Calm Nature; personal litigation can be very contentious and stressful. It’s important for a person in this field of work to be calm in their nature and level headed so they’re able to take a step back when needed and think before blurting something out. For example you may get a snarky email from opposing counsel. Instead of your gut reaction to come back with something negative, take a step back and think of a response that gets your point across without causing an issue in the future should that email be shown to a judge.
The legal field is known to be extremely competitive. Lawyers are often smart, ambitious, and highly educated. That being said, what does it take to stand out and become a “Top Lawyer” in your specific field of law? In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Become A Top Lawyer In Your Specific Field of Law”, we are talking to top lawyers who share what it takes to excel and stand out in your industry.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kellen Sinclair.
Kellen is partner at Stawicki, Anderson & Sinclair, a leading personal injury firm based in Sacramento, CA. With just a few years of trial experience under his belt, Kellen was nominated for the Capitol City Trial Lawyers Association Advocate of the Year in 2016. Since then, he and his firm have been serving those with personal injury claims across the Sacramento area, successfully securing millions of dollars in settlements and verdicts on behalf of their clients.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. What is the “backstory” that brought you to this particular career path in Law? Did you want to be an attorney “when you grew up”?
I’ve always been a people person with the ability to solve problems and urge to help people. However, I didn’t know quite what I wanted to do until later on. During my undergraduate days at UCLA, I connected with a few alumni who were personal injury attorneys in the Los Angeles area. It really opened my eyes in to the profession and it was around then that I knew this profession would be fulfilling. After I graduated I became a law clerk at one of those Los Angeles firms and shortly after applied to law school. I never looked back after, and am grateful that I get to help others on a daily basis.
Can you tell us a bit about the nature of your practice and what you focus on?
Yes, at Stawicki, Anderson & Sinclair we are a personal injury firm that focuses on helping people through some traumatic moments in their lives. This includes car wrecks, catastrophic injuries, slip and falls, big rig wrecks and dog bites.
You are a successful attorney. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? What unique qualities do you have that others may not? Can you please share a story or example for each?
As a successful attorney, I’ve found my most valuable traits are being goal oriented, competitive and also staying calm under pressure.
Without setting goals for yourself and your firm, you will stay stagnant. For some people, that’s OK. But for me, I strive for bigger and better. I want the best for my clients and make goals to achieve that. Along with that comes my competitive side. I do NOT like losing — I mean who does — but I really just am a sore loser. This attribute makes me work even harder against the insurance companies and others that come i the way of getting large settlements for my clients.
Finally, being an attorney comes with high stress. The fact that I have the ability to stay calm and rational in moments that are filled with tension is a gift. My calmness feeds into others I’m around which can help ease tense situations and bring a resolution all are happy with in the end.
Do you think you have had luck in your success? Can you explain what you mean?
Yes, I do think I have been lucky in a way. But I’ve also worked very hard to get to where I am. The stars aligned for my career, but that’s because of the time and dedication I put towards them aligning.
When I relocated to Sacramento, CA from Los Angeles I connected with Mark Stawicki who has been such a valuable part of my career. I am lucky to have connected with him and am lucky to be on his team. I started with Mark’s firm as a law clerk fresh out of law school. If I didn’t show up, do my job, put in the time and be willing to learn from my mistakes, I wouldn’t be partner today.
Do you think where you went to school has any bearing on your success? How important is it for a lawyer to go to a top-tier school?
I think where you go to law school typically has an affect on where you practice. I went to law school in Sacramento which lead me to opportunities in the area.
I wouldn’t necessarily say going to a top-tier school is important. It really would depend on what that person is striving for. A top-tier school may give more opportunity for a higher starting salary at a big international firm. However, a lower tier school has benefits as it’s cheaper so you have less debt and can cater to a person’s work schedule.
Based on the lessons you have learned from your experience, if you could go back in time and speak to your twenty-year-old self, what would you say? Would you do anything differently?
No I would not do anything differently if I went back in time. When I was in my twenties, don’t get me wrong I was having lots of fun, but I was also very driven and knew where I wanted to go. I was on the right path and followed that path to where I am today.
This is not easy work. What is your primary motivation and drive behind the work that you do?
My primary motivation is to be the best at what I do and to win for my clients. Like I said earlier, I am a people person. The more I reach for the stars for my current clients, the more they will recommend me to their family and friends when they need help. I want to be there for anyone and everyone by getting them the settlements or verdicts they deserve.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Right now I have a caustrophic injury case against a big company that I’m very dedicated to.
Where do you go from here? Where do you aim to be in the next chapter of your career?
My ultimate goal is to get the highest verdict in California. I know I’ll get there with more trial practice and dedication to learning from others.
Without sharing anything confidential, can you please share your most successful “war story”? Can you share the funniest?
My most successful case has been going into a county that gives very conservative verdicts yet having the jury awarding twice the amount I asked them for. Definitely a highlight and something I aim for more of in the future!
Ok, fantastic. Let’s now shift to discussing some advice for aspiring lawyers. Do you work remotely? Onsite? Or Hybrid? What do you think will be the future of how law offices operate? What do you prefer? Can you please explain what you mean?
I work mostly onsite along with the firm. I have a remote desktop set up and will do that occasionally, but for the most part we’re in the trenches daily.
I think the future definitely has more remote opportunities. It saves on overhead and there are so many services that exist to help remote attorneys find success — whether its client management software of document creation tools. Having a physical office is important, but it also comes with a lot of overhead. So having the option in the future to cut that overhead is always something to explore.
How has the legal world changed since COVID? How do you think it might change in the near future? Can you explain what you mean?
Almost everything is remote now. From client meetings to trials — very few things are in person. Also, courts that were already back logged pre-COVID have become even more backlogged. I’m sure with time everything will flow again, but for a while it’s been a scheduling nightmare to get cases pushing forward.
I don’t see much of a change in the foreseeable future. I think lawyers, courts and clients have gotten used to the flexibility of it all, which is a good thing!
We often hear about the importance of networking and getting referrals. Is this still true today? Has the nature of networking changed or has its importance changed? Can you explain what you mean?
Yes networking is necessary and important — whether during COVID or not. It’s important to keep the relationships tat you have and foster those as you never know what can come of them. If you’re trying to make new connections, networking has only really changed that it’s not in-person as much. There ar still online meet ups to attend if you want to go that route. Recently some mixers and conventions are starting to move forward, which is exciting for those comfortable to attend.
In terms of that new networking, if you’re not comfortable going to a mixer of event quite yet, I find talking to someone on the phone is just as beneficial. Doing the research, finding who you need to connect with and simply reaching out can do wonders. I’ve connected with many high-profile attorneys this way. It’s a more personal approach and people appreciate that.
Based on your experience, how can attorneys effectively leverage social media to build their practice?
I’ll admit that my firm is not at the forefront of social media activity. However, I think the most important thing is for attorneys to just have a presence on the basic platforms. Prospective clients may only use Facebook as their search. So if you don’t have a page, they may not find you. Just build your profiles, update when you can and remember to check in occasionally so you don’t miss any opportunities. Of course make sure your contact information is listed as well so people know to reach out directly to you in addition to your social platforms.
Excellent. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Become A Top Lawyer In Your Specific Field of Law?” Please share a story or an example for each.
1 — Patience; as a personal injury attorney one of my biggest challenges is working with clients that are hurt, frustrated and in pain. It’s important that someone in this profession is very patient and understanding as their clients are going through a very traumatic time in their lives.
2 — Calm Nature; personal litigation can be very contentious and stressful. It’s important for a person in this field of work to be calm in their nature and level headed so they’re able to take a step back when needed and think before blurting something out. For example you may get a snarky email from opposing counsel. Instead of your gut reaction to come back with something negative, take a step back and think of a response that gets your point across without causing an issue in the future should that email be shown to a judge.
3 — Confidence; it’s important for personal injury attorneys to have confidence so your clients trust you’ll go to bat for them and get the full value for their case.
4 — Dedication; days are long in this profession. Sometimes, especially during a trial, you may not see your family for a bit, even on weekends. It can be hard on our personal lives, but without that dedication maximum case values just won’t be reached. Understand that you may have to work a few weekends, but once that verdict is reached, you can take a few days off to regroup with your family and celebrate.
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Yes — Elon Musk
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!