Southfield personal injury lawyer Geoffrey Fieger is making no apologies for his new, demanding business model that requires lawyers to carry a certain number of cases at all times, and take three cases to trial every year, or face a financial fine.
But the new model is the thing that drove associate lawyer Arnold Matusz, who worked for Fieger for nearly 12 years, to leave the firm in May, along with his colleagues Paul Broschay and William McHenry, who will share office space with him when they open their new office on June 1, Matusz said.
Fieger Firm partner Ven Johnson told Michigan Lawyers Weekly last week (see story here) that he too left to open his own practice, and associate Rebecca S. Walsh is now listed on the State Bar of Michigan’s website at a Bloomfield Hills law firm.
In all, according to Matusz, nine lawyers have left the firm, starting with two appellate lawyers who left in December and February. He said he was the first of the trial lawyers to resign, and that was in late March, though he stayed on board for six weeks after giving notice.
“I’m thankful to the firm. I learned a lot working there,” Matusz said. “It was always a difficult place to work, but recently it became intolerable. I had substantial concerns about the new policies.”
The policies, he said, would have required trial lawyers to keep a caseload of 30 cases at all times. And if three cases didn’t go to trial every year, the lawyer would face having to pay a $25,000 fine.
“I didn’t have the control over which cases settled and which went to trial. The partners decided all that,” he said.
Fieger said he agrees that lawyers who don’t want to, or can’t, keep that pace should probably work somewhere else. And the departures — Matusz said there were nine, Fieger said there was not — have had no impact on the size of his firm.
“We have more lawyers this week than we did last week,” Fieger said.
He said the new, more rigorous business model is not just going to be good for his firm. It would be good for all firms.
“I expect lawyers to handle a certain number of cases to the best of their ability, and to try a certain number of cases in a year. We’re trial lawyers. That’s what we do,” Fieger said. “The reason Fieger Law has survived for this long, and the reason Geoffrey Fieger is still in business, is because of the high demands I put on these lawyers.”