rings.” And I said, “No one else answers after two rings. I’m answering it.”
Susan Barfield (31:32):
Michael DeMayo (31:33):
That’s how we work. But it’s critically important to make a connection every time you talk to someone, because I think that’s what we’re… In this world, I think we’re here to help each other, and part of that is connecting with people. My favorite saying, and I’m not sure that you asked me this, but my favorite saying is, I’ve never seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul. Okay? And what I’ve extrapolated from that is that the winner in the game of life is not the person who makes the most money or amass the most material things, it’s the person who amass the most friends. Way you do that is by always being available to help other people and being open to creating relationships and connections. I said, if you can make a difference in someone’s life, every time you go somewhere or every time you interact with someone, what if everyone did that? What if everyone in this world did that, every time they touched a human being? Not just in their job.
Susan Barfield (32:42):
Michael DeMayo (32:43):
In the grocery store… I always love those… What’s the guy’s name? John Quiñones or whatever. What Would You Do? I love those shows. When they see if the person’s going to do the right thing or standing up for someone, oh, I love those shows. I mean, I just love those because I always applaud the people that do the right thing, that stand up for the underdog, because I think that’s what we do as plaintiff’s lawyers. We stand up for the underdog. And it’s so much better if you do it and you don’t get any credit for it, like if you leave a tip or you leave something and no one knows it was you, because I always think you get extra points when you die or something. I don’t know. But anyway, I went off tangent there. But the point of asking the extra question is to have that extra… I mean, I can call and say, “Oh, Ms. Johnson, tell me about your Camp Lejeune. Tell me about where you live. Tell me about your medicals,” blah blah, blah, checklist. “All right, have a nice day.” That’s it.
That’ll always be a business relationship. If on the other hand, I call, “How are you doing today? What’s going on in your life? Tell me anything new and exciting. Oh really? Oh, your daughter’s going to get married in a week. Oh, that’s great. What’s going on there?” That’s a different call.
Susan Barfield (34:01):
Michael DeMayo (34:02):
You still get the same information on paper, but you’ve developed a relationship that’s a different, different interaction. It’s a thousand percent different. And the value of that won’t be necessarily in the computer. It might be because you’ll have that nugget, but wow, that will have an impact, not only for the relationship that that person now has with the firm through Case Works and through our firm DeMayo Offices or DeMayo Law Group with us, but what a difference you’re going to make in that person’s life. Because a lot of these folks are elderly, they’re a little confused, that’s going to resonate with them. That phone call is going to make a much bigger impact than if it had just been down… It might take an extra five or 10 minutes, it might. So, from an efficiency standpoint, you or their boss might go, “These calls are taking a little bit longer.” But guess what? You might not have to make as many of these calls because it resonates, because they’re remembering what was said.
Susan Barfield (35:17):
Or when you do make an outbound call and have to leave a message, they-
Michael DeMayo (35:23):
They’re calling right back.
Susan Barfield (35:23):
Yeah, they’re going to call you right back. And so I think the message today, Michael, that you’ve shared is that every case is a life, and it’s not just about the metrics and about how you’re moving the cases forward. That’s important, but it’s about the connection. And again, I love your passion. I’ve seen it firsthand, and it’s just something that I wanted to make sure that not only my team heard, but that other attorneys in the industry. This is what everyone should be doing, and this is the level of care that we need to provide, not only to Camp Lejeune, but to all of our clients.
Michael DeMayo (36:03):
Every one of these people that you talk to is someone’s mother, brother, sister, father, uncle, child, right? And I like to say we treat folks… Well, sometimes you treat family not good, so it may be better than family, right? But hopefully you treat your family well, so you treat them as family. But when I started my firm… This September was our 30th anniversary. September one was our 30th anniversary from opening the firm. And when I opened the doors of our offices 30 years ago, I had a very simple vision statement, and we really have tried not to deviate from that, from day one. And it was very, very easy. It was put the client’s interest first, and everything else will follow. And everything else was paying the rent, paying people salaries, the reputation, the victories in court, the accolades, the growth. And ironically, everything else is [inaudible 00:37:10].
And we’ve broken every rule. I mean, people said, “Don’t cut your fee. That’s the dumbest thing you can do.” We’ve cut our feet on every case. They said, “Don’t call the clients as frequently as you do. That’s dumb.” We did that. They said… Everything people told us not to do, we did. I mean, literally. The focus on customer service… In fact, I remember for the first 15 years of my practice, I would go to these seminars with other marketing lawyers and everyone would tell me, “You are all wrong. You’re all focused on customer service and quality.” And they were like, “Spend more money on TV, spend more money on advertising.” And I’d be like, “Well, number one, I don’t think that’s right. Number two, I don’t have the money to spend it on that, so I’m just focusing on giving the client just a phenomenal customer experience.” And they’re like, “You’re wrong.” And then fast forward, 15 years later, I had these huge law firms coming to visit my firm going, “How do you do this again?”
And they would come and spend a couple days going through and they were just taking notes, and they were sending their CEOs and COOs and the owners. And they were just hanging on my every word. And I remember when I did the Ritz Carlton DeMayo customer service at the one that they do in Miami, the-
Susan Barfield (38:37):
National trial lawyers?
Michael DeMayo (38:40):
Trial lawyers, trial lawyers. And I did the seminar. And I mean, after I put on the presentation, I even had the people from [inaudible 00:38:49] office. I literally, after the presentation, they descended on me like a hoard. But what was so funny was, I remember prepping for that seminar and doing all the… There was 18 points. Do this, do this, do this. And the paralegal helping me put it together said, “Mr. DeMayo, we’re giving them all our secrets.” I said, “So what?” It’s like, “Aren’t you worried?” I go, “Why?” She goes, “Why not?” I said, “Because not one of these lawyers is going to do it.” And you say, “Why not?” I said, “Because it takes work, it takes… You’re going to give away some of your fee, and they’re not going to do it. They’re not going to do it because they just won’t do it.”
And I went through it and I said, “Do this, this.” I said, “I’d be thrilled if any of these law firms would go back and implement some of these things.” And a lot of what we do is modeled after the Ritz Carlton philosophy, which is they give every one of their employees a blank check up to $2,000 to make a guest’s stay more enjoyable. The janitor all the way up to the CEO can spend up to $2,000 to make any guess that they see that their stay at a property more enjoyable. And I experienced it the first time I stayed at a Ritz Carlton. And I won’t go into the story, but when I experienced it, and it was a small purchase that they made for me in the middle of the night, I arrived. In those days, I wore contacts, and they went and they bought me some contact lens cleaner.
I checked out. I said, “Hey, you’re missing this on the bill?” And they said no. And I was arguing with the person at the front desk. I said, “No, you did.” I said, “The guy wouldn’t let me give him a tip.” And I said, “This is wrong,” and I scared everyone at the front desk. And so I went back and researched. I said, “That’s amazing.” And I said, “I’m going to implement something like that.” That’s why when you came to my office, there was a concierge. The second time you come to my office, we’ll know what you like to drink, what kind of coffee, soda, whatever, whether you like the DeMayo cookies, what snacks you like. If you were a client, we’d have a drive-by, not the bad kind, but if you had a case manager/paralegal and a lawyer, they would come greet you accidentally in the lobby and just say hello, even if you weren’t there to see them, but that would be kind of pre-planned.
Your snacks of choice, your coffee of choice, how you like to drink your coffee, that would already be programmed in and the concierge would bring that to you. That’s the level. You get that at the Ritz. You don’t get at any other hotel. But that’s why when I go to a seminar, like that trial lawyers, it was at the Lowe’s, right? Where did I stay? At the Ritz club level. Because they’ve made a believer out of me, I’m a lifetime disciple. And all it took was a $15 bottle of saline about 20 years earlier. So, we are making DeLaw disciples. You can do that. And you say, “Why do I want to make a disciple out of a PI client?” Because you don’t want them to get hurt again. But guess what? Their mother, their brother, their sister, their father, and their sphere of influence, they’re going to send you clients, and their sphere of influence in mass torts.
For example, this Camp Lejeune community, Marines, who are [inaudible 00:42:09]? Other Marines and their wives. So, it’s very important that we show these folks compassion because they’ve gone through a lot and they’re going through a lot, and getting them… I was on a call two days ago with a bunch of lawyers, and they said, “Oh, they don’t know where they lived.” And I, just flippantly, I’m not thinking, “What do you mean they don’t know where they live?” And he very smartly goes, “Michael, where did you live in law school?” And I go, “Good point.” I said, “I lived between Duke and Chapel Hill, but I didn’t know where I lived. I lived in some apartment complex on 15501.” I go, “Good point.” I said, “I don’t remember the apartment complex on 15501.” And I go… And my little flip himself shut its mouth and said, “You’re right.”
I mean, granted, they lived on the base, but they don’t know the complex they lived at Hadnot Point or [inaudible 00:43:04]. And I go, “Yeah, you know what, DeMayo, shut up.” Your mouth gets ahead of your brain sometimes. And that makes perfect sense that they don’t remember exactly their address. So, even being sensitive to that. And they’re in their seventies. I’m a little bit younger and I don’t remember if I went to the restroom two hours ago. So, good Lord. So, sometimes just being a little compassionate and kind and caring, and sometimes we forget to do that a little bit. So, not that you asked me that, but just being like that as an individual in our lives, if we can show a little bit more patience with each other and kindness, goes a long way. I think it goes a long way. And I’d like to see that if anyone’s representing my firm, at least if they’re dealing with our clients. We try to teach that with our staff.
And by the way, we try to teach it amongst our staff. Because if we’re not treating our staff that way, what are we saying? If I go out and scream at everyone here in the office? Well, I’m the biggest hypocrite there is. So, I mean, first, I’ve got to treat people that work here nice and kind and be empathetic, compassionate with them if I want that type of level of service and compassion and kindness if they’re interacting with our clients. So, hopefully at Case Works, you do that with your staff. I’m sure you do, right?
Susan Barfield (44:31):
For sure. Yeah. No, again, I-
Michael DeMayo (44:35):
By the way, the only one quality I think I do have is reading people for a living, and I do think… I sense that you do do that with your team. So, I feel like that… I feel fairly comfortable that you do do that with your team.
Susan Barfield (44:48):
Michael, thank you so much for taking time to share with us all the tidbits, the words of wisdom, kind of giving us all the secrets of the DeMayo way. I appreciate you sharing all of that today and just reminding us the importance of connection. Every time we talk with someone, don’t think about a case, think about the life that’s been impacted and how we can leave some impression, positive impression on them and create that connection so that they become raving fans and they become a part of the DeMayo family.
Michael DeMayo (45:30):
Well, absolutely. Sure. And my pleasure, and I’ll be honest with you, I don’t really call them secrets, and I don’t really think there’s anything special or unique about what we do. I mean, to be honest with you, I think it’s just being a kind, empathetic, sympathetic individual human being. And I think sometimes we get a little too wrapped up and a little too technical about what we do, but it’s being sincere and unique in how we relate to other human beings. Sometimes I think we get so caught up in our daily lives and what’s important, what’s not important. And when you think about it, a lot of the stuff that we place importance on ain’t that important. I got this or that, or I got to get the car oil change, whatever it is. But if you distill what really is important in life, it’s our health, our family relationships and our friends, and everything else, there’s usually a solution to it.
And so it’s important, I think at least, how we treat people and how we interact with folks. And I just have always believed that if you can make a positive difference in someone’s life, if you can put a smile on someone’s face, versus having no impact or putting a frown on their face, why not do that? From the most pessimistic standpoint, what’s it going to hurt? What’s it going to hurt? Why not do that? And sometimes when I’m talking to my teenagers, every once in a while I think I see a light that they go, “Wow, Dad has a little bit of wisdom here.” But why not make someone’s day a little bit brighter? Why not lift them up a little bit? And by the way, when you do that, inevitably, your day gets lifted, your day gets brighter. The person who benefits from that interaction inevitably is you, because you go away feeling so much better about yourself. Because when you help someone, when you give something of yourself with no expectations of getting anything in return, wow, what a feeling you get.
And just try that once or twice or 10 times a day. And let me tell you, at the end of the day, do a survey, do a little psychological mental survey of how you feel. I had a priest that used to call it getting your mental ya yas, getting your battery recharged. And we all have things that recharge us emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, and you can’t help but feel good if you’ve done something to lift someone else up, and certainly if you didn’t have any ulterior motive other than to help someone else. That’s just the way we’re wired.
So, yeah, it’s no secret. It’s no secret. It’s just whatever supreme being you believe in it, it’s something that does make us feel good about ourselves. And so even if it’s not altruistic, if it’s for your self benefit or self-preservation. They always say Work on self, right? Work on self first. But I think part of working on self is being part of the community, realizing that we’re all part of this integral community, and part of that is making sure that you contribute to the community. And face it, in many ways, you are blessed, so make sure that you help out the folks that aren’t as blessed sometimes, or at least you share some of that love and kindness and empathy that you have. That’s all. So, thank you. Thank you. I appreciate you asking me some questions about things that I think are important in life.
Susan Barfield (49:33):
Yeah, absolutely. Okay, Michael, have a great rest of your day. Thank you so much.
Michael DeMayo (49:39):
Susan Barfield (49:39):
And we’ll talk soon.
Michael DeMayo (49:41):
Sounds good. Take care.
Susan Barfield (49:43):
Michael DeMayo (49:44):