One of the keys to a successful law practice is marketing yourself as handling a specific niche case type and making sure people know you work in that particular practice area. Bryan Pope has developed a national reputation representing clients suffering from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Lawyer Minds talks to Bryan about how he developed this practice area and how he markets this specialty.
Lawyer Minds: Tell us a little bit about your practice. What kind of work do you do?
Bryan Pope: My practice is primarily focused on personal injury, catastrophic cases, and wrongful death cases. In Texas, we’re the only state that doesn’t have mandatory workers’ comp. We have “non-subscribers” where employers can opt out of workers’ comp. This includes some of our big-box retailers, grocery stores, Target, and places like that, so we can sue them for negligence when an employee is injured. We’ve done a bunch of those cases as well. My partner, Larry Taylor, and I manage The Cochran Firm Texas. We have offices in Dallas, Fort Worth, and Houston, but practice all over the state. Our firm carries on the legacy of our founder, Johnnie Cochran, by providing excellent legal services and giving back to the community.
My niche specialty, cases involving Complex Regional Pain Syndrome/Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (CRPS/RSD), has developed over the last 20 to 25 years. I started getting involved with those cases working with my former partner and past AAJ president, Mary Alice McLarty, who just recently retired. She started working on those cases doing workers’ comp back in the ’80s in Lubbock, Texas, and realized that a lot of people were getting these really severe injuries resulting in this horribly disabling nerve condition called RSD and that there was a third-party component to them. So, she and I started working on these cases in the late ’90s together. I’ve continued working on them and have developed a niche practice handling cases nationwide in the last four or five years.
Lawyer Minds: Why did you get particularly interested in these injuries?
Bryan Pope: I saw that there was a whole group of people who were suffering and I wanted to do something about it. It’s such a painful and disabling life-changing condition and there really were not many lawyers out there doing those type of cases. And I think that’s because people will just look at these people and go, “How could you be in so much pain? You need to just suck it up and get on.” Nobody really understood or could empathize with what the person was going through. So, Mary Alice and I had a holistic approach. I got involved with working with the main national support group for people who have CRPS/RSD called the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Association, the RSDSA.
I started speaking at their conferences and getting involved with their organization as a corporate sponsor and trying to help people. At the same time, obviously, it provided an opportunity to meet people who might need an attorney as well as an opportunity to put videos on their YouTube channel. As a way of marketing, we’d go to their conferences and pass out our brochures and cards in addition to speaking and talking to them about legal issues.
That was one of the ways that I started really getting involved with people who’ve had CRPS/RSD. I also have worked with the trial lawyer organizations that I belong to and have participated in leadership roles. Through this, people know that I do these types of cases and work with lawyers around the country on either a referral or joint venture basis.
Lawyer Minds: You say you get involved in trial lawyer organizations so that other lawyers know what you do. How about more practically? Exactly how would a lawyer who’s got a specialty get involved and get their name out in a particular area?
Bryan Pope: Well, a lot of it is networking, but a lot of it also is speaking at CLEs and letting people know through your content that you give — such as when you’re talking on topics like chronic pain — that people know this an area that you specialize in.
When you meet new people and as you get involved in trial lawyer organizations, local, state, and especially around the country, it’s part of your story. You get to tell people what you do. When people ask me that question, I respond that I’m a personal injury lawyer obviously, but I specialize in Complex Regional Pain Syndrome cases and then I say, “let me tell you about them.” If you make an impression, then that’s a contact that potentially down the road, if they have a case, might either refer it to you or bring you in.
Lawyer Minds: Some lawyers ask, “Why would I teach a CLE on something that’s my specialty and essentially give away all my knowledge?” In other words, “If I speak, people will know how to handle these cases on their own if I share my secrets.” You seem to take the opposite approach.
Bryan Pope: There are enough cases to go around, so to speak. If I can educate attorneys who want to do it on their own to be able to actually help their clients get a better recovery or help their clients in their time of need, to be more compassionate because of the severity of their condition, and be able to speak and relate to them in a different way, then I have accomplished my goal. At the same time, my expertise in the field has been such that people will see my presentation or my content or my publications and they will say, “If I ever have a CRPS case, I’m going to give you a call.”
Like I said, I think that not only can I help those who want to help their clients better, but I also let people know if they don’t want to get involved because it is a fairly complex condition. Especially on causation, you really have to have the right experts and know what you’re doing. I don’t think there’s a downside at all to giving away the secret sauce to the extent that there is any.
Lawyer Minds: Is there one particular client that you’ve had where you’ve litigated a CRPS case that really made you proud and feel like you did a good job for the family?
Bryan Pope: There’s a number of them. They’re all special in their own way. I would say the one that sticks out, just off the top of my head, is when we represented a nurse who had a case against her employer — a hospital in Texas that did not have workers’ comp insurance. So, she was subjected to the employee accident plan and that plan was pretty much determined to cut her benefits off as soon as it possibly could. We sued her employer for negligence and alleged it failed to provide a safe place to work, and we were able to build her case up with a seven figure damage model.
She was a single mom and really lived paycheck to paycheck before she got injured. This is one of those clients who just wasn’t able to keep her head above water and so we worked hard on her case. We got to the point where we were able to get her a settlement that allowed her to take care of all of her future medical, take care of her child, create a college fund, and allow her to do some other type of work, if she wanted to, outside of the medical community, and really turned her life around. That was very gratifying at the end.
Lawyer Minds: You often get associated with other counsel from around the country on these cases. How do you work with co-counsel?
Bryan Pope: That’s part of the joy of being a trial lawyer and meeting new people around the country and getting an opportunity to experience working with some of the great trial lawyers in different parts of the country. Most often, I will be brought into a case outside of Texas and I’ll have an opportunity to travel and meet the client. Sometimes, the client will contact me directly through the RSDSA or my website, or other marketing. Then, I will go out and find a trial lawyer and put together a legal team in a different venue. That has given me, in the last four or five years, an opportunity to work in states that I’d never really spent any time in like Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Pennsylvania, and other places all over the country. As a trial lawyer, it brings me great satisfaction to put together a legal team and work on helping people out all over the country and get a chance to broaden my network by meeting new trial lawyers and bringing them into the fold.
Many thanks to Bryan for answering our questions today. If you have any questions for Bryan, you can find him at: https://www.cochrancrps.com/bryan-pope/.
And for more information about the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association, please go to: www.rsds.org. Or, please visit burninglimb.com to learn more about the foundation for people who suffer from chronic pain.