In 1985, Stanley Saltzman and Louis Marlin formed Marlin & Saltzman LLP. Beginning as a defense firm, the partners boldly changed directions in the late 1990s—pivoting away from their established hourly practice to represent plaintiffs on a contingent-fee basis in class actions, mass torts and cases involving catastrophic injuries. In the 20 years since moving to the plaintiffs practice, Marlin & Saltzman has achieved more than $850 million in verdicts and settlements on behalf of its clients and established itself as a highly-respected national plaintiffs’ practice.
What prompted you to shift your defense practice into a plaintiffs’ practice?
Our firm handled defense litigation for approximately 15 years. In those days, we did insurance coverage, bad faith and class-action defense work. While we grew to as many as 20 attorneys during that period, we found we felt more for the plaintiffs’ side from a personal philosophy standpoint. We then made a business decision to shift from one side to the other and gave ourselves a five-year period to do so.
How were you able to transition the focus of your practice?
We set up a business plan that involved taking on some plaintiffs’ work, including class actions, and handling that work simultaneously with our ongoing defense practice. Then, on an annual basis, we would shift more of our personnel to the plaintiffs’ side.
We also reduced the number of employees we had as we learned how to handle cases more efficiently on a contingent-fee basis. A plaintiffs’ practice is completely different than a defense practice in that as a defense firm you are propounding and responding to discovery in hundreds of cases. With a class action and complex litigation practice, you tend to handle a lot fewer cases, but they are larger, and there is a lot more legal briefing involved as opposed to focusing so much on discovery. As a result, we shifted to retaining more experienced lawyers and having fewer newer attorneys.
Were there challenges that you faced that were unique to a plaintiffs’ practice?
The biggest one, which is where Counsel Financial has helped, is the uncertainty of our cash flow. When you are running a defense firm you have hourly billing and thus cash-flow tended to be more dependable. As long as you are doing good work and your clients are satisfied, you keep getting more work, your expenses are reimbursed regularly and it is much easier to do financial planning. On the plaintiffs’ side, since everything is contingent, it is harder to plan your cash flow needs.
Why did you decide to get financing from Counsel Financial?
We had a bank line of credit when we began our practice, which we maintained throughout the years. However, with all the uncertainties in complex litigation cases over the last five years, banks have become less open to financing our type of firm. As we got into mass torts along with our class action practice, the banks were reticent to take the extra step we needed. Counsel Financial was not. It filled the need, and then some.
What is the single biggest challenge you face as an owner?
Financing is definitely an issue, but prevailing on difficult cases in changing legal environments is the biggest challenge we face every day of the week.
What do you believe differentiates your firm from others?
I would like to think we are in the league of the top firms and, like any of the top firms, we believe in the power of truly excellent legal work, coupled with the ability to invest in our cases financially as needed. This means hiring experts early rather than at the last minute, taking all the depositions that need to be taken and developing early statistical analyses, all while producing great legal briefing and being comfortable in court.
What do you believe has been the key to your firm’s long-term success?
Really it is just one thing: exceptional legal work. Anything that goes out the door of this firm must be of the highest quality. It has my name on it and it better be good. We have great lawyers and a fantastic support staff, all of whom share the same mentality, and I think it is well recognized that we do excellent legal work. Our belief is that you have to develop every single case fully, as if it were going to trial, so that you can be ready for anything.
Outside of your law practice, what other interests do you have?
My law practice. My wife says I am pretty one-dimensional, but I love what I do. I love the challenge, I love that we are almost always up against excellent opposing counsel, who I respect. As a couple, we also enjoy traveling. My wife was born in Italy, so we love going to Europe and visit Italy regularly.
As an owner, what is the most important lesson you have learned?
Not to take myself too seriously. I think we have a really hard-working office, but overall I think we are relaxed. Even though I try not to take myself seriously, I always strive to work as hard, if not harder, than everyone else. When there is a project that goes until midnight, I am usually there to see it through because I want everyone to feel like they are a part of a team.
Counsel Financial provides working capital credit lines up to $5 million exclusively for the plaintiffs' bar in all states except California, where credit lines are issued by California Attorney Lending. Explore all of our financial solutions designed for contingent fee practice.
Marlin & Saltzman has helped hundreds of thousands of clients gain fair compensation for their employment and consumer class injuries and catastrophic injuries. In our 30 years of experience, Marlin & Saltzman has recovered more than $850 million for our clients; becoming a preeminent law firm throughout California and the entire nation.