The Sidebar podcast, a series focused on top South Carolina trial lawyers, recently invited Attorney Randy Hood to chat about his experiences with medical malpractice, catastrophic injury, and trial litigation. Randy talked with host and attorney Mark Bringardner about his background, his values as an attorney, and why it’s so important to get to know your clients.
Developing a unique skillset
Attorney Bringardner started the conversation by asking Randy how he developed his skills as an attorney. Randy began his legal career working for a small firm in Rock Hill, South Carolina who then opened an office in a strip mall in Chester, South Carolina in 1992. Working in an area with no public defender system for three counties, he was doing about many court-appointed cases a year. In the strip mall, Randy began doing small auto accident cases and workers’ compensation cases and has focused on personal injury since he began practicing law (with the exception of all the criminal and domestic court appointed legal work he did in his formative years as a lawyer). He recalls one of his first cases, where a man was injured by an object found in food from a grocery store, and recovered $150 for his client. His business grew from there.
Randy emphasizes how his faith plays a large part in who he is as both a person and an attorney. He consistently roots for the underdog and, in his own words, “my job is to even the playing field and look the bully in the eye…and bury him.”
Values as an attorney
Randy and Mark also discuss their values as lawyers, and how those values determine how they approach a case. What really makes Randy stand out as a premier attorney is something he calls “moral truth.” He gets to know his clients as people and what makes them tick. The moral truth a client brings to a case isn’t necessarily their injury. It’s what, deep down, really brought them to his office and how the injury has affected their lives.
The moral truth is what their injury took from them or their loved one, and how the justice they seek is an attempt to correct a wrong that should happen again. And for a jury, it transforms the technical into the personal. The more the jury knows about how the injury affected the client on a personal level, the more they identify and empathize.
Randy tells Mark, “You can’t forget integrity, honesty, truthfulness, and love as an attorney.” He goes on to explain if, as a lawyer, you don’t apply those values to every case you do, you’re doing your clients a disservice. Whatever belief system a client has, they are seeking help for something beyond their control and you must listen to them, even if you disagree with some of their premise. You can’t let your ego get in the way.
Becoming a better litigator
Offering advice to young or newer attorneys, Randy reminds us that successful trial lawyers know how to use information gleaned from many resources and must try cases:
Talk to your fellow lawyers. Go to the seminars. Listen to the podcasts. Join a listserv. At McGowan, Hood & Felder, we share our information freely. Use the tools we have available. Do whatever you have to do to become a better attorney – try any case you can, knock on doors, take cases other attorneys don’t want. You’ll win some and you’ll lose some, but you’ll get valuable experience.
On surprises during trial
Mark asked Randy if he had any advice on being handed new documents or information outside of discovery. Noting that this isn’t permissible in federal court, Randy admits this happens frequently in state court and he’s not a fan. He tries to document all information and provide it as quickly as possible to give opposing counsel enough time to review. However, sometimes new information does come out at trial, frequently in the form of expert witnesses. Randy’s advice? “Don’t get into an argument with an experienced expert. He will win.” If any act from opposing counsel is egregious, you should take it up with the court. Even if the damage is done, a judge can still strike it.
Most importantly, he says, you can’t allow yourself to be ensnared by tricks by opposing counsel.
The mental health of lawyers and why it’s important
Randy does valuable work within the legal community to remove the stigma around mental health and substance abuse. He talks about how these issues are rampant in his profession from the stress, pressure, and the fact that attorneys are simply just wired differently. Attorneys want to be successful, have a drive to win, and help their clients.
These heavy concerns can lead to relationship issues, money problems, and unhealthy habits. And in a profession where you’re supposed to be tough, you’re not supposed to talk about it. However, as Randy points out, things are changing, and “we have a moral obligation to reach out when one of us needs help.”
McGowan, Hood & Felder, LLC passionately fights for the rights of the injured across South Carolina.
McGowan, Hood & Felder started with three attorneys – Chad McGowan, S. Randall Hood and Johnny Felder – who believed that every South Carolina client deserved to be treated with respect, and that every person in need deserved an opportunity to tell their story. Since then, we have grown in size and number, with nearly 20 attorneys whose primary goal is offer you and your family exceptional legal guidance and support when most needed.
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