Render Freeman handles catastrophic personal injury nationwide and is a partner at Andersen Tate Carr, based in Atlanta. When speaking with Render about his cases, you immediately feel the passion and genuine care he has for his clients and in his pursuit of justice on their behalf. And for those who know Render, they’ll tell you he genuinely cares about them and the advancement of the trial bar as well. Render travels across the nation teaching other attorneys as a faculty member for the Trial Lawyers College and American Association of Justice’s trial colleges. When he’s not imparting his wisdom to other attorneys or working diligently on his clients’ cases, Render spends time with his wife and two sons.
Why did you decide to become a trial lawyer? Would you do it over again?
I went to law school because we were in a recession in 1990, and I couldn’t think of anything else to do. I come from a family of lawyers and had worked in my father’s law firm growing up. So, I thought it might work well for me as a career.
After law school, I fell into a job working for an insurance defense lawyer who also did plaintiff’s class action work, so I got experience on both sides of the cases, and was given tons of responsibility in the PI defense cases.
After a decade, I moved my practice to a larger firm in the suburbs. I was taking all kinds of cases, even specific performance real estate claims. I actually tried that case to a jury and got a judgment for specific performance that we filed with the deed records as the conveyance of title. Kind cool for a geek like me.
As I was reinventing myself following the move to the suburbs, I experimented with taking some plaintiff personal injury cases and instantly fell in love with the client connection. It also fed my personality type. I am a type two on the Enneagram personality paradigm – “The Helper.”
I also loved the “business relationship” with the client. The contingent-fee arrangement eliminated the need to bill time, send bills, and haggle with the client on a monthly basis. Instead, the clients feel like I am working for free (because I am for the time being), and they greatly appreciate my efforts and commitment to their case. My love language is words of praise.
Yes, I would do it again. I hope to find some way to dabble in criminal defense trial work.
What’s the most important skill an aspiring lawyer can develop to succeed later in their career?
Empathy. If you can’t truly listen, you will never understand your client’s story; never be able to convey it; and, while you might “win” some trials, you will never get a capital-V verdict (in the words of Carl Bettinger).
Listening is a muscle; you have to exercise it. The vast majority of communication occurs with tone and body language – 93% according to one study. Some studies suggest that communication is more than 90% non-verbal. You have to listen with your soul in order to hear the emotional content of your client’s story. That doesn’t come easily.
Hearing your client’s emotional story is only possible if you understand your own emotional make up. Without that understanding, the static of your own emotions will interfere with your ability to “hear” your client; hear the defendant; hear the judge and hear the jury. If you can’t listen, you can’t communicate.
What is the most rewarding experience you’ve had as a lawyer?
The most rewarding experience I have had as a lawyer is serving on the faculty of the Trial Lawyers College. I have made more friends in the last five years (graduated in 2015). Real friends. Friends that understand me and love me despite my flaws. Friends that encourage me to become my best self with my family, with my clients, and in my trials.
What about a bad break – either in trial or during negotiations — can you share something about that with us?
I tried to ambush a defendant at trial with a witness. It should have worked, but a surprise ruling from the judge at the last second prevented it. I lost the case. Was the trap necessary? Was I feeding my ego in pursuit of a “Perry Mason Moment”?
How important is it to maintain professional relationships with other lawyers?
“Vitally important. If you decide that your job is to be a jackass, you might just turn into a jackass.”
What do you wish you would have known about your career before becoming a lawyer?
I’m not sure, really. I do not really have any regrets. I am thankful for my days as a defense lawyer because I know how insurance companies think and how they process cases and risk. I am not cynical about that; I just have a fundamental understanding of the process that they go through on their end.
What are some things you look for when first meeting with a client?
First question is “are they crazy?”. If they are crazy, they better be extremely lovable for me to take the case.
If they are crazy and high maintenance so much so that I can’t rely on their story of what happened, I can’t take the case.
If they’re sane but not likable, then I have to be very careful with accepting the engagement. If the jury does not like them, I won’t be able to overcome that with all the charm in the world.
What types of cases do you handle? How did you land working on those specific types of cases?
“Volunteer service. Build relationships through shared experiences.”
I am the past president of the Johns Creek Rotary Club and the current Chair of the Johns Creek Chamber of Commerce. And I have poured myself into those jobs with everything that I had.
Nonlawyers will not remember what I do for a living. I’m fortunate to work in a large firm that does a wide variety of legal work, so I just tell lay people, “Do not try to remember what I do, just remember that I’m a lawyer and call me with whatever problem you have. If I can’t handle it, I’ll get you to the right kind of lawyer.” If you get too specific with non-lawyers, they will not remember it. Cast a big net.
This also results in a diverse caseload. You don’t want all high dollar medical malpractice cases; you need to mix in some good old fashioned car wreck, truck wreck, fall down cases to keep the lights on.
In the legal arena, I make sure that all the lawyers understand that I do medical malpractice work. I teach every chance I get and often use my cases as examples of the work I do. Lawyers seem to remember that I handle flesh eating bacteria-caused multiple amputation cases when they see the pictures of my clients’ rotting limbs that are amputated and replaced with prosthetic limbs.
What’s one thing you want for the readers to know about you that we didn’t ask?
My clients become lifelong friends because we go on a journey together. I involve them at every opportunity. I take them to meetings with their treating physicians. I have them attend hearings (even the mundane issues like scheduling conferences) because I want them to understand the process, and I want the court to see that the case is not about lawyers; it’s about real people. I also take the opportunity when appropriate to inject mental healthcare into my representation of the clients. When appropriate, some professional therapy is needed to get the clients through the litigation process.
Thank you to Render for the time spent sharing his answers with us. Render and his wife support a number of charities and organizations, including their local church and the Trial Lawyers College. Their recent efforts have focused on local food banks, restaurant workers, and the Screen Actors Guild during the Covid-19 crisis. If you gained something from Render’s interview, please consider supporting your local food bank or local community organization during this very critical time.