Not everything is about money and publicity. A little courage and a lifetime of integrity in the field of law set some men apart from the others. Daniel Horowitz, currently the President of the Houston Trial Lawyers Association, talks about practicing law and his path from being a law clerk to becoming a leading plaintiff trial lawyer in his pursuit of helping those who can’t help themselves. He elaborates on the daily workings of some of his cases and the rewards of a job well done. Learn from his insight on some common mistakes others make when hiring a lawyer.
Listen to the podcast here:
Practicing Law: Leveling The Playing Field with Daniel Horowitz
I’m happy to say I got my main man from H-Town, Houston, Texas here, Daniel Horowitz of the Bay City Horowitz. Welcome.
Thank you for having me.
I’m glad to have you. I’ve wanted to have you on here for a while, but you know how it is. I’ve got a day job. You’ve got a day job.
You live in Louisiana.
No, I do not. I live on the way to Louisiana, but otherwise on the way to nowhere. I got you in last minute, so I’m excited to have you.
I headed down there. I had to meet with some people. I figured out I’d swing by.
I’ll tell everybody when Daniel walked in, my assistant said, “This would be a good one.”
Which is now going to lead to a bunch of expectations that may never be met.
I don’t think so. The benefit we do have is that we’d been friends for a long time, many years.
We both worked a summer job in which we were highly-productive summer clerks, if you gauge your productivity by drinking beer and talking shit.
That’s not true. I was one of the best all-time clerks getting breakfast-in-one for everyone and making sure that the tables were clear across the street at 4:00 so we had a place to sit.As a plaintiff trial lawyer, you get to make a pretty good living helping people who can't help themselves. Click To Tweet
The little bar across the street closed down years ago. It’d be sad to know. Carlos is now a Mexican bakery. Right across the street from the office where we clerked several years ago, there was a little dive Italian bar restaurant and we would go by there from time-to-time, try and shut the place down and have a lot of cocktails.
I was the voice of reason.
Indeed, you were. What’s going on? For background, if you don’t know Daniel, he’s not particularly humble, so he may tell you. He’s what we call a plaintiff’s trial lawyer in Houston, Texas. You got a pretty good resume. He’s a bright guy, a talented lawyer, former President of the Houston Trial Lawyers Association, active in the Texas Trial Lawyers Association. He’s represented hundreds if not thousands of folks in Houston and probably all over the state and maybe even some in the nation. At the end of the day, he gets good results. He’s not a guy you’re going to see on a billboard or on TV, but he stays plenty busy and that tells you something. He’ll have some good knowledge for us, I’m sure.
The best thing I can say in response to that is no matter what happens, I still married way up and I’ve got the best wife and two best kids in the world.
You do, and Kim, thank you for keeping him between the lines and really making him a better guy. She’s a judge now. Where does she judge?
She is an associate judge at Texas Harris County in Harrison Family District Court. She works with and for the honorable Chip Wells who was elected back in November and took office on January 1st of 2019.
That’s a pretty new gig for her.
She’s got sworn in on the 1st of January and has been there since. She spent an entire career before that doing family law, working with her father. This is only the second job she’s had.
Does she like it?
She does. I like it. I’m on county insurance.
One of the banes of my existence as a small firm owner is the health insurance. I’ll pay a fortune.
I want to thank all the residents and citizens in Harris County for their generosity, for their health insurance. My wife and I and have twins.
How old are the twins now?
They are seven going into second grade and turning eight next spring.
You got them a little Texas history trip.
Remember the Alamo.
Did they like the Alamo?
How hot was it out there?
I think it was only 103 and that was the actual outside temperature. It was dry in San Antonio. I guess those are the things we do now as parents. We’re used to doing just sitting there. My wife booked the room and we’re staying in a single room with a king bed and a fold-out couch. Sitting late on the bed, my daughter, we got her through dinner. Before we went to dinner, I’m sitting, my daughter looks at me and she’s like, “Daddy, are you sad? You look like you’re crying.” “I’m not sad.” She’s like, “Are you crying inside?” I started laughing. Of all the work we’ve put in and the time we’ve given away from our families so we could make a good living for ourselves, I swore to myself after they turned two, I was never ever going to spend the night in a single hotel room with all four us together. I always get an extra room. I have a little area living room, closed-door, they’re outlaws. Nothing’s changed.
We’d spent the night all five of us in a hotel room.
It’s not fun. I love my family though.
I had another kid. They are fifteen, sixteen, thirteen, eleven. You’re a plaintiff’s trial lawyer. What does that mean? What are you doing?
I sue people on behalf of families, individuals who’ve been screwed.You need to be able to trust the person that is going to represent you and your family. Click To Tweet
How does someone get into that? There are all kinds of lawyers. You hear about lawyers and big business and $1,000-an-hour kind of guys. How does someone get into what you do?
I don’t want to sound cliché, but I think you either know you’re going to do it, you’re born to do it or once you get into if you stumble into it, it either fits you or it doesn’t. I was fortunate to grow up around a bunch of great trial lawyers as a kid. My dad was not a lawyer and he was in business and a lawyer in his second career, just a small town with a bunch of great trial lawyers down there I remember as a kid thinking, “This is pretty neat.” You get to go kick people’s butt. You get to make a pretty good living and you get to help people that can’t help themselves. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I worked towards that goal and here I am now.
I’ve always looked at it as a way to try to level the playing field for people who may not have that ability their own.
That’s one of the biggest benefits doing what we do, being able to take an individual, helping an individual go up against some large companies in the world, the largest insurance companies in the world, the largest corporate defendants. I was meeting with a young lady who lost her son. During the meeting, you could see. She works in the dry cleaners, doesn’t have much money and lives paycheck-to-paycheck to take care of herself and her bills. You could see in her eyes she was struggling like any one of us would be if we lost a child. To be able to know that, “Do you want to see somebody? Do you want to go get some help? Do you want to talk to somebody about what you’re going through besides your husband? Do you want to talk to somebody besides me? Do you want to talk a professional?” She started crying. Those little gestures knowing that no matter what happens at the end of that case, it’s a case for us, but it’s a horrible life meant for them and we try to help them through it.
Even if at the end of the day we can’t help and I think we will be able to, you know you’ve helped him right then and there. Doing our job as personal injury claims, personal injury lawyer, it’s probably the most rewarding when you get the hug at the end of the case or you get the handwritten note thanking you for helping in such trying times. When they tell friends to call you when they’ve had to go through something. It’s rewarding. To see tragedy all day long and to see some horrific things happen to some great people, these people don’t deserve what happened to them. It’s being able to get the families through it and out the other side with some dignity and then be able to take care of themselves because they couldn’t do in this situation.
I would think, at least based on my experience and a little bit of what I heard, is that a lot of folks that hire you may not be sophisticated to the level of which they’re used to dealing with lawyers. Would that be accurate?
For someone who’s not used to hiring lawyers, what’s your advice to them on how to hire a lawyer?
First and foremost, you need to be able to trust the person that is going to represent you and your family. We all make immediate impressions of people, instant impressions of people we meet. Some people you meet, you feel like you’re going to have a lifelong relationship with this person or you know in your gut they’re a good person or you might get a bad feeling about somebody. You might have the greatest lawyer out there in the world, but if you meet them and you don’t feel comfortable with them or somebody else, you’ve got to be comfortable with whoever it is that’s going to be working on your matter. We’ve got file cabinets’ worth of cases. This is the one and only shot you got and if you’re not comfortable, if the client’s not comfortable enough to be able to talk to you openly about the good things, bad things, their fears, their concerns, it’s not much of a relationship. It makes our job easier when we can have an open relationship and discussion with clients about the pros and cons and what they’re going to.
I had a dear friend of mine not too long ago. He told me he was frustrated and even surprised people would spend more time online doing research on where they’re going to take their dog, which vet they’re going to take their dog. They sometimes are researching much longer there. He’s got a good point about that. The internet is a great source. It’s not the end all be all. If you have friends, family, coworkers, if you ever needed a lawyer in the past and that lawyer did a good job for you, reach out to that person. Even if they don’t handle what it is you may need, it’s always nice to find a lawyer. Go back to a lawyer that did a good job for you who can then recommend somebody that they trust and they know that they’re putting their reputation on a lot by recommending you to someone else. The person they recommend you to doesn’t do a good job, that falls back on them and they wouldn’t want that. Ask questions. There are so many great lawyers. There are not too great lawyers. Try to find somebody that can handle the specific needs of your situation.
I suspect that’s how you get a lot of your business, is through past client referrals.
The majority of my business comes from past client referrals and from referrals from lawyers that have either worked against in cases, so they were defending a case I had and I was prosecuting, representing the victims or from lawyers who don’t handle this type of litigation or this type of work. We’ll have their clients call.
That’s a hell of a compliment. I know from knowing you, that happens pretty regularly.
It does. It’s nice. It’s nice to know that people think highly enough of you that they’re willing to recommend one of their clients or the family member or the president of that company’s family member to you. If they screw up that recommendation, there’s a chance that they might lose business on their end.
The reason I wanted to answer that because on the way here, you drove 90 miles and how many lawyer billboards did you pass? It’s probably a lot.
Honestly, I didn’t pay any attention.
I know the drive.
I was going to San Antonio. That’s good shot on our buddy George Salinas. George, you look good on your billboards. I do like them. They’re classic. I know you’re doing a great job. Billboard and advertising lawyers are not a bad thing.
I’m not implying that.
Jim Adler, the college attorney brother of my father’s, if you go to Jim Adler or a firm like that, they’re going to be good names. There’s a reason that they’ve been around as long as they have and can afford to advertise the way they can and continue to get the clients they do. It’s not because they’re idiots. Its’s because they’ve been doing something right. If it’s something outside of their particularly wheelhouse or they don’t think that they may be the best fit, they do have a good relationship with a lot of lawyers who might handle a specific type of case, inadequate security case, apartment complex, product liability, boating accident, asbestos, whatever it may be. They’re going to try to find the people who are the best at that because obviously it helps their clients and it helps.
I’ve never spent a lot of time with him but a little bit. He is a super nice guy. I always noted though is in person, I’ve seen him on television since I was a young man. He’s been on there and he’s got this big persona and he’s so demure and tranquil in person. It’s an interesting juxtaposition.
One thing to brag about that he probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves is he is quietly also incredibly generous, not only in charity but also in political efforts to try and protect the rights of his clients and for that matter all of us, our families and our clients by at least trying their best to keep the courthouse doors open as opposed to what’s been happening for the last many years.
You’ve been practicing for many years. Have you seen a tort reform push affecting your practice?
Yes. On the catastrophic cases, they’re the most horrendous cases with the awful deaths, the burns, the quadriplegics and the worst of the worst. It’s not as apparent. There are some small changes that have been made that make it more difficult to hold people, hold companies responsible and accountable. In Texas if they say, “Don’t have an office here, we’re doing business here,” that can definitely have an impact on those cases. The car wreck cases I don’t want to use the word small because for the person that’s gone through it, it’s not small. The person that’s been dragged through the mud, told for a few months that, “We need one more form, all we need is this and we’re going to get to you.”A personal injury case mistake is trusting the insurance companies to do the right thing. Click To Tweet
You get dragged along by insurance companies. They have done an incredible job from their perspective of squeezing those cases and making those cases so difficult. Their goal is to make them as expensive as possible for the plaintiff, for the injured person and/or that person’s lawyer to the largest undertaking. The lawyers quit taking them, then these people have no leverage or no ability to fight. I’ll say to State Farm, “You go down the list,” whoever. No one will take those cases anymore and that’s going to be a sad day because they’ll get taken advantage of more than they already are.
Speaking of types of cases, what are the types of cases you work on at your law office?
I’ll look at pretty much any injury case with certain limitations as to how it happened and some other facts that go into truck wrecks, car wrecks, boat incidents and explosions. I had done quite a few pipeline cases involving underground pipelines that are typically aren’t maintained very well and over-pressurized. Fire cases, airplane cases, chemical plant like the Exxons and Shells of the world. Do some premise liability under the right circumstances. That law’s very difficult so the facts have to be there, otherwise you waste everybody’s time and the clients get frustrated. You need to be upfront with them about what can and can’t work. When it comes to things like cases, I’ll be the first to admit I do not have expertise. There are lawyers out there that that is what they do and they do it very well. I’ve had a client call me 4:00. Our potential client calls me, I’ll find somebody to help him.
I’ll do the same thing. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Pharmaceuticals, I have not really dabbled in that a little bit, I wouldn’t call myself a pharmaceutical lawyer. You’re much better at it than I am. It’s the same thing, but really injury cases. Some of the master lawyers like to call us one-off lawyers and I don’t know how that became a term, but for the one-off lawyers, the one-off cases.
What’s the most common mistake you see a client make before they hire you in an injury case?
It’s trusting the insurance companies to do the right thing. If they did the right thing, I wouldn’t have a job. You are giving recorded statements to where a misspoken word of, “Good morning, Mr. Burns. This is John with the so-and-so insurance company. We’re going to take your recorded statement. How are you doing?” “I’m doing fine. I’m doing okay.” They take it out of context that sounds like you’re not hurt. Those are the little things they try to take advantage of.
When you’re making a pleasant response, you’re making normal conversation.
It’s frustrating that we have to do this. I’m not talking about in the major cases, the death cases, the trucking cases, there’s going to be a much more investigation going on in the beginning. The mistake families can make in those cases is waiting too long because evidence goes away. It doesn’t have to be malicious. If a trucking company has a document retention policy that’s X that fits with them and does not violate the federal Motor Carrier Act and you wait too long, then they can legally get rid of all their documents and there’s nothing you can do. The physical evidence, the scene, the vehicles involved, all of the technology where you can download. The old black box, people think about from an airplane, pretty much every vehicle these days has that. Recordings, 911 calls, cities and counties don’t keep their script.
I’ve had the same issue with security videos, for instance, the business on the loop. They tend to last a little longer now because of the digital appointment, but is still not that long.
Think about if you have that equipment at home, there’s no way unless you’re starting for some random reason, say everything uploaded to the cloud or save it to some sort of memory. You’re not going to have two months’ worth of video which are on your own securities. Usually, at most you’ll see a week a lot of times. A lot of it’s 24 hours, especially if something happened from a convenience store and you’re trying to get evidence off on security cameras. If there’s a camera pointed out to the roof, that convenience store is not going to save footage unless something happened to that. They got robbed, whatever. Unless you’re on the scene and out there early, waiting’s a big mistake.
Another one when it comes to the auto cases and this is seen how insurance companies deal with it, you literally have to tell every doctor you see that you’re there because of the wreck. I’ve seen it where a person’s getting treated by an orthopedic surgeon and during the course of their treatment, they get the flu or they get a stomachache. That goes to your proper care physician, not to my specialized orthopedics, not somebody specialized in the neck and spine, whatever. They go in there, they go in and get antibiotics. They fill out the paperwork. They ask them what their complaints are. They circle fever, earache, diarrhea, whatever it is. They don’t write down, “Left shoulder hurts, my right knees twisted,” because that’s not what they’re there for. They’ve got another doctor treatment.
You don’t think about that. You’re down the road during the litigation where the first thing they’ll do is hold that up. You went to your primary care physician, this is the doctor you trust the most. It’s the doctor that you believe that you send your kids to you. Did you want to tell them that you had pain in your writing? It’s bullshit. It works though. It’s smart and for twelve strangers on the jury, if it gets to that point, they don’t know. They haven’t been through this situation. In their minds, they’re thinking, “I tell my doctors everything. It’s not true.” A woman doesn’t go see your gynecologist and tell them about the pain in the back of her neck or your back or whatever it is. It’s not what they’re there for, so that would be another thing.
Nowadays, we see a trend, and this is frustrating, where many doctors will not treat patients if they know they’ve been in a car wreck. I don’t know what they’re afraid of. The flip side of that is when you go into the hospitals, many hospitals will tell you they can’t take your health insurance because it’s illegal, which is a lie. What happens? You end up with a $50,000 hospital bill because they don’t want to bill Blue Cross or UnitedHealthcare Medicare because they just want to try to get $50,000. There are so many tricks. Everybody’s got their hand out and you don’t realize what was happening.
I’ve got a guy I went to high school with his brother, he’s a few years older, but he called me and he had a wreck. It’s serious, but in the course of things it’s not. He’s going to be alright. He had shoulder surgery. He had finished literally two days before physical therapy and had about 95% range and he gets smoked in this wreck. Luckily, I think he’s going to be alright, but he had to go back to physical therapy, back to the doctor. He had to go take some steps to get back in this program. He was careful not to tell his orthopedic that it was from a wreck because he had already been told by him that he didn’t treat car wrecks. He won’t deal with lawyers and all that. For me, to give him basic legal advice, the best person for him to go to is for the guy who just did surgery on him, has been treating him, is a reputable surgeon and all these things. You tell them whatever, you don’t you have to tell him anything about the cause. Tell him, “I’m having this problem.” The problem is the records can be used against him.
The problem is you don’t make another appointment once you’re in there with him. If you tell him over the phone that you’re making the appointment, they’ll probably tell you that. Schedule an appointment then make sure it’s a wreck, because if you go in there and you don’t mention you had a wreck, anybody in the right mind is going to hold that up. You didn’t tell this doctor when you saw him and nobody believes that doctors won’t see patients because you trust your doctors. Doctors are there to help. Doctors are there to save people. Doctors are there to fix you. It doesn’t seem real until it happens to them.
Do you see that as a trend that’s increasing or staying consistent about the same? How do you see that? Because you do a lot more personal injury work than me. I’d be lying if I could tell you it’s getting worse or staying the same.
It’s about the same. The doctors are getting more into larger groups, they’re all together. It’s being able to find doctors who will treat injury. I’m not talking just car wreck, I’m talking about any injury. It’s not just you fell off the ladder, but it’s about the same. I will say, I think doctors and hospitals and medical clinics are starting to get fed up with the health insurance issues. I think they’re starting to realize that we’re not the problem. We pay our bills. We don’t harass them. I think that’s frustrating and the doctors are starting to come around.
Speaking of doctors, you don’t do any med mal work anymore, do you?
I do handle. I’ve had five in the last few years. I’m very picky. I’ve got one I’m looking at. It’s an awful situation involving a pregnant lady, one on the other year involving a pretty clear cut issue at the hospital. I would not say I’m a medical malpractice lawyer per se where I’m out actively out there seeking medical malpractice cases. I do them, but I do select and I advise most people should do that to me. I’m competent enough. I’m smart enough to handle it, but it’s like a car wreck doctor. You really need to have everything in place if you’re going to do a bunch of them. You need to have all your experts and the oldest in my staff is not set up to have 30 medical malpractice cases going at any one time. I know some guys that are great at it, but the few that I take, I take them because I believe and the egregious nature of what happened and I know I can do it, but they’re awful hard cases. We’ve always talked about the caps on damages. All it does is keep lawyers from taking cases.
As a personal injury trial lawyer, what’s the biggest challenge you face?
Personally, it’s probably getting business like anybody else. There are so many good lawyers out there. There are lawyers out there who aren’t doing it the right way. It happens, but it’s getting the business. In my practice, I run a small firm. I’d say the hardest thing is getting good cases, get clients in the door, being able to go with that comes to being able to say no. You’ve got to be able to turn down cases. You can’t take just on a file because your file can maybe get down. You’ve got to be able to look. I call it the three legs of the stool. It’s because if somebody got injured, someone else has to cause it. Even if someone else caused it, there’s got to be a third stool. Is there insurance or assets to be able to pay for it? That’s hard for some people to understand.
As hard as it is to tell people no, you’ve got to be able to look people in the eyes and tell people no. You need to be upfront with people. You’ve got a serious injury case with the T-bone and somebody’s killed or brain dead or whatever awful. You look down the person that caused this driving a 1991 Toyota Corolla and it’s 8:30 PM on a Saturday. I doubt they’re driving delivery. If they are, you would know. Most likely that person that calls us isn’t going to be sitting on a bunch of liquid assets that you can take or that they’re carrying a whole bunch of insurance. I think you really need to be upfront with clients.
I get really frustrated with lawyers who promise the moon, the stars and the sun to clients just to get them to sign up. They need to understand what you had to work with. If the client has $200,000 in outstanding medical bills and there’s $100,000 in coverage and we were able to get the bills and spent a year working on a case, that ultimately gets resolved. We get the bills produced to where the client is getting money in their pocket, depending on the service situation, I don’t even know then that I’ll take it. My expenses obviously I’ll get back. Usually, I try to make sure that at least we get equal because it’s not worth it. It’s not worth it for a client to look at their distribution sheet and look at it. I’m not saying that I’m pushy, but to look down and go, “The lawyer’s making twice as much as I am.”Some lawyers promise the moon and the stars to clients just to get them to sign up. Click To Tweet
They can’t appreciate that the bunch of bills got taken care of. That’s not money in people’s pocket, although it is in a legal sense.
At the end of the day, if the client is unhappy or if somebody else wasn’t honest with them about how this was going to turn out, I don’t need that. I don’t want that. I’ve never had a client say, “Maybe he doesn’t have to do it.” One case is one fee of an extra $5,000 or $10,000. I want these people to understand that they’re the number one priority. I’m just here to help.
We’re talking about car wrecks. I’ve seen you talk about this on your social media outlets, but truly what’s the risk associated with texting and driving? What do you see are the ramifications of that? Because I know you’re in the trenches seeing the problems caused by that and I’ve seen you rant on it.
It’s as dangerous as drinking and driving, if not worse. Believe it or not, they try to take a little more effort to be more careful because of the fear of knowing that they’ve been texting or distracted driving. They’d have to be texting people, watching them use on their phones, sending messages on Instagram, whatever. You’re literally not looking and not paying attention to the road whatsoever and it’s bad. It’s dangerous and it’s risky. I’d say it’s probably riskier right now because you don’t realize how little focus you have on the road when you’re doing it.
I guess the worst would be drinking then texting and driving. It’s a serious issue and it really hits home when you see the ramifications. I know. We have a friend of mine, I know her a little better as a lawyer, whose husband was killed in a horrific texting and driving accident several years ago. That has stuck with me for the last several years and I try to avoid it. My wife has some type of program on her phone where she can’t engage in it.
Phones now, cars now, people now, most of the phones you can set them up to where it knows that you’re driving based on the GPS. It’ll automatically send some of your calls to voicemail. A lot will automatically send a reply text, “In the car driving. Will respond later. I’ll text you.”
Hers sends this long-ass reply text about she’s not accepting messages. It’s like two texts that come through.
You and I have lost some good friends those last couple of years that didn’t get help because this is a daily grind that’s not easy on people doing this work.
I don’t want to get into all that too much. If you’re a lawyer reading this, please take care of your colleagues, your friends, your family. If it’s you that needs help, don’t be afraid to ask. If you’re not a lawyer reading this and you decide you want to go to law school just because you think you’re going to make money, don’t do it. Outside of practicing medicine, I can’t imagine another profession that if you don’t truly love what you’re doing would be any worse to be in. It does not matter if you’re a trial lawyer, if you’re a tax lawyer, if you’re a corporate lawyer or you’re a real estate lawyer because when a client calls, they expect us to answer. They expect us to answer whether it’s 7:00 AM, 7:00 PM, 1:00 AM. You talk to people. I’ve got friends who have been in the corporate world and worked on mega deals in the real estate side.
People are like, “All you’re doing is pushing paper.” When you’re putting together $600 million, $700 million real estate project, you’re working all the time. If the client wants to complain about something, you’ve got to listen to it. Usually, you’re the ones that are going to be explaining about it. They’re going to complain about why couldn’t you give me this term? “That guy jumped your ass.” It’s not a matter of people who represent criminal defense lawyers, prosecutors. Those things that prosecutors see on a daily basis, some of the egregious problems and victims they deal with. The criminal defense lawyers who go into everything with this incredible sense of justice and everyone has their day in court and even the ones that they may know deep down in their heart may be guilty.
I’ve got friends who’ve been on the wrong side of death penalty verdicts and that’s hard to deal with. Even if the person committed the crime, knowing that you were their lawyer and that gets sent to them, that’s not something that I think anybody can deal with that easily. If you decide you want to become a lawyer because you don’t know what else to do, you think you can come in and make a little easy money and be a lawyer, go find something else to do. There’s a big need and there’s going to be a continued need for service professionals. I’m not kidding, we need to start getting people back plumbers and electricians.
Those are great professions and you can make a ton of freaking money.
The amount of money those people charging us in Houston because everybody asks around in these Facebook pages, “Does anybody have a plumber or an AC guy?” They know once their name gets out there and they do a good job, they write their own check. If you have any businesses that you manage and store your own business and get three or four or five people working for what is needed, you make a hell of a lot. There’s our ethics portion of the discussion.
I’ll give you an example. Several years ago, I bought a little beach cabin down in Crystal Beach. It’s nothing fancy. It’s nicer than anything I grew up with, growing up probably, but that’s not saying much. If she can relate to, it’s nothing fancy. It’s on a corner there and it’s pretty close to the beach. It’s in the third row. A block up on the front row right in front of me is a big two-storey, beautiful place. Guess who owns that? My plumber.
He or she probably has four boats. He’s got an offshore boat and I bet he goes deer hunting for a couple of months every winter.
He’s not a big hunter, but he’s got other businesses as well, so he stays busy. I’ll say that and I don’t mean it in a negative way because he’s always treated me fair and everybody I’ve sent to him. He has all the business he could ever want and that’s his biggest problem. He’s been a master plumber for many years. 80% of the other master plumbers in town, he trained. He didn’t have the people and he turns folks down. He stays busy. It’s to the point that if it’s small, I hate even calling because I don’t want to pull him off. The only small stuff I’ll call him on is if it involves gas lines because that makes me nervous. What makes me nervous is at our house, we’ve got two old lamps out on the front gate that are gas-powered. Occasionally, one will go out and it’ll smell gas. After the stories you’ve told me, it freaks me out. It’s just a lamp, but it still makes me nervous.
Have you seen a gas utility vehicle in your neighborhood? I asked them what they’re doing. We unfortunately represented some families where the gas company was out working on the neighbors, working on a leak at the neighbor’s property. They didn’t tell anybody around there that there’s a pretty big gas leaking. Their homes blew up. Public service announcement, don’t try to be your own electrician. It kills. Change the light bulb, sure. One of the worst cases I’ve ever worked on when I first started practicing law, I was working as a defense lawyer for just the nicest people. He’s an accountant and he and his family lived in a beautiful little house. I was there. That was their own vacation. He went out to Home Depot one day and bought a new fan to put up on the boat dock with the life to keep the boats and to keep the jet skis out of water. He installed this new ceiling fan. He didn’t think anything about it. Summertime rolls around, his kids have this birthday party.
These three girls pulled up on a jet ski. They wanted to jump off the top of the boat dock, kind of jumping off the second storey of a house. His kids at the time were fourteen or fifteen, teenagers. These three girls get off that jet ski, pull up next to the boat dock, get off the jet ski, climbed up that aluminum ladder that’s down in the water and the girl gets stuck to it because there’s an electrical current running through. It turned out he had miswired the ceiling fan. It only has three wires and one missed wire and it electrified. Not only did somebody lose a child and a sibling, but that’s also when I learned empathy for the people that caused things like that, the empathy for that man. He had a hard time living with himself and knowing that his mistake cost a young girl’s life.
Lesson two, don’t let people jump off the top of your boat dock too because that could be dangerous in and of itself.
They knew there was nothing under.
I’ve done a lot of work on old properties and that’s what I tell everybody. I said, “Plumbing and electricity doesn’t go cheap. Hire the best guys you can and it’s going to be the most expensive trades, but pay them. You can’t have problems there.”
Electricity kills so don’t try to be the hero electrician.
Where do you see this practice of yours going in the next several years?
Hopefully, I can continue what I do. Keep getting cases, making a living, supporting my family, get happy clients, grateful clients. I’ve got a small practice and I enjoy having a few employees. I enjoy having a smaller caseload. I hope things continue the way they’ve gone for me. I’ve been very fortunate and very lucky to have people that have faith in me to help them. I’ve had great support staff. George Anne and Nova have been incredible. Without those two, I wouldn’t be where I am now.If you decide to go to law school just because you think you're going to make money, don’t do it. Click To Tweet
If you are a lawyer, take care of your staff. Treat them with respect, treat them with dignity. If they need an afternoon off to run errands, let them have the damn afternoon off. Make them part of your firm. My employees get bonused off cases that we work on and I know the cases that they spent the most time on, some of the cases are with the least amount of fee on, but they did a lot of work on it. Take care of your staff because if they’re invested in the firm, you’re lucky and it makes your job easier. It makes your clients’ lives easier. They need to care as much about it as you do and I’m lucky that both George Anne and Nova do. You asked several years, I don’t know. My hands are tired.
She continues to threaten it.
I don’t do anything. I think she gets bored. I think she likes screwing with people too. She’s one of the best.
She’s good. I will commend her. She’s the one of the best I’ve ever seen. I really like working with her. We hear about technological advances that occurred in the last several years and some of that has spilled over into law practice. Some of that’s for the bad, but a lot of it’s for the good because I would argue that it gives people like you and me, lawyers with smaller offices not only freedom, but a bandwidth to handle larger cases in a larger volume or move if we want it. We can’t recreate hours, but we have access to the tools that many years ago only big firms had.
In addition to access to that, we have access to information, but that doesn’t take away from how you need to put in the time. You need to pay attention to what’s going on in your particular practice. You’re a family lawyer. Make sure you read the Supreme Court cases that deal with family law and God forbid people read that stuff. The legislature affects our practice. Follow the law. They pass laws. You have to read the new laws. You see a lot of people that just don’t. It’s one thing to have a practice so we can do things off or we all use that to some extent, but when the law changes, change your forms.
Technology-wise, my current space, this is not really related at the top part of it, but it’s the expense part. I remember the architect kept asking me where my copy room was, “Where’s your big copy room going to be?” He couldn’t understand why I didn’t need an entire room with a big postage machine and the copy machine, all of that stuff. Everything’s electronic. If I have personal scanners on the desk or if I need to print anything more than 100 pages, I literally Dropbox into a copy service and they print, send it to me. Postage, very few things are being mailed. Anything that we mail is important enough that it truly has to be mailed. It’s usually checks or something important. I will spend the $5 to mail at UPS priority mail. We print off the internet so I can track it.
Technology has made everything so much easier where I can take my computer home and I spend time sitting on the couch, redacted exhibits and a PDF where you used to have to print them all out, use that awful liquid paper. I’ll tape to redact. It’s torture. It told you how you do everything. At the same time, email wouldn’t make you jump off a building. I will say when you go out of town, you get to do what you do, step away for vacation, for a long weekend or time with your family. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that the out-of-office helps. I think most people respect that. I will be out of the office for whatever. I will have limited access to email or phone. If this is an emergency or the opposite, there’s something they can reach and you can decompress them. If you go on a long vacation or shorter vacation and you leave on Thursday, you had to come back Sunday and the entire time you’re checking your email, your brain’s not stepping away. You need to do it. It goes back to that, the well-being of all of us. It’s nice to make money but you also need to be sane to be around to be able to enjoy.
Other than drink scotch, how do you take care of yourself to keep your level for that?
I don’t drink as much scotch. I’m often drinking tequila.
Is it good? I’ve never had that.
It is good. For my mental well-being, I do try to take a little more time and step away and enjoy what we have. Physically I’m not very good at that. I don’t exercise. I should do that. I meant to quit smoking. I wonder if vaping’s going to kill me one day, who knows, but at least it’s not stinky.
You’re a dear friend and I love talking to you. I wanted to finally get you in here, trying to get this show going and I’m having some fun with it. It’s just an outlet to keep me from getting bored because that’s the biggest thing I face in my practices. I get bored. I live in Belmont and it’s a fun way for me to get with folks who I regard as truly interesting people or leaders in their areas. I find you to be both on top of being a dear friend. Pretty regularly, I’m going to have you come on and talk about some of these legal issues but also bullshitting. Thanks, it’s good seeing you.
It’s going to be hard, usually different.
If someone wanted to follow up with you though on anything we’ve talked about for any chance, where do they find you?
The internet. The website’s DDHLawyers.com. If you google Daniel Horowitz attorney, there is a guy in California who steals all the Google rankings. He’s a phenomenal criminal offense lawyer. I’ve been there for a long time out in LA. He sent me a case one time. I’m not him. I’m not in California. I’m also not the crazy right-wing talk show podcast guy named Daniel Horowitz. I’m the Daniel Horowitz who married way up off the Bay City Horowitz in Houston offices in Midtown. Google Daniel Horowitz attorney Houston and you’ll find me.
That Google search goes right to you. Thanks for coming. We’ll do it again soon.
ABOUT Daniel Horowitz
Daniel Horowitz received his bachelor of business administration from the University of Texas McCombs School of Business. He went on to receive his doctorate of jurisprudence from South Texas School of Law. While at the University of Texas, Daniel served as the treasurer of the Silver Spurs — an organization he continues to support as a member of its Board of Directors. Daniel began his legal career as a law clerk at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto and Friend. He joined the firm as an associate in 2005 and became a partner in 2011. His practice is devoted nearly 100% to plaintiffs’ personal injury. He handles a variety of lawsuits including catastrophic injuries, wrongful death, explosions, petrochemical accidents, pharmaceutical litigation and vehicular accidents. In 2008, Daniel became Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.