Dominic Andriacchi of Dominic F. Andriacchi, PC is a personal injury lawyer practicing in Michigan’s upper peninsula. Dominic’s practice focuses on personal injury cases, particularly car wrecks, truck wrecks, or first-party insurance cases, although Dominic is known for taking a criminal defense case if it’s a good fit. Below, we talk with Dominic about how he developed his practice and what advice he has for lawyers seeking to develop themselves, personally and professionally, and what advice he has for those who are looking at starting a new practice.
Lawyer Minds: Why did you decide to become a trial lawyer?
Dominic Andriacchi: I was born into the law. My dad is also a lawyer and had his own solo practice all my life. My mom is his office manager, assistant, bookkeeper, and only “employee.” A week after I was born, I was in the office. Growing up, I’ve always had a gift for talking and helping people. So, becoming a lawyer was a natural fit.
After a couple years of practice, I realized I liked trials more than anything else. Trials are fun. It is the only time we get to talk to a lot of people from all walks of life about important things. We get to help jurors make their decision while helping our clients at the same time.
Once I found what I really liked doing, I went all in on becoming the best trial lawyer I could be. I’m still working at it, but I’m a lot further along than when I first started.
Lawyer Minds: What kind of cases does your firm handle?
Dominic Andriacchi: We largely handle personal injury cases now, although I have been a criminal defense lawyer for a long time and will take the occasional criminal defense case that I believe in. Of the personal injury cases, they generally arise out of car crashes, truck crashes, or first-party insurance-benefits disputes.
Lawyer Minds: How did you end up handling those types of cases?
Dominic Andriacchi: Being a small-town lawyer, I started off helping people with whatever issues they were having when they came in the door. Sometimes that could be needing a will or a deed, but mostly it was that they were accused of a crime. People would also come in and say they were in a car crash. They were hurt and their insurance company was not paying for all the medical care they needed.
As I said above, I learned over the years that I liked jury trials. I also learned that criminal defense and personal injury are very intricate fields and to help people the most, you must dedicate a lot of time and effort to learning the law, your client, and the case. The stakes were higher. I stopped doing some of the other things like wills. I started focusing mostly on the criminal defense and personal injury cases.
Now, I’m at a point where I’ve also learned that I cannot help everyone. I put a ton of time and effort into each case and into improving myself: learning medicine, attending seminars, etc. So, I shifted to mostly handling serious personal injury cases as those people need help the most and there is more opportunity to put in the time that I need to. I will also take the occasional criminal defense case, but it must be a case I believe in and where someone needs very serious help.
Lawyer Minds: What is the most rewarding experience you’ve had as a lawyer?
Dominic Andriacchi: Graduating from Trial Lawyers College in September 2017.
Each time the jury comes back with a verdict for my client is rewarding in its own way. So, it is hard to say that one verdict is more rewarding than another.
I’ve had cases where the jury comes back and acquits my client of all crimes they were accused of. That feeling where you save someone from being branded as a criminal, from being locked up, is tremendous.
I’ve also had a jury come back and appraise my client’s injuries at $1.2 million dollars. That felt tremendous, too, to know that the jury heard my client’s story, understood that she was seriously hurt in a car crash, and that what was taken from her life was important and had a lot of value. Especially since the defense accused her of lying and making it all up.
But each of those experiences was rewarding in its own way.
Lawyer Minds: What advice do you have for someone who wants to start a law firm?
Dominic Andriacchi: Read as much as you can. Not just books about marketing, business, or how to try cases. Yes, those books are important to give you the foundation you need. But you also need to read about things that excite you, you need to read the classics (I highly recommend Letters from a Stoic by Seneca), fiction, etc. They all serve their purpose and help you become a well-rounded and better person.
And, for just as much time you spend reading or at the office, spend, as close to as possible, an equal amount of time doing something other than work. It can be anything: spending time with family, journaling, meditating, exercising, walking, gardening, jiu jitsu, whatever. You must balance the mental and physical, work and non-work or you will burn out.
Speaking of burnout, there will be a time when this all feels like a grind, that it’s not working, that you’re all alone. It’s okay. We’ve all felt the same way before and will again in the future. When that happens, have faith in the process and commiserate with friends.
Lawyer Minds: How much time do you spend working on your practice versus in the practice (practicing law) and how do you balance that out?
Dominic Andriacchi: I spend much more time working on the practice than in it. But, I might have a slightly different view than most about what working “on” the practice means.
As for the typical meaning of working “on” the practice, I spend a small amount of time working on marketing, business systems, etc. That is a problem I’m trying to fix. I generally hire others to do this work or delegate it out as I know that I’m not skilled in a lot of these areas, but that doesn’t mean I ignore them.
As for my meaning of working “on” the practice, I spend a ton of time working on myself.
At the end of the day, we are in a service industry, and we, the individual lawyer, are the “product.” That means that, when we are improving our trial skills, business skills, speaking skills, whatever, we are improving the “product,” which is working on the practice.
But, as I talked about previously, it also means that spending time unwinding, whether that be through gardening or whatever, is also working “on” the practice: you do no one any good when you’re burned out.
I try to balance out working on vs working in the practice by being as organized as possible. Through organization comes increased efficiency, which, when combined with experience, means you don’t need to spend as much time to do whatever you need to do.
Lawyer Minds: How have you grown as a lawyer?
Dominic Andriacchi: I’ve focused these past few years on growing as a person, which automatically means I’ve grown as a lawyer. Remember: we’re in a service industry. We deal with humans constantly. By understanding more about ourselves and being in touch with more parts of ourselves, we can better understand and connect with others: our clients, the jury, the judges, opposing counsel, etc. We get more perspective on life and, at the end of the day, that’s what each case is about: life.
Lawyer Minds: What do you find most enjoyable about being a lawyer?
Dominic Andriacchi: There are two equal parts that I find the most enjoyable: (1) helping others, and (2) it rewards you for being well-rounded and down to earth.
As for the first part, it’s easy to get enjoyment out of helping others. That can be anything from saving them from having to go to jail to making sure they have the money they need to pay their medical bills. When you do a good job and your client appreciates it, it’s amazing.
As for the second part, you don’t have to be the “lawyer” or “attorney” portrayed on tv. Instead, the less of a “lawyer” you are, the better you will be. The more you are yourself, the better you will connect with others.
Not only that, but, through learning about and experiencing life outside of the law, we better understand our cases and better connect with others as well.
Being a trial lawyer is one of the only professions where reading a book about traumatic brain injuries or Virgil’s Aeneid is equally important as reading transcripts. Spending time in a deposition is just as important as spending time with your family.
What’s not to like about that?
Thanks again to Dominic for this wonderful interview. We appreciate all of the time he put into answering these questions.