21. Sol Weiss, Anapol Weiss Securing Mammoth Settlements, Developing the Next Generation of Lawyers and the Importance of Reputation

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Sol Weiss is a shareholder and director of Anapol Weiss. He is one of the most renowned attorneys in the U.S. thanks to his success in the NFL players concussion injury litigation, his enormous $3.75 billion settlement on the Fen-Phen case, and due to the part he played in the infamous Luzerne County Kids for Cash civil rights class action.

Join us on The Rankings Podcast as Sol reveals his secret to securing big settlements, and he shares what he thinks is the most important asset a lawyer possesses.

Transcript

Sol Weiss

I like to break down a case when it first comes in. I develop a theme. I figure out what I need to do to effectively persuade the jury or fact finder or corporate representative, who’s the decision-maker to get them to understand how profoundly injured my clients are.

Chris Dreyer

You don’t win the high-stakes national lawsuits just by turning up in court with a haphazard attitude. It takes dedication, preparation and a whole lot of skill that can only be developed through years of hard work and experience. And no one is more aware of this than my guest today.

Sol Weiss

The most important thing I learned is you have to have a simple story. Get rid of all the irrelevant stuff, I’m trained with some really good trial masters, some of them are psychologists. Some of them are trial lawyers. It’s all about the storytelling. And you’ve got to be very highly focused on what’s the most important aspect in your case. And the other thing you have to do, you have to talk in plain English.

Chris Dreyer

You’re listening to The Rankings Podcast, the show where top marketers and elite personal injury attorneys share their stories about getting to the top and what keeps them there. My guest today is Sol Weiss, shareholder of Anapol Weiss, and nationally renowned lawyer. Sol made a name for himself in the NFL players, concussion injury litigation, and through his work on the $3.75 billion settlement on the Fen-Phen case. Sol combs through his cases on an almost microscopic level, analyzing them from multiple angles to find their weaknesses, just like an SEO audit tool, checking every aspect of a website for optimization quality. SEO is all about the first page. And that’s also where we like to start our show. Here’s Sol Weiss, shareholder and director of Anapol Weiss.

Sol Weiss

My journey started in 1972. When I graduated from Villanova law school. My first job was at a law firm that had about 24 lawyers at that time. And, uh, I was hired to do plaintiff’s antitrust work. And, uh, four years into that job, the person I worked with Paul Anapol started his own firm. And, uh, it’s been some iteration of Anapol Weiss since 1977.

Chris Dreyer

Gotcha. And so, so take me back to the early days when you joined Paul. What was it like, you know, getting, getting your feet on the ground, you know, hustling to get those cases? I know you’d been practicing law, so maybe you already had a book of business when you started, so it was it…

Sol Weiss

No, I was right out of law school. And, uh, I was assigned to handle one big case – a price fixing case – and I was up against a very prominent Philadelphia law firm. And I spent the first year and a half of my legal career working day and night, six days a week until we got that case resolved. Paul was a personal injury lawyer as well. He was a president of the Philadelphia trial lawyers association, tried a lot of really catastrophic, injured people cases. And after that, stint doing antitrust work, I also started doing product liability work with Paul.

Chris Dreyer

So some of those… was one of the big turning points in the firm settling some of those big cases. Did that kind of give you the cash power to kind of take the marketing up to the next level? Would you say that’s fair or?

Sol Weiss

That’s pretty fair. Uh, we, I’ve been fortunate and I’ve worked on large cases all my life. I’ve had my share of some smaller cases. But in the main I have done, uh, work involving severely compromised people. And I’ve also done some business litigation for small businesses. On the plaintiff’s side.

Chris Dreyer

You could say that high value trials of national importance or sole specialty. In fact, look through his case history – again and again, he’s come out on top and helped to secure billions for his clients. I asked, Sol to tell us about those cases and describe how he got the results he did and share what they meant for his firm.

Sol Weiss

My partner in Arizona, Larry Coben, who I went to high school with, uh, he called me up and said, I’d like to work with you guys. We worked out a deal. And within about six months of being in our firm, albeit in Scottsdale, uh, he looked at a bunch of football players who would exhibited some neurological problems, severe problems. Larry has tried a number of cases against helmet, manufacturers, football, uh, horse racing, hockey and, uh, bicycle accidents. And at the time, one of my partners, Ned Ehrlich was representing injured football players for worker’s comp claims in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, new York. So it was a natural fit. We hired some really tough light experts , and away we went. We filed the first class action in federal court. We were instrumental in getting it up multi-district litigation J J PML. And, uh, it was assigned to Judge Brody who had our case. And I was one of two co-lead uh, Counsel for the plaintiff’s side.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. That really got a ton of media exposure. And I’m sure that, you know, that really, that natural kind of PR that you get, it helps the marketing initiatives. It helps with the social proof…

Sol Weiss

It does all that, Chris, um, we hired a PR firm that is the leads in the, uh, concussion case, including the steering committee. And we follow their recommendation. And early on, we decided it was best to have it all be about the players, not about the lawyers. We had about 10 or 12 players whose life stories were constantly in the media. And it mushroom from there.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. And absolutely. And, and going from there, then you’ve been involved in many other major cases. Let’s talk about Fen-Phen. How did you get into the pharmaceutical litigation space?

Sol Weiss

In, I’m going to say the early nineties, we had a client who lost his hearing. He was given a drug that caused it at the VA administration. So we filed a federal tort claim action. And after about three years it was successful, we got a lot of money for the client. Fen-Phen started in 1998. I’m thinking 1997 by 1999, uh, the whole country was a wash with Fen-Phen litigation. In my initial role, I was very active in medical monitoring cases in the state of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. At some point in time, we joined forces with the MDL plaintiffs and I became one of seven-class counsel and I spent the next four or five years. We had a nice settlement, $3.4 billion against American Home Products. And then there was a whole bunch of opt-outs and I was very active for many years in that litigation.

Chris Dreyer

Sol’s success as an attorney didn’t happen overnight. It took years of honing his craft before he was able to secure those incredible settlement figures. So I couldn’t miss an opportunity to get some tips from the master litigator on how you can get maximum value from your own settlements.

Sol Weiss

The first thing that I would tell young lawyers – you need to work at the damages. A lot of time, lawyers get focused only on liability, but it’s the unique… Your unique situation of your client, it’s really compelling. And that maximizes the recovery you can make for a client in front of a jury. That’s pretty important upfront. Second thing is you have to work like a dog. And, uh, most of these cases take two or three years before they get resolved. We can spend anywhere between 75 and $200,000 in costs on a big case, lining up the right experts, flying all over the country or sometimes to Europe, wherever to take the necessary depositions of the corporate employees. And that’s what we do.

Chris Dreyer

Thank you for that. Yeah. And that’s, you know, when you tell that story and you get that emotional reaction from, from the jury, I’m sure that has a huge impact. I’m not an attorney myself, but, but I see that and I understand that that component of it too, in terms of let’s let’s, let’s take it on the other side. You’ve now, even now tried a lot of cases. What about some of the, the mistakes that you’ve learned from. What are some that stand out that, that, that you could pass on and, and those mistakes, what are some of those mistakes that you’ve learned from trying many cases?

Sol Weiss

The most important thing I learned is you have to have a simple story. Get rid of all the irrelevant stuff. I’ve trained with some really good, uh, trial masters. Some of them are psychologists. Some of them are trial lawyers. It’s all about the story and the storytelling. And you’ve got to be very highly focused on what’s the most important aspect in your case. And the only thing you have to do, you have to talk in plain English.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah, I run into that mistake myself, being in a search engine, optimization guy, a big SEO nerd. And I think, you know what, I need to bring this back and not get in the weeds a little bit so that we’re talking the same language. You know, talking about those mentors and those peers, you know, I think of other, you know, I’ve heard Mark Lanier speak. Uh, I talked to John Gomez and some of these top litigators, you know, who, who are some of those mentors. That that helped you develop your, your expertise?

Sol Weiss

Well, I, I spent a fair amount of time over the years, uh, working with Rodney Jew in California. It’s a week long course for each case, uh, you spend the first couple of days constructing the defense, which seems an odd thing to do, but it’s really not. It’s the appropriate thing to do. And then you spend a day trying to rebut that defense. And then they spend the last two days refining your case in chief. And when you do that, you get rid of a lot of things that are really irrelevant and could confuse a jury because eight or 12 people, they know very little about what you’re about to tell them. And they’re not going to remember a whole bunch of stuff. So you gotta be very careful.

Chris Dreyer

Absolutely. And by, by looking at the defense side, you can, it helps you look at how you’re going to play offense and attack what they might be setting up as their defense.

Sol Weiss

Yeah. The most important thing for a lawyer is credibility. You need to establish credibility with the jury. From the time you start picking a jury until the time you close. And that’s why you have to be very tight in the facts you present and you can’t stretch.

Chris Dreyer

Absolutely. I think that’s, that’s very important. And that’s, I think we could talk about that in a lot of detail in regards to how to make those stories more simplified and what you could discard and what needs to stay. And that’s a unique skill set of its own, there. Today, you know, what are your high, high value activities? How are you bringing the most impact or value to the firm today?

Sol Weiss

I like to break down a case when it first comes in, I develop a thing. I figure out what I need to do to effectively persuade the jury or fact finder, or a corporate representative who’s the decision maker to get them to understand how profoundly injured my clients are. For example, um, before I started with the, uh, NFL concussion case, I was also involved in the Kids For Cash case in Luzerne County. They were two corrupt, common pleas court judges who were taking kickbacks and bribes from a developer and owners of a private prison. And the judges would send these kids to the prison normally before they even were sentenced or whatever, the adjudicated as a juvenile and, uh, they were getting paid per kid that went into the jail, took a long time to unravel all those facts. We were deterred for quite some time because the FBI had a criminal investigation, but eventually we are able to get a settlement against the developer, who actually made substantial kickbacks to two judges, the private prison company, and a lawyer who was also an owner of the private prison. So I must’ve used seven, eight years of my time and were able to get a civil rights recovery for. I’m trying to remember, maybe 2000 kids.

Chris Dreyer

That’s incredible. And when you’re telling me this, this story Sol, I am automatically, I’m a big fan of the TV show Suits, and I feel like they took your exact case and made it into a, into a season. Have you seen that? Have you, have you seen that episode of suits?

Sol Weiss

There was a movie made called cash For Kids. We had the juvenile law center, Marsha Levick who’s the director, still the director, and she’s an amazing advocate for juvenile rights. She’s argued a number of cases in front of the Supreme court of the United States. Uh, and we worked with her and another law firm to, uh, get justice for these kids.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah, that’s where I was going to… that was my next question. Obviously, spending that much time on a case, obviously it’s work, but to some degree you have to have a passion early care to put that much time and energy into this, this effort, so…

Sol Weiss

I’d like to give them a fair shot. I want them to spend the rest of their life, not worrying about where the next dollar is coming from or how they’re going to get medical treatment.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah, that’s incredible. And that’s what I think any consumer that’s looking to hire an attorney, hire an expert – that’s what they’re looking for. Someone that really cares and, and they, that they can trust is going to put their best energies and efforts into the case. And also just having your prior successes, you know, that that speaks volume because, you know, people can talk about how good they are, but when other people talk about how good you are and you have these results, like these actual you’ve made these impacts, it really is a differentiator.

Sol Weiss

See, when we set out to do the concussion cases, public opinion was very much against the players because the public thought that they were rich kids, had a privileged life and that, uh, they knew what they signed up for. It wasn’t until we were able through public relations, by telling the stories of some of these players and their families that the public perception changed. And I guess about a year and a half into the litigation, uh, ESPN did some surveys and they found that 70% of people thought that the players were entitled to get compensated because they had no idea about the dangers of concussions and sub concussions hits. And it wasn’t just football – girls soccer. Girls shouldn’t head a soccer ball, the forces that, uh, hit their head and neck or too great. Their bodies aren’t mature. Field hockey for girls. Uh, ice hockey for, for men. Every contact sport had risks that the players didn’t appreciate didn’t understand. It was the media outlets that explained to parents and participants about the dangers of neurological deficits from concussions. That was the main benefit of the NFL litigation all the way down to Peewee football and Peewee baseball.

Chris Dreyer

So many things have changed. I’ve seen, you know, softball players playing third base with a helmet on. I’ve seen, you know, the pitchers wear helmets. The, you saw Antonio Brown complaining about his helmet last year, and it’s just had a profound impact. And it’s really set this precedent. And I would imagine if ESPN polled the audience at the very beginning, it wouldn’t have been 70%.

Sol Weiss

I can tell you we had those polls. Uh, the other thing about what I do for young lawyers, I love what I do. I like that I can change the world. And that’s what litigation does. If there’s some bad practices and you force a trial or you, you force a defendant to rethink what they do, you make the world a safer place.

Chris Dreyer

Absolutely. And there’s not many careers that, that, that can do that and have that big of an impact and that, that domino type effect.

Sol Weiss

Correct. And you also get to meet a lot of great people over the years. Some very interesting people on both sides of the aisle.

Chris Dreyer

So, let let’s talk about today. Let’s talk about the firm. So how, how are you positioning the firm for growth today? You know, you, you’ve had these amazing cases. You’ve utilized the PR company very successfully to kind of change perception and to make, make these changes in the landscape and, uh, to really impact positive, good and, and, and lives. So how are you positioning the firm for growth today?

Sol Weiss

I like to train young lawyers and we’d like to grow with, from within. And we give our lawyers a lot of experience and the culture in the firm is such that lawyers want to do a good job. We’re very vigilant in making sure that we keep our clients well aware of what’s going on in every stage of their case. And we’re all over the country on a lot of different cases.

Chris Dreyer

That transparency is really important. And I like the nurturing component, as opposed to, I hear a lot of attorneys they’re… they have these different hiring processes. But when you’re building within, you get to develop these individuals for, you know, and train them yourselves and how you want to practice law and how you, you know, with your own history and experience.

Sol Weiss

So the latest thing that we’ve done, I’ve started a fellowship at a Villanova law school for a graduating senior to work at the firm for 10 months. It’s on a different track than being an associate. And they’re going to get to go see all the national kind of stuff we do. The leadership meetings, learn how to put a case together, and they’ll do some writing, a lot of writing at the end of that time, um, we’ll probably offer a job.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah, that’s, that’s great. And then you get to see, you know, if they have the chops, so to speak and if they can put in the, put in the effort and make it to the next level.

Sol Weiss

Correct, so that’s the latest thing we’re doing.

Chris Dreyer

I like that. So it makes me think, and I, I had this, a story I told on a different, uh, conversation it’s, you know, going back to the NFL, let’s just use NFL, so you got your offense and defense, but then you have your special teams. Those individuals are practicing, going to work, and, you know, eventually there a slot will open up for offense or defense and you can, you can pull someone from special teams and it’s not just, you kind of rolling the dice, no matter how good your processes are, how good your personality assessments are in the hiring phase, it’s if you already know these individuals, you know, their capabilities.

Sol Weiss

That’s correct. And the other thing we constantly work on is, um, our IT department. We spend a lot of time and money on case management software – customizing it. On trial preparation products. And by keeping ahead of the curve, we have our lawyers spend more time being lawyers than doing the mundane things that some paralegals in our firm can do.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. And that case management software, you know, I’ve, I’ve had Litify on, I’ve talked to the guys for FileVine and, you know, the, having a good case management software – it lends itself to, again, what you mentioned earlier, transparency. Transparency, where the case is that it has all the information in it lends itself to good processes. So it’s just, it’s incredibly important. Um, Yeah. So, Sol, you know, one, one final question here. Do you have any advice for your fellow lawyers trying to grow a large successful practice? It’s kind of a loaded question there.

Sol Weiss

Oh, it’s not a loaded question, actually, a very good question, Chris. Most important thing for a lawyer is his or her reputation. If you earn your stripes. The clients will follow. I guarantee you.

Chris Dreyer

And so you would, I would agree that those referrals would come into in your, in your strides. So that’d be fair.

Sol Weiss

That’s very fair. That’s a good point.

Chris Dreyer

Guys. We’ve been talking to Sol. Weiss, shareholder of Anapol Weiss, a national leader in personal injury, product liability and pharmaceutical litigation. Sol, where can people go to learn more?

Sol Weiss

They can go to www. anapolweiss.com. They can look in some social media. There’s a whole bunch of clips about what we do in the special areas we practice in.

Chris Dreyer

I love Sol’s points about focusing on your quality as a lawyer and letting the reputation and success follow. And as he mentioned, streamlining other areas of your practice through smart IT solutions is a great way to reduce your workload so you can concentrate on the important task of becoming an excellent lawyer. I’d like to think. Sol Weiss from Anapol Weiss for sharing his story with us. And I hope you gained some valuable insights from the conversation you’ve been listening to The Rankings Podcast. I’m Chris Dreyer. If you liked this episode or have an idea for a future guests, Leave me a review and tell me more. I’ll catch you next week with another inspiring story and some SEO tips and tricks all with page one in mind.

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