EPISODE 52 — Brian Chase — Aligning Passion and Purpose
Brian Chase is the senior partner and a trial lawyer at Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys in Newport Beach, California. For over 40 years, Brian has been the senior litigator and lead trial attorney on countless catastrophic injury and auto defect cases.
In this episode, he shares how to tune out naysayers when innovating in marketing and advertising, the tough but rewarding hiring and firing lessons he’s learned over the years, and how to live in such a way that retirement is out of the question.
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2:00 – Unlikely beginnings. “When I was a kid growing up as a long-haired surfer out here in Southern California, I was never a suit and tie guy, so people that knew me in high school are shocked I’m a lawyer, and people that know me as a lawyer are shocked that I used to be this long-haired surfer guy. But I didn’t grow up wanting to be an attorney — nothing even was on my radar. In college back in the early ‘80s, I had a class where we had to go to the library and do research on this child called Baby Fae. They put a baboon heart in a little kid, and we had to research it and then debated in class, both pro and con on that side of the story. That was the first time in my life that the long-haired surfer guy sat in the library for four days just diving into all this microfiche and researching everything about it. I had so much fun in that class, I thought if I ever decide to go straight and stop surfing, I’m going to be a lawyer because this is what they do. They have to do their homework, they’ve got to be able to present both sides, and I just got really really fired up about that.”
5:51 – The law is a business, not a profession. “You’ve got to be innovative. You need marketing. You need verdicts to market. You need relationships. You need a good culture in your office. You’ve got to realize it’s a business. When I was in law school they told me, ‘No, we’re a profession. We’re not a business.’ Bullsh*t. We’re a business, and if you don’t run it like a business, you’re going to fail.”
15:55 – The client’s best interest should drive every decision. “First and foremost, it’s always client-driven. You’ve got to do what’s best for the client. A large chunk of cases I resolve I would rather have them not resolve — I would rather go to trial. I would rather take a shot at that 8- or 9-figure verdict vs. settling in the 7 figures. But as a client once told my partner Bisnar — they were going to settle the case. It was a smaller case, but they were offering like 200 grand. Bisnar wanted a half a million or whatever, and he says, ‘Look, we can go to trial. I can get this for you, etc.’ And the client said, ‘Well, Mr. Bisnar, you’ve probably got 100 cases back at your office, and so you can win some and lose some and you’re going to be fine. But this is my one and only case, and I can’t afford to lose it.’ That’s always stuck. The first thing that drives a settlement is what’s what’s best for the client.”
18:08 – Going to trial is a roller coaster. “You get up in the morning scared to death, but also just brave and ready to go kick butt. You’re driving to court, you’ve got your music on, you’re ready to go kick butt, but you’re also scared. You’ve just got this mix of emotions, and then when the trial starts, obviously you’re just in there to crush it. To go through all of that is so much fun, because you’re facing your fears and you’re going up against a big challenge. The other thing I really love about trial is that you’re in the moment. It’s got to be like if you’re climbing a mountain, and you don’t have a rope or whatever: you better be in the moment or you can die. When I’m in court, I’m not thinking about marketing. I’m not thinking about driving home. You’re just so focused that at the end of the day, it’s just kind of neat to be that in the moment. I just love it. I can’t believe I get paid to do it.”
23:46 – Not every worthwhile case is a money-maker. “I had a case I rejected. It was not a defect case, so I thought, ‘That’s just not going to be an economically viable case.’ I’m talking to the family member and we’re kind of going through it. I said, ‘Let me call you back in a couple of days.’ And then I got an email from a referring attorney that was a picture of this guy’s 14-year-old daughter on a morgue table. I had kids around that age at the time, and when I’m seeing this young little girl in an autopsy room, I thought, ‘That didn’t have to happen. I don’t know if I’m going to make a lot of money on this case, but bullsh*t. That did not have to happen. I’m going to take the case anyway,’ and went full steam ahead on it. It was just the right thing to do.”
26:05 – Don’t be afraid to fire bad fits. “I had a guy who was just terrible, but it didn’t mean he’s not going to be excellent at something else, something I can’t do. I had the kid come in, and I had to let him go. He was tearing up, you know, recently married guy. ‘Why are you doing this?’ I felt terrible, but it just wasn’t working and I’m not doing anybody any favors. I bumped into this kid several years later in the airport. He had his suit on looking professional, and he stops me and he goes, ‘I want to thank you for firing me. It’s the best thing anybody could have done.’ He’s done something on his own. He’s got his own business. He’s an entrepreneur, and was on his way to being very successful. So he’s a superstar — he just wasn’t a superstar paralegal. And whatever he’s doing, I probably would be a D player in that company. So it’s very important not to try to fix people. You’re not helping your business, you’re not helping them, and you’re not serving your clients properly.”
30:12 – The best is yet to come. “I’ve never been as excited. The older I get, I’ve got less time to do it so now I’m even more excited because now I’ve got to pack it in. When you’re in your 20s and 30s and 40s, the future will take care of itself. You’ve got your short-term and mid-range term and long-term goals. Now that I’m getting older, it’s every bit as fun. In some ways it’s even more exciting. I have zero desire to retire. I still have goals I haven’t attained, and as soon as I attain those, then I’ll have new goals. Whenever I hit a goal, I go, ‘Dammit, I set that bar too low.’”
38:01 – What are you willing not to do? “I’ll have naysayers come to me from time to time and say, ‘Brian, I was reading this and I tried to manifest that and I watched The Secret’ or whatever they said they did, and they go and it doesn’t work well. I didn’t used to have an answer for that, but I do now. I was reading a book by Wayne Dyer, and someone came to him saying, ‘You’re full of crap. This doesn’t work,’ and Wayne Dyer looked at him and he said, ‘Well, you have to ask yourself what you are willing not to do.’ When I have people being critical now, I say, ‘What are you willing not to do?’ And usually if you have a heart-to-heart with somebody, it comes out. I ask myself that all the time. If I’m too tired to go do something, or if I don’t want to get on a plane and go here, or if I don’t want to go do that, I’m like, ‘Is that going to be something that I was willing not to do that may affect what I want to get?’ And I’m going to get my a** up and go do it.”
39:07 – Being a game changer means giving back — while kicking a**. “At this point in my life, with regard to my professional life and my career, I want to inspire people. I want to encourage them to have whatever level of success they can have. If I can motivate and inspire, that’s game changing to me in their personal life. If I can help them in litigation with trial tips or anything I have to share with them, that would be game changing for that. And just continue to run my business like a business and get verdicts and do what I love doing. That’d be my game changer definition: you’re giving back and helping people and still kicking a** on my end.”