We had the good fortune of connecting with Jennifer O’Connell and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jennifer, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I came from the world of big law firms and heavy volume practice. I was in that realm for ten years, and I found it extremely difficult to really dig in to my client’s cases – the things that separate them from the pack and the uniqueness of their lives and stories. In my industry, being able to do that is what makes the difference between a good lawyer and a great one, and in many scenarios, it makes the difference in the value you can bring to the client at the end of the day. With this firm, I refuse to get too big to really learn my client’s lives and the idiosyncrasies of their individual cases and claims. The other perk to that is we only have to work with the client’s we really mesh well with and who also have that feeling in return. Nothing good comes of working relationships that aren’t built on trust and reciprocity. Because our business plan includes keeping a strategy in terms of size, we can pick and choose the relationships that support us and our clients. Being the best is not about quantity, it’s about quality.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I spent the first ten years of my practice in Tennessee. I joined a firm that was focused on settling cases before filing suit but had little experience litigating cases and pushing for the best result. I had never taken trail advocacy or even seen a trial in person before my first trial on behalf of a client… which came the day after I was sworn in to practice. From that day on, I was in trial on a regular basis, and learned the skills on my feet. I learned a real street-ball way of trying cases, watching my opponent and being prepared to pivot and react quickly. Many attorneys are well trained and practiced at trial advocacy. You see the polished suits and the polished, sometimes canned, phrases and mannerisms. I learned a more practice-driven, out of the box approach. There was a steep learning curve, but getting back into the courtroom as often as possible and taking the licks and rising above has made me a better trial lawyer than any class or seminar could have made me. Our opponents are often insurance companies and major corporations. They spend a lot of time and money grooming their attorneys and teaching them to expect a certain approach from folks on my side of the bar. If I walk into the courtroom and perform exactly as expected, I will never serve my client well. The lessons I learned the hard way have also built me into a tough and aware litigator. I am always watching for the smoke and mirrors, keeping an eye to my blind side. I spend just as much time predicting and protecting against the corporate lawyer’s approach as I do preparing my own case. It’s harder to be a moving target, and that’s how I have learned to try my cases.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Denver is definitely a place to live if you like having company come to stay! It’s so great that all of our friends growing up love to come here and we get to show them the places we love! Our immediate go-to is Wooden Spoon on 32nd for breakfast and coffee. We start most of our sight-seeing days by grabbing their quiche or breakfast sandwiches and an Americano. Everything is made fresh in-house, and the quiche is so incredible that if you don’t get there by 9am, you will never be there in time! Lady Jane and Acova are my Girls’ Nights hangouts. Both have specialty cocktails, and neither mind to tweak the recipe for your likes and dislikes or dietary issues. Acova has wine slushies… no need to explain further… and a huge list of some of the best apps and happy hour eats that we more often than not end up ordering a ton of and taking our entrees home. We never skip the Wild Animal Sanctuary. We are frequent fliers in our own right, and we take everyone who comes to visit. Where else can you hang out with lions, tigers, and bears who are not in cages or behind glass, but are running around, playing, and roaring? They have an annual 5k, and you actually get to run on the ground level. The bears will run along the fence with you, and the tiger paces back and forth… which will give you a solid boost in your finish time! I am also a sucker for Union Station. It’s absolutely beautiful, and the Cooper Lounge is the best spot to people watch with cocktails and macaroons. And Pig Train Coffee is some of the best in the city!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My team is the absolute foundation of this firm. We represent people from all walks of life and with injuries that range from physical to emotional. Holly Presley, my paralegal, has a Masters in Education, which is extremely helpful when she is walking clients through the litigation process, which most of them have never experienced before and know nothing about. She quickly identifies their learning and communication styles and tailors the process to their needs. She also has experience in working through issues related to Traumatic Brain Injuries, as her husband is a former Marine and brain injury survivor. Several of our clients suffer from Traumatic Brain Injuries, and Holly brings to the table the ability to not only understand the uniqueness of that experience, but also life skills that can help them understand themselves and what they are experiencing. She helps ease their fears and see the light at the end of the long tunnel of healing. My paralegal assistant, Caitlin Sloan Talley, has a Masters in Business Administration, as well as a degree in Social Work. She has career experience in mental health. Once again, Caitlin is incredibly well-suited for patience and understanding when it comes to our clients’ unique needs. Also, many people forget the economics of litigation, things like accounting for medical treatment expenses, lost wages and loss of earning capacity, future medical and financial needs, and health insurance subrogation. Caitlin’s skills in business and experience in segments of the medical field make her an incredible member of our team. Because of the unique skill set of both Holly and Caitlin, we function more as a team than a hierarchy or supervisor-to-staff system. We each bring a piece of the puzzle to the team and work very symbiotically. Our work feels much stronger for our clients because of its distinctiveness than any other team I have been a part of in this industry. Finally, we have one very special member of our firm, Winston. Winston is our Therapy Dog, and he and I are a certified therapy team. Winston supports our clients through the stresses of litigation and helps ease their nerves about the process.
The headshot is by Mike Larremore (@mikelarremore).