For a guy who’s been on both sides of the justice system for over 20 years, I feel very fortunate. Life’s been good to me, and to virtually all of my clients. As I plan the end of my trial litigation career in the years to come, there are few regrets. My few misfortunes have led to even better circumstances, and I’ve been blessed with a lot of lucky breaks in some very tight situations.
That doesn’t mean I’m hanging up my spurs any time soon. I can’t. I’m a warrior. I have to fight while I can, taking my chances in the arena (and ultimately that means suffering the occasional loss). If you ain’t stealin’, you ain’t tryin’ – and that means you’ll get tagged out once in a while. It’s a fact of life if you aspire to play in any competitive field: you win some, you lose some. No champion has ever gone a lifetime undefeated.
When you defend people for a living, that’s an occupational hazard. It’s impossible to turn off your feelings, which makes it tough when our client gets a bad break. There are few jobs as stressful as trial litigation, especially in criminal defense, where lives are in the balance. In serious cases, the stakes are literally life or death. No matter how hardened a veteran I might be, my clients and I are inexorably intertwined – when they are cut, I bleed. Striking them hurts me.
But old Van won’t last forever. And if I want the chance to make the most of this life and enjoy it, I probably need to slow down at some point. Wouldn’t it be nice if that were easy? It isn’t, because the people I care about still need to be protected from a legal system gone mad. We are responsible for taking care of our clients, which means I need a plan B in case I am run over by an 18 wheeler, flattened by a comet, or abducted by a girl gang.
Fortunately, I stumbled across the answer to this lurking dilemma years ago. The solution has proven to be a weapon as deadly as any in my arsenal. In fact, it has given my clients an almost unfair advantage in one trial after another. That “Ace in the hole” is my team of all-stars, heavy hitters that I have personally recruited from one end of Virginia to the other. From Bristol over to Virginia Beach and Arlington down to Emporia, there are certain courthouse stars who enjoy a special cachet.
In the past, lawyers tended to be extremely territorial about their clients. One would avoid any possible client contact with competitors. But ignoring that “conventional wisdom” has produced some incredible results, because it has helped me serve as my clients’ “Chief Counsel” by giving my direct competitors a share of my earnings. In many cases, I now hire local snipers to take the shot after I have loaded the shell.
As much as I would love to be the best lawyer for every case, I know that others can bring more to the table than I could ever hope to. Many years ago I was in court watching other lawyers try their cases when I noticed that one attorney seemed to win more often than others. She seemed to possess a charm that others did not. I soon found that there was no magic spell involved. Rather, it turned out that she was a former prosecutor in that court. She had a working relationship with the local cops, the other prosecutors that she worked with, and the judges that had heard her cases.
I decided to make an investment in her unique ability to help defendants in that jurisdiction with a simple business proposition. I would prepare the case for trial, allowing my case managers who serve as paralegals to walk the client through the preparation process step-by-step and hold their hands to ensure a top-quality file according to my tried and true system. Then I would FedEx the file to her 48 hours prior to trial, and we would split the fee. Together we could get better results for the client than either of us could get on our own.
This cost me a lot of money. Millions. But at the end of the day, I realized that I was a lot better off getting my clients exceptional results consistently than trying to keep every penny I could get my hands on. I soon adopted other hometown aces and grew our team into a network covering the entire Commonwealth. As the favorable verdicts mounted, my practice started to grow at an exponential rate. Last month, I reached a weird place: I decided that we were at capacity, and for the first time in my career, I turned away some cases because I was simply too busy to take on extra work.
This is exactly the problem I have been hoping for. In fact, I feel that it would be advisable for us – you and me – to take advantage of it. And so we shall. As of this month – our ten year anniversary – the law offices of Charles V. Hardenbergh PC will begin an expansion in association with the most dangerous trial lawyers in Virginia. Our team will begin matching our clients with other hand-picked specialists handling Personal Injury, Divorce and Custody, Bankruptcy, Criminal, and Estate Planning matters.
Does that make a difference? I’ve seen it with my own two eyes. If my own sweet mother got jammed up, I would either try the case myself or I would find the most talented and aggressive litigator I could, but if at all possible I would look for an attorney with special relationships to serve as co-counsel. Someone with connections - a Good Old Boy - a member of the Inner Circle. An Elite positioned to finesse fellow insiders.
Before I went to court myself, (and Momma will tell you that I’ve been there for her more than once after she got pinched) I would make sure there was nobody on this planet better able to defend her interests than me. As of this announcement, my firm will now serve our clients in conjunction with special counsel in select specialties and jurisdictions. Here’s what all this means in plain English: if you have a legal problem, no matter what kind of situation it is, don’t worry about it. Just call me. We’ll take care of it. Good luck and God bless as we enter the holiday season and our next decade of helping people.