Morris Lilienthal, of Martinson & Beason, P.C. in Huntsville, Alabama, represents injury victims and their families. As a graduate of Cumberland School of Law, Morris finished in the top fifth of his class while serving as president of Cumberland College Democrats and was on the Moot Court board. In regard to areas of practice, Morris focuses on personal injury, car accidents, wrongful death, nursing home negligence, products liability, insurance bad faith, and fraud.
Lawyer Minds: While there are stereotypes about lawyers’ personas, how would you describe the typical lawyer, based on your experience?
Morris Lilienthal: The majority of the lawyers I interact with are intelligent, hardworking, zealous advocates for their clients. Sadly, as there are in any profession, there are some attorneys who give lawyers a bad name. One of the biggest issues we see when someone contacts us that has had a bad experience in the past with an attorney is lack of communication. Clients are often coming to us in a time of need, and they want to be able to speak with their attorney to get feedback, advice, and comfort that everything is going to be okay.
Lawyer Minds: Are there any steps you take to help a potential client not feel intimidated when they first meet you?
Morris Lilienthal: Being able to relate to your client is critical. If your client does not make a connection with you, ultimately, they will not trust the legal advice you give them. I start by having a website with photographs, videos, and content that lets the client get to know me and our firm. Moreover, I’m actively involved on social media and have my Live Interview Show, The Mo Show Live, and I post my #TipsFromMo and #WkndWkShirts that potential clients can see my human side and my “why.”
Another point is when I first meet a client, I try to find a connection with that client. They have young children or grandchildren, they have an interest in sports, or maybe they are a teacher like my wife—something that gives me an opening to connect with them on a humanistic level.
Lawyer Minds: What is your favorite part of a trial? Why? What resources do you use in preparing for that part of trial?
Morris Lilienthal: Open and closing arguments are my favorite part of a trial. It is an opportunity where you’re speaking straight to the jury, and you are able to bring your client’s case to life. Your creativity as a lawyer and storyteller comes to life.
Lawyer Minds: In a complex case that may span weeks, what’s your strategy for keeping jurors engaged?
Morris Lilienthal: I think you try to change your tone and the manner in which you’re presenting your evidence and testimony to keep the jury’s attention. You can also use demonstrative exhibits and trial software to help highlight details and facts and make the case come to life.
Lawyer Minds: Is there a moment in any trial that sticks out to you — good or bad — and can you share that?
Morris Lilienthal: I recall attending a pre-trial hearing where the adverse party was pro se (representing himself). It was very hot in the courtroom. When our case was called, we went up to the bench and the adverse party had a suit on. He took off his jacket and placed it around a chair next to the bench. The Judge looked down and said, “Mr. X, I don’t think we’re going to be here that long” [Laughter].
Lawyer Minds: How are internal conflicts handled in the legal profession?
Morris Lilienthal: Due to the nature of the legal profession, we are typically in an adversarial position with other attorneys, thus conflicts naturally arise. I am always advocating for my client but realizing that sometimes I need to give on certain matters to get on others. For example, if another attorney needs an extension to file a response to discovery, unless it is going to adversely impact my client, I am going to give them the extension. Hey, I may likely need a similar extension that would benefit my client.
In addition to that, it is not uncommon, given the complexity of the issues we face as lawyers, that we are presented with difficult situations on how to handle matters not from a legal standpoint but from a moral and ethical standpoint. In these situations, I start with what the ethics rules mandate be done and then morally what do I think is in the best interest of my client and then my firm. Over the years, I have consulted with other lawyers and contacted the State Bar for feedback.
Lawyer Minds: What are some unexpected tasks that come with being a lawyer?
Morris Lilienthal: If you are a partner in a small firm or a solo practitioner, practicing law is often the easiest part of your day. On a daily and/or weekly basis, I am involved in marketing, human resources, technology, and the operational side of the firm. Something is always coming up that needs your attention that has nothing to do with the everyday handling of a case. If you do not address those issues, you won’t have cases to work on in the future, won’t have employees to work the cases, won’t have the needed technology to efficiently handle your cases, etc.
Lawyer Minds: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone considering practicing law?
Morris Lilienthal: To develop policies and procedures and systems for everything that is done at the law firm and memorialize them to writing and video. This will help streamline everything from how the mail is processed to how discovery is answered to how we enter contacts into our marketing database to remarket to them.
Lawyer Minds would like to thank Morris for taking the time to share his knowledge and insight with us!