125. Drew Britcher, Britcher Leone & Sergio — Reciprocal Relationships: Community First Firms

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At just 27 in 1987, Drew Britcher was given the chance to take a medical malpractice case to trial. The result: a $1.2 million dollar decision. That’s just over $3 million today. Since then, the co-founder of Britcher Leone & Sergio has recovered over $250 million and tried nearly 100 cases to verdict. His success is due, in large part, to building strong referral networks and letting his values drive marketing.

Today, I sat with Drew to discuss financing for law firms, emphasizing relationship building as a lead generator, and positioning brands to be client first.

What’s in This Episode

  • Who is Drew Britcher?
  • When most personal injury attorneys refer out medical malpractice cases, why has Drew made this his focus?
  • When cases cost upwards of $100K before going to trial, what special financing is available for firms?
  • What are the tactics that he uses to develop a thriving network of upstream referral partners?
  • How does networking interface with marketing to get a better ROI?

Transcript

Drew Britcher

In any given week, we get somewhere in the ballpark of about 30 new client inquiries and med mal and turn down 28 of them.

Chris Dreyer

Let your values guide every aspect of your practice and watch it grow.

Drew Britcher

Our website there are no dollar signs. There’s very little emphasis on, the amount of money we recovered over the years there was an emphasis on, expertise and on experience and on teamwork

Chris Dreyer

You’re listening to Personal Injury Mastermind, where we give you the tools you need to take your personal injury practice to the next level. Sometimes the skill get lucky and are given rare opportunities that will change the course of their career. At just 27, drew Britcher was given the chance to take a medical malpractice case to trial. Back then in 1987, he recovered an unheard of $1.2 million dollars. Over the past two decades, the co-founder of Britcher Leone and Sergio has recovered over $250 million dollars, has tried nearly a hundred cases to verdict and, has served as either counsel of record or amicus counsel and nearly 40 reported decisions of the United States Supreme Court, the New Jersey Supreme Court and Appellate Division, but he’s not built his empire alone. I sat with Drew to discuss how to build a strong reciprocal relationships with other firms and explore how the philosophy of practice drives marketing. I’m your host, Chris Dreyer, founder, and CEO of Rankings.io we help elite personal injury attorneys dominate first page rankings with search engine optimization. Being at the forefront of marketing is all about understanding people. So let’s get to know our guests. Here’s Drew Britcher co-founder of Britcher Leone & Sergio on when he first knew that he would be a lawyer.

Drew Britcher

It’s going to sound a little bit weird and lame, but kindergarten. My father was in the 1950s, the manager of the United States Senate restaurant, and And by the way, I’m not quite that old, I’m a late life child for my family. I wasn’t born till 1959, but my dad having run the Senate Restaurant when I was a kid, gave me a whole bunch of books that he collected while he was in DC. And I kinda had this everybody who was a leader was a lawyer. So wanting to be a leader, wanted to be a lawyer.

Chris Dreyer

Well, it’s nice that it clicked so you could really set that path and a lot of people, even myself included, I went to college, got a history education degree, and here I am doing digital marketing. And it was nice that you had that path and could see that future for yourself.

Drew Britcher

I will tell you the most valuable part of my undergraduate education is my social studies teaching certificate because being a trial lawyer, it’s like teaching a bunch of high school students, only a different group, every trial.

Chris Dreyer

Your first 16 years you spent at other firms really making a name for yourself, trying a lot of cases and going up through the ranks. And you became partner at one firm. when did you know it was time to open your own practice or go out on your own?

Drew Britcher

At some level forced upon me. My initial two partners on this practice and I, we were partner. Just brand new partner and associate. But all three of us in roughly the same age bracket and the firm dissolved as the senior people all hit the point of having to start hitting their retirement funds. And we went separate directions. I joined a different firm. And then the three of us got together four years later to create the current firm.

Chris Dreyer

It’s really interesting the MandA, it’s not as common and legal and they don’t have that big exit where it’s more, individuals take over the firm are there, like there’s like a merger. So they just chose to dissolve, which is really interesting.

Drew Britcher

Yeah. The dissolution was really driven by, how their partnership agreement was structured. And so it was a pretty tumultuous time for all of us. And it would be fair to say that none of the three of us had the opportunity to plan for doing something else the way we might’ve liked it, we basically had, I think it was all of about two months to settle somewhere else.

Chris Dreyer

So let’s talk about those early days. So you have a tremendous amount of experience and med mal PI cases. Did you start off niching down that for that, sub area of law of med mal, or did you start off as a general PI how did you make that transition? Tell me about that.

Drew Britcher

When I was in law school I clerked my last two years for a firm that was pretty much a med mal firm. And I clerked directly for a lawyer who was a nurse attorney. She took me pretty early on to the medical library and taught me how to do medical research in the days when we still did them in books. And, An event that occurred one night where I found something. Some medical research that turned out to be an article written about the very case that the senior partner was handling at that time. And it took a case that was, a good case and turned it into an not only great but phenomenal case. And it drew me in. So when I was getting out of law school, I was specifically looking to join firms that did med mal or PI. And when I got the opportunity to join a large firm with a small PI med mal department, and became the partner in charges med-mal associate while someone else was his PI associate, it really gave me a great opportunity to develop into that focus. Sometimes luck and skill combined are really good. The partner in charge of that department made a decision to leave. We had a case come up for trial a couple of months later that the only other person in the firm they knew was me. And so at the ripe old age of 27, I was trying a. Medical malpractice case involving what ultimately ended up in an amputation that by no means should any 27 year old be trying as their first case. And back in 1987, when million-dollar verdicts were pretty rare in New Jersey, I got a $1.2 million verdict. And the next thing I knew I had a lot of people quesitoning whether I was him when I showed up for the new client interviews, because I was too young. One lady once told me, you can’t be him. I have bunioins that are older than you.

Chris Dreyer

Oh boy. That’s an amazing story. And, getting that $1.2 million verdict. And I imagine that the confidence grew from there they probably felt a lot more comfortable giving you more of those cases, which then in terms all that momentum starts to occur from that?

Drew Britcher

And not for nothing by total fluke and again, luck, beat skill sometimes. It got covered in one of these jury verdict publications, and it was, the front page of that particular edition. And then they decided to use that particular edition as their promo. So everybody got a copy and then they put it in the national and on the front page and everybody got a copy. So I had, you know, people. I went to law school in New York who were now suddenly making me their go-to guy in New Jersey.

Chris Dreyer

Fantastic. I’ve spoke to many PI attorneys and most don’t do med mal or they’ll do some small variation of it 99% of the cases they refer out and, is it the competition? Why is it the more difficult to get into and why do people approach it differently?

Drew Britcher

I’ll start at the backside of that and its expense as a huge component of it. I think the total expense in my $1.2 million verdict in 1987 through trial was under $10,000. And today, you cough and you’ve spent $10,000. We find, the average file, we’ve got $50,000 in it just to get it to the point where there’s a conversation about resolution. Theres a, you know, hundred thousand and most of our cases, by the time you complete a trial, we’ve had cases with, a quarter of a million dollars before trial was even reached. in light of the fact that you either A) are putting your own money in a, that many people don’t have, or trying to find very unique financing, which is what we’ve been able to do. You really are in a position where it’s very hard to do this.

Chris Dreyer

I just want to touch on that financing aspect because, we’ve touched on last episode, overfunded whole life insurance and, being in your own bank and then there’s Esquire bank where you can borrow against the value, what’s some of those things in terms, because the cashflow could certainly be an issue cause you accrue all these costs before you get the settlement. So do you have any input in regards to that?

Drew Britcher

I do and I don’t in a way because we probably started who knows how many years ago with getting a bank to give us a line of credit that was basically a five-year revolving line of credit, where we just paid the interest and for a period of time, we went along where, the cases would settle new money and the money would come back. We’d roll it in. We get to the end of a good year. We choose to have some, phantom income, which anybody who does what I do, understand what I mean by Phantom income. And we balanced it that way to the point where, now we have a much, much more significant line, same bank and part of it is because of taking Phantom income from time to time. In good years, we have about double the amount in actual pending disbursements as we have on that interest only line of credit. So the bank feels comfortable that they’re covered by the fact that we have twice as much impending disbursements as we have out on the line.

Chris Dreyer

Drew puts careful intent into every aspect of his firm. He explains that how you want to portray your firm should guide your marketing.

Drew Britcher

We believe that our niche in the marketing world is about the combination of experience and reputation, and teamwork. Certainly I’ve done this for a very long time and tried a lot of cases and had great success. But, part of that is the team that developed that ability. Initially my partner, Dr. Leon, who’s a radiologist as well as an attorney and my former partner, Minnie Michael’s Roth, and who left us several years ago to become one of the special masters to the United States court of Federal Claims. I got to be the one who went to court and did all the things, because the teamwork behind me saw to it, that everything was in place. Our firm has a logo. the scales of justice with intertwined serpents from the, from the caduceus of medicine. The tagline is “Uniting medicine and law. Rebuilding your future.” That still continues, although on our PI side, we tend to use these days, the tagline of “Insurance companies have their own lawyers, let us be yours”. And our websites to develop with a little different mindset than some while we work on SEO considerably. We’ve always made the determination that ours is, a reputational or our reinforcement site rather than the primary, because in any given week, we get somewhere in the ballpark of about 30 new client inquiries and med mal and turn down over the telephone 28 of them. So we’re not in a position where we’re in need for work. Always can use better cases, no matter how good they are. But therefore, the sites developed with certain things in mind, the very first thing that you read does, after they’ve been picked as violate what the court told them and go look at your website. So our website there are no dollar signs. There’s very little emphasis on, the amount of money we recovered over the years there was an emphasis on, expertise and on experience and on teamwork. many years ago, we made a conscious decision to start sharing some of our medical research with some of our colleagues and allowing them to donate into a charity fund. Our firm has had, since pretty much at the beginning and that is allowed us to not only make great connections, cause I’m a huge believer in the networking side of what we do, because so much of the work, as you mentioned, so few people do med mal. The vast majority of med mal is going to come by referral. And so can we use it as a networking opportunity, but it gave us a chance to do a lot of really great things over time. We’ve subsequently added the fact that occasionally people come to me and ask me to be personal counsel to a physician or to be an expert witness in a legal malpractice case. And any money that comes in from that goes into the charity fund rather than, to us individually. And so you go to our website, right after you get homepage and about you get to charitable works because what I want is a juror not to see. Some sense that we are an emphasis on money and more an emphasis on giving back.

Chris Dreyer

That’s a very smart approach to your positioning. and I was going to ask that because I would imagine that the referrals were heavy and that you’d have to maintain that positioning. I know when I was doing my research for our conversation today, that was one of the things that stood out to me was like, on the homepage. You have the experts in this the medical field. And I thought, oh if I was in this circumstance, that would be very appealing for me to understand that they knew both sides. The other thing I did notice the charitable right in the menu very prominent area, not buried, not a dropdown menu and because you’re getting referrals, you need to make it not only, in the case that you’re talking about from the jury but also from your referral partners, when you’re going upstream and those relationships. In terms of the relationships, let’s start, let’s talk about that obviously. The proof, right? These amazing cases and settling these big cases, but what are some of the tactics that you’re personally taking to try to develop your network in addition to coming on the podcast and other things like that?

Drew Britcher

Before the pandemic, I ate dinner at some Bar Association function somewhere in the ballpark of three to four times a week. I’ve always been that person for our firm. When we started our practice, I did the marketing arm and did the business and Mindy did the office. While some of those things have evolved differently over time, I still am of that mindset. When I was young, I made an effort when I went to a courthouse that I’d always take the longest route, leaving the courthouse to run intopeople talk to people to make those connections to visit, the judges that I knew, the staff of the judges that I knew the law clerks are there is that I, came to know. I’ve always tried to never say “no” to the invitation to teach and to participate in things like Inns of court. And I think, Is a large part of it, but I think then, getting out and being somebody who engages in the, the social aspects of your community. I’ve been on the development committee of a food pantry for a very long time. And I’ve also worked with, a few of the, battered women’s shelters and youth shelters not just in making contributions to them financially, but to try and get out and occasionally do something yourself that might just bring a tear to your eye when you do it and remind you why you want to do other things. And I think that every contact you make is another potential person. the networking interfaces back with your marketing, both from a website, and traffic standpoint. But even for that matter, the yellow pages is a non-existent thing anymore. Okay. I still spend the money to have the back cover of the yellow pages and the counties where I am, because it’s a reinforcement, we do run some television ads in the market that we’re in .There perhaps different than the average PI firm or med mal firm, because.A percentage of them are very much focused on, the fact that I’m a certified civil trial attorney that, those crazy ranking things rank me highly each year that Armand’s a physician and the images and et cetera, are based upon those things. And we don’t talk somebody else talks about us. And then, and there’s never any, call us and we’re going to get you money because it’s gotta be consistent with the image we’re trying to set. I’ve had judges who’ve come up to me in courthouses and say, I didn’t know that television advertising could be done in such a, in their mind professional way. Which is a great compliment to have paid. A percentage of them is, a focus on that being where we are and that combination of medicine and law has an advantage, in the non-medical fields as well. Certainly you talk to judges will tell you the best trial lawyers they come before them on both sides. Or the med mal plaintiffs and med mal defense lawyers because they’re constantly trying more cases and trying more cases that go for three weeks, four weeks, six weeks, I’ve done seven. a portion of our advertisements are public service announcement in a way. my partner being a radiologist, me being the child of parents who both suffered from smoking related cancers when the societies came out with a recommendation for doing low dose CT. For people who have long-term smoking histories. And we saw that a lot of the primary care groups weren’t making that recommendation, even though it was now, a US preventative task force recommendation. We not only started taking on cases involving that we started running advertisements on the idea that if you’re a long-term smoker you haven’t had somebody tell you about low dose CT, talk to your doctor with no call us if you know that didn’t happen without any just let’s hope it saves a life or two. And, we’ve had one or two people over the years that we’ve been doing this who’ve actually said to us, I didn’t realize my doctor never mentioned I went and got one. I got found out. I had a small treatable lesion in my lung and, I’m cured instead of finding out what it was too late. And so that kind of feeds into that same profile who we are and who we want to be.

Chris Dreyer

So different than how most personal injury firms position themselves. And I got to imagine, that Simon Sinek, the “why”, when you hear those stories, it’s gotta just invigorate you and make you feel validated that the decision of to do those types of things really are worthwhile.

Drew Britcher

All it takes is anybody who’s ever been through having a family member who’ve suffered longterm from a cancer and you completely understand why any chance to help or impact somebody else and their family makes it well worth whatever the investment is.

Chris Dreyer

Let me play on the opposite side of the coin, Because Drew you have some massive settlements and some individuals are looking for to maximize the amount of money they earn. So have you seen a situation where it’s been a disadvantage or overwhelmingly just the way you’re positioned as experts in the medical community

Drew Britcher

On very rare occasion maybe, but I would say this to you, med mal the first thing you got to do is win. Which means the first thing he can do is prove the medicine. If you don’t do that part, you don’t win. The statistic in my state is that, 74% of all the med mal cases that get tried to verdict are won by the insurance companies. There’s 26% left for the rest. Any lawyer ever tells you that they do malpractice and they never lost the case. They’re either lying or they haven’t tried very many of them because it’s not a field in which that can possibly be true. And I can certainly say over my career, I there’s cases I’ve lost. I thought I should have won. And our cases, I won that I felt I should have lost. Jury’s get it right 95 to 99% of the time. And I would tell you that reasonably speaking I think people first and foremost want to know they’re in the hands of somebody who has the ability to try a case when it has to be tried the expertise to know when they shouldn’t be tried and the ability to prove the medicine at a level that isn’t completely dependent on somebody outside the office. Having the ability to have not only my partner being a radiologist, but there were two nurses in the office, I think it more than makes up for that if people really want to know the numbers, they asked me and the numbers are just as favorable as anybody else.

Chris Dreyer

What’s a top med mal from looking to achieve, are they looking to hit, the 80%?

Drew Britcher

Reasonably speaking, this is off the cuff, but in the last probably decade. of the cases we’ve taken past the point of filing suit, something on the order of about 90% of them have been compensated and probably seven or 8% of that 10. Are not ones we lost. They’re ones where some factual information turned out to be different as we went along than what we started with.

Chris Dreyer

I want to circle back around here, drew, but I want to, you touched on values a ton And I just wanted you to briefly talk to me about how your firm handles birth injuries and the prevention work you aim to do.

Drew Britcher

We meet these kids. We don’t just meet the parents. We go to their homes. We see the circumstances of what the parents are living through. When we do “Day in the Life” videotapes, for eventual trial we go to the house, we’re there to see and stand in the background and see what’s getting taped. We recognize that if there’s a place, we can make a difference, it’s so often in those instances where, you know somebody has a child who has never walked, has never talked in some instances is, fed by a tube. In some instances is, got an apparatus breathing for them. And the birth of your child is the most unbelievable thing in the world. And when it gets turned onits ear. So many parents, I just don’t know where to turn. They don’t know how to find the help and being able to provide them with the resources necessary for their child to have dignity and for them to have some semblance of a life. I can tell you that sitting in my drawer is a note from a client years ago when we resolve the case, she wrote me a note and she said, I know, you know what you did for my son. I don’t know if you know what you did for me, because having the ability to have reliable and dependable help that does the things I need them to do in my house gives me the ability from time to go out and have a lunch, have a dinner and know that I don’t have to worry that my son’s okay.You’re hoping that each time you do one of those, there’s something that comes out of it for the doctor that means the next time they’ll do something you know, differently. I’m sure you’ve probably heard of the area of law and medical malpractice, cold shoulder dystocia, where, a child ends up with an arm that is, limp and sometimes weathered and et cetera, because a physician, rather than being a catcher decides to be a polar and it stretches the nerve and tears it and the child has that problem. Years ago, we had a spate of these coming from the same hospital from a situation where the residency director was somebody who we had sued as a physician himself and where, during his deposition, shockingly, when I asked him how a particular maneuver was done He described it in a manner that I later decided to refer to as the Exorcist maneuver, because he essentially told me he was going to turn the baby’s head and the shoulders would follow, which is the last thing you want to be doing. And so when we settled, I think what was the fifth or six case against either him, one of his residents. Or a doctor who he had trained in residency. We refuse to settle it unless the hospital agreed to take our shoulder dystocia animation on how to properly perform the maneuvers and show it to their OB residency classes from then on because we were just tired of seeing these kids who, couldn’t raise their one arm above their head fully, and to be candid, the number of those cases we’ve seen since coming from that hospital has been almost non-existent and isn’t that really what we want, I’ve told people in the past, if medicine got so good that I was out of business. I could find something else to do. And I’d be happy about that.

Chris Dreyer

Drew is an incredible example of living your values and making positive impact. He explains why it’s so important for a law firm to be involved in the community.

Drew Britcher

If nothing else, we should be leaders in our communities and people who hopefully serve as an example of what you would want your community to be like. My ex-wife was once the assistant director of one of the food pantries. And so my kids grew up making the lasagna for the soup kitchen and packing bags with donated food, God bless the work that she did and with the help of some colleagues from the New Jersey association for justice, We started a Turkey drive for Thanksgiving almost 20 years ago now and every year we donate as many turkeys as the year. So for 2021, we donated, 2021 turkeys. Having dealt with some battered women’s shelters, having dealt with some kids who were at risk those two have always become very high in our consideration. YCS which is youth consultation services has always been close to our heart because the first year what we took the money and did was we went and bought Christmas gifts for the kids who were in these youth shelters that they were there because they were in bad family situations. And it was hopefully something that would be temporary, but for many of them ended up being, where they tend to grow up. we don’t generally, talk about it, but The Christmas use is based on the concept of us finding an angel as we call it intermediary who helps us find a way to do something for a parent on behalf of a child where the parent may not see the next Christmas because no. Christian band called New Song that did a song several years ago, about the Christmas shoes, the little boy who was trying to buy his mother a pair of shoes, because this is her last Christmas. Okay. And, we’d gone out and done that kind of thing where we found a kid and this is what they want to do. We’ve used contacts that my partner has through his element of sport and Olympic with others to get people, to be able to go to Olympic level things and give them the limo to the airport and the flight and the car and place to stay and et cetera, because giving that child that chance to have that positive memory for the lifetime.

Chris Dreyer

Putting out so much good energy. It’s got to come back to you. And I could just feel that the kindness it’s the epitome of the Go-Giver book. And I hear it a lot, giving without expecting anything in return. And I think. Power in that. It’s not why you do it, but it is your values. And it’s elevating humanity. So to speak.

Drew Britcher

You try one little space of it anyway.

Chris Dreyer

Absolutely. And Drew for personal injury attorneys that are listening or any of our audience that wants to get in touch with you. What’s the best way to contact you?

Drew Britcher

They can start off by always going to our firm’s website, which has now become a BLSattorneys.com. Since we brought on a new partner, Tyrone Sergio. And so it’s Britcher Leone & Sergio Sergio BLS attorneys.com. They can obviously call me in either office Glen Rock or Morristown, but Glen Rock is, the original office (201) 444 1644. Where they can email me drew@medmalnj.com anytime.

Chris Dreyer

When a firm has enough cases in the pipeline to decide which ones to take ,the typical marketing channels -websites, TV ads, or back of phone books- can shift focus from visibility and exposure to reinforcement. Use rankings, merits, and accolades to speak to the success of a firm instead of settlement amounts. Drew has developed a full case load over the years. Thanks in no small part to delibrite upstream referral networking of colleagues and the community. Networking is all about relationships. Drew makes regular deposits into his network by simply just taking the long route out of the courthouse. Stopping to talk to judges and their staff, He always says yes to teaching engagements and he has even taken up positions on a development committee of a food pantry, women and youth shelters. To help build relationships with other firms, drew shares medical research with his colleagues, allowing them to donate to a charity fund. This is a great way to network while benefiting the community. I’d like to thank Drew Britcher from Britcher Leone & Sergio for sharing their story with us and I hope you gain some valuable insights from the conversation. You’ve been listening to Personal Injury Mastermind. I’m Chris Dreyer. If you like this episode, leave us a review. We’d love to hear from our listeners. I’ll catch you on next week’s PIMM with another incredible guest and all the strategies you need to master personal injury marketing.

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