I do not have a typical background for someone who typically gets into Law and gets good at it if they do like Law. In fact, I had no interest in getting into law whatsoever after I found out how much reading and writing Lawyers and Paralegals have to do. I wanted to do more exciting things with my life, which would inevitably have helped people and did not want to have a typical 9-5 job or manual labor job either. I was never into management either. I never did like the idea of being responsible for something or oversee someone. Let alone overseeing Paralegals and, in many cases, Attorneys, which eventually wound up happening. Imagine that! Someone with no Law Degree overseeing Attorneys… I still scratch my head over that whole concept, but in my experience, settlement negotiators run the firm.
So, this is how my story began. I served over 8 years in the US Army as an Infantryman and served in Iraq during OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom) II from 2004 to 2005. This was about 8 months after the initial invasion when the insurgency began to increase in their activities and terror. I will not dive deeply into my military background but will focus on the most pertinent parts that affected my Settlement Career. More importantly, the lessons I have learned that helped me become a good negotiator.
Moving forward… At some point in my military career, I briefly trained with Special Forces or the Green Berets. I am not Special Forces Qualified, but I had an opportunity to train with them for 30 days in Ft. Polk, Louisiana, during the Pre-Combat Deployment Training program called JRTC (Joint Readiness Training Center). With a pinch of luck, my unit just happened to get randomly attached to them for the pre-combat qualifications. During these 30 days of training with them, I probably learned more than I did in years with my regular units. I also solidified my sensitivity to other cultures, which is also a crucial skill to have.
Green Berets are probably one of the most amazing people anyone could ever meet. In fact, most special forces operators such as the US Navy Seals, Army Rangers, Marine Force Recon & Raiders, Air Force Combat Controllers, and Para Jumpers, etc. are. Besides the training, they are highly intelligent, and all have a distinct Type A Personality. If you were ever in the military, you could almost see a Special Operator (SOF) guy a mile away. These are the type of people who are not only self-motivated and determined but can also motivate even the laziest person to climb Mt. Everest. This is the type of caliber of personality it takes to be a Special Operator. Besides their spectacular intelligence, personality, and years’ worth of world-class training, Green Berets are masters in diplomacy. They are force multipliers. During our initial missions in Afghanistan shortly after 9/11, it was mostly the Green Berets that brought all tribes, local warlords, and freedom fighters together to begin fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
I am only bringing this up because, throughout the 30-day training with the Green Berets, I learned something invaluable, which completely reshaped my thinking on human interaction and diplomacy. If you ever heard of the term “winning hearts and minds,” you probably think you know what it means by definition or what you heard on the media. It is more than building schools and churches in war-torn nations. The reality is unless you are a Green Beret or at some point, interacted with them as they instructed what a true definition of “winning the hearts and mind” is, you most likely do not. Consider this: convincing an individual or a large group of individuals trying to kill you into being your friend and fight with you is as difficult as it sounds. One simple miscalculation can get you or your buddies killed. The training I received during my very brief encounter with them became invaluable during my settlement negotiations. It helped me make a lot of friends with the top people in the insurance companies and in general.
My military service is also relevant to this book as it gives me a massive advantage over certain insurance carriers because they LOVE Veterans. With some carriers, as soon as I mention that I am a veteran, in most cases, they fork out a lot more money on a case than they normally would. I will get to that later.
After the military, I landed my first civilian job as a telemarketer at a telemarketing company selling Payment Processing services. This job is also relevant to what I am doing because regardless of my Military background and experience, I never had any sales or general business skills. This job paid terribly, but I did learn a lot by selling a valuable service. I also learned how to sell myself. When you sell something, people do not just buy the product, but they buy you as well because they like you. Sales jobs are undervalued because they’re performance-based. Hourly salary has a limit due to how many available hours you have during the day. But if you’re good at sales, you have unlimited potential. Hot girls are good performers at sales. People want to see pretty faces, boobies, and legs. Charisma helps as well. Working in sales gave me a lot of confidence to deal with people who have a lot of money.
A few years later, I finally landed a job with a reputable IT Company that mostly worked with Telecom. I have done everything ranging from Software and Hardware Support to R&D (Research and Development). I got this job by accident, but I had extensive experience in the IT field prior to that. I was fixing and breaking stuff since I was 13. At some point, I was also a reputable hacker. Back in those days, hackers met in Diners, not hiding behind a VPN (Virtual Private Network) that would hide your location or in a Dark Web. At some point, during the rise of ISIS Media campaign, I helped out the Anonymous Hacktivist groups to shut them down.
It was around 2010 when I was at the prime of my Technology career field. I developed amazing technology products, which were mostly in telecom. I perfected the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) coding process and was at the forefront of working for a Telecom Company, creating Phone Captioning web interfaces. My biggest accomplishments were VoIP Security Implementations, which I created using Asterisk. In fact, on the side, I still do that. Part-time, I still code, and most recently, I became a YouTuber (YouTube.com/LynxNYC). I created various Telecom “hacks” to troll and decimate Indian scammers and telemarketers. I have also taken old Lenny Recordings and implemented them into a basic AI. Lenny is a basic voice bot that is designed to fool telemarketers by making them think that they are talking to a human, but they are not. It is also designed to keep them on the phone for as long as possible to annoy them even more.
At some point in my career, I managed to screw all of that up by joining a startup company to manage their team of incompetent developers. That company went under, and out of desperation of looking for a job, I was employed by my first law firm. While working for the attorney, we became close friends, and I soon referred to her as mother goose. And to this day, we are still good friends, and she is like my second mother to me.
She is a talented attorney. However, her downside was the inability to find clients. That was mostly due to her refusal to use runners like 90% of law firms in NYC and Multi-Specialty Physical Therapy offices use. Regardless of that, when I did work with her and her main Litigation Paralegal, I did learn a lot. But before I dig deep into how I became a Settlement Negotiator, I would like to explain what it takes to become one and how someone can become a Paralegal or Settlement Negotiator.
In New York State, any circus monkey can become a paralegal or even a basic Litigation Paralegal. It’s at a point when you begin drafting motions without copying and pasting you can start labeling yourself as a litigation paralegal or a real paralegal. But at that stage, you need at least some form of intelligence. There are four levels of being a Paralegal:
1. Legal Aide – Responsible for basic filing, some correspondence, medical records requests.
2. Paralegal – Responsibilities may include basic litigation such as Summons and Verified Complaints, intake processing, case write-ups, and No-Fault Processing.
3. Litigation Paralegal – More Complex Summons and Verified Complaints, Bill of Particulars, discovery demands, and basic Motion Practice such as Basic Summary Judgement Motions.
4. Complex Litigation Paralegal – Complex litigation includes Appeals, Complex Motion Practice, Trial Preparation, and have authority to settle. My good friend Layna Sabinster, God rest her soul, was a Complex Litigation Paralegal. She was brilliant and did all pleadings by hand. There was no copy and paste for her like most attorneys and paralegals do because they’re stupid or lazy.
As a legal Aide, you can expect to work for minimum wage, but as a complex Litigation Paralegal, you can expect to make an average of $100,000 per year for a large firm, especially if you have an LLM or JD.
To start off working for a Law Firm, you, in theory, don’t even need a High School Diploma. I have met quite a few off-the-boat Paralegals who learned to litigate Personal Injury cases, and they didn’t even have their GED. What it really comes down to is finding an attorney who is brave enough to hire you and start training you from day one. That is if you can prove to them if you have any kind of resemblance of basic intelligence. How far you will go is all based on you because most firms give ample opportunity to learn. As a top Complex Litigation Paralegal, you can earn as much as $100,000+. Even more than a settlement negotiator. I took a different route in my career. I did plenty of litigation such as BP’s, basic motions, but I had a knack for settling cases so I branched off the typical path that most paralegals take, which is great because I didn’t want to sit behind a desk all day doing litigation and filling out HIPAA’s all day. I hate filling out HIPAA’s, especially when you’re doing Bill of Particulars. What’s worse than HIPAA’s, though? The stupid pre-trial subpoenas. I think I hated doing them even more.
Pro Tip: If you’re a new attorney, when you go on the Preliminary Conference, read the damn file first before you make your first appearance. Defense attorneys love to make demands for medical records that have nothing to do with the case. I have experienced a lot of situations where the plaintiff had many pre-existing conditions, which had nothing to do with a traumatic injury event, and the defense attorney made demands for those medical records. Object to the damn requests! They may not be entitled to them, and you don’t want some under- paid and over-stressed paralegal filling out a hundred HIPAA forms.
Initially, I was hired to do one thing. Run a major online marketing campaign, which included a new website and focusing on Search Engine Optimization to bring in more clients. Due to my ability to code fast and generally get things done quickly, to me, it wasn’t a full- time job. I wound up with too much time on my hands. I couldn’t help it. I think and come up with ideas very quickly. This was when the attorney decided I should help with her practice as well since she was paying me full time.
At first, I was taught how to properly organize files—getting a better understanding of what goes where and learning the different types of documents, forms, etc. Down the line, I was taught to open up various claims and eventually read the police reports and slowly but surely got a basic understanding of which claims are for which purpose.
All this is not rocket science, but I caught on really quick, and the attorney noticed it. I learned faster than most people generally learn on how to open up claims and read police reports. This all seems pretty trivial to seasoned attorneys and paralegals, but one must keep in mind that the majority of the so-called paralegals spend years doing nothing but opening claims all day. In fact, in many cases, regardless of their years of so-called experience, I have seen people completely screw that up as well to the point of borderline malpractice.
Eventually, the attorney I was working for could not seem to find any new cases, regardless of how good she was, so inevitably she could not afford to pay me anymore, and I was forced to find a new job. Surprisingly, after a brief search on Craigslist, I somehow landed a job at another firm. I was not looking to work for another law firm and wanted to get back to doing IT because it paid a lot more, but because I could not find one, I was forced to work for another law firm. So, with my newfound training and experience, I began working for a new law firm. Here is my first realization that the majority of attorneys are stupid—at least 80% of them. I completely understand that they busted their ass in college, went through law school, passed the bar (regardless of how many times they took it) but at what point did they realize that they should open up their own firm with zero experience in personal injury?
In the early stages of my legal career, I thought that the attorney was a bright guy, and I assumed that he knew everything because he was a lawyer. Nope! I was completely wrong. He did not know shit. In fact, I had to show him how to open up claims. He even used to scrutinize every No-Fault Denials that came in the mail. Meaning he would read hundreds of letters a day on why each bill got denied. He would dedicate two to three hours a day reading all of these denials and forcing me to scan and file each and every one of them and note it into the file. I was starting to go insane. I called mother goose and asked her if they were important and told her what I was doing. Her only response was, “Is he stupid? I throw them out!” After that, I did try to convince him that we didn’t need them. At least for the most part, but he refused to listen to me because he was the all-mighty attorney, and I wasn’t.
I didn’t know this at the time, but insurance companies don’t pay the whole bill for treatment. They try their best not to, in order for them to save as much money as possible. They will even go through extensive lengths just to deny a $75 bill. Either by arguing medical necessity, negative IME results, or whatever other reason they could fathom. IME’s are also a sham. Regardless of what the injuries are, most IME results come back negative. The clients are rushed in, rushed out, and the doctor barely examines them yet comes back with a five-page report on why the treatment is not a medical necessity. This actually brings up a funny negotiating debate. If the IME results are negative, I make various arguments during negotiations such as:
• It’s your Doctor Vs. our Doctor argument
• IME doctors rush them in and out without thoroughly examining them
• IME doctors didn’t treat our patient
But if the IME result comes back positive, I would use that to argue that even their own paid doctors agree that our client is injured. For the most part, it doesn’t matter whether they are negative or positive reports, but positive reports make it easier to argue.
For the most part, the personal injury attorneys generally shouldn’t really concern themselves with these denials unless there is a specific issue with a case. The doctors have their own special attorneys that arbitrate the bills and eventually force the insurance companies to pay. At least for the most part. It is in the doctors’ best interest to make sure everything is done accordingly, so it’s generally their problem. Otherwise, doctors do not get paid and will refuse to treat the patient if the No-Fault portion of the case is cut off. I will discuss the No-Fault denials in detail case by case
Throughout the whole time, I was working there, I guess someone was training him or showing him the ropes because he was starting to give me clearer directions of what to do. I even remember him beginning to file some cases in litigation and doing some BP’s. I don’t remember most of the details, so I’m not really sure whether whatever he was doing was correct or not, but he at least thought he was. Keep in mind that I still didn’t know much, and the first time I saw him send out a BP, I kind of almost renewed my faith in him because I saw him hold out a 500-page packet to send to the insurance company and thought to myself, “maybe he does know what he’s doing…” I still remember the look on his face. It was as if he had conquered a country after each BP he did.
Somehow, I managed to work for this guy doing the same crap for almost a year and a half and still wasn’t learning much. He would randomly make me do stupid things like calling insurance companies and asking for “status.” I had no idea what status he was referring to, but every time I asked him, he would simply give me a dumb look or attitude that I wasn’t doing what he told me. As inexperienced as I was opening various claims, I at least knew that it was pointless to keep calling on status. On top of that, it made me look really dumb every time I did call because the insurance company adjusters had no idea what I meant by that, especially if they hadn’t even received a settlement package.
Throughout a year and a half working there, almost none of the cases that he had ever settled. From what mother goose taught me, I at least knew enough to know that it took way too long for him to settle a case. That’s if he did. Especially the serious injury cases with minimal policies, which are easy to settle. A day I will never forget is hearing him “trying” to settle a case for the first time. I clearly remember when the adjuster asked him how much he was looking for, and him saying, “I’m looking for a lot of money. Can you give it to me?” Even at my level and extensive experience in sales and real estate, I know that this is no way to negotiate anything that has any kind of monetary value. From what I remember, the adjuster was arguing massive degeneration and that the client was old. I don’t remember the outcome of the possible settlement, but I bet he didn’t get the “a lot of money” he was looking for.
Eventually, I left that firm because we had a falling out and mostly because my rent was going up, and my boss refused to give me a raise. It probably had something to do with not being able to settle anything. Fortunately, he was doing other stuff like Real Estate, foreclosure defense, and collections to keep him well afloat. This is kind of irrelevant to this book, but he also made me do that sort of stuff as well. If he wasn’t doing other things, he would have been out of business a long time ago.
After that genius, I finally went to work for a firm, where I managed to work for three years. For that firm, I think the senior negotiator and I held a record on the amount of time working there. This is where I actually learned how to settle cases and where all of the fun stuff began. The boss was out of his mind, had broken English, and ran his firm the same way Stalin ran Russia. I say that because it was his hobby to have attorneys and negotiators fight on who settled the case because you would get a very small bonus. Backstabbing was rampant. He would get a kick out of people who would run to him first to complain about someone who screwed up what in which case. You could see that demented smile on his face when someone would run to complain to him.
When I started working there, I pretty much quickly realized that I didn’t really know anything and felt a little embarrassed for explaining with enthusiasm what I thought I did know. Nevertheless, they took me in, welcomed me, and started training me from square one. Regardless of all of the drama in that office, I learned a lot. I am particularly grateful to the senior negotiator for the patience and dedication in teaching me. This guy was amazing. He was working full time and going to law school.
With the senior negotiator literally standing over my shoulder teaching me for three years, I eventually started settling cases. Eventually, I even impressed the boss with my performance because little did I know that apparently, it was not easy to teach someone to negotiate cases due to the dynamic nature of the skill. I started settling soft tissue cases and then moved on to complex litigation cases. Ultimately, after the senior negotiator graduated from law school, he quit and left me alone with the wolves. It was a nightmare. I foresaw this massive daily drama that almost turned into daily fistfights if he quit and had to leave ASAP, which I did probably within two months after he left. Attorneys and Paralegals were at it almost daily to get that exceedingly small bonus for settling a case.
After I left, I worked for multiple other law firms and refined my settlement and litigation skills, and became exceptionally great at it through each passing year. I even did exceptionally well at mediation.
As I was growing with my legal career, I was growing with my IT side hustle as well. I created and worked on cool projects and continued my work on my YouTube channel, which focused on shutting down scam call centers. Especially during Covid Pandemic when I was working from home, and there was nothing else to do during the lockdown other than watch TV, code, and troll scammers.
How and when to ask for a raise or a promotion:
First, the bad news. For the most part, there is no such thing as a promotion in the true sense of a term for a paralegal. Whether you are an entry-level paralegal or an experienced complex litigation paralegal, you’re still a paralegal. But who cares about all that recognition anyways? I personally don’t. I’m a settlement negotiator, and I don’t even want clients to know that I was the one that settled their case. I just want to get rid of the file for the most money possible and move on to the next case. I don’t forget that I’m only as good as the last case to most bosses either. So don’t get twisted around about getting any recognition.
Another piece of advice I would like to offer is that no one is more important to you than you. Never feel guilty for wanting to leave a job because your employer needs you. Paralegals are a dime a dozen. I assure you that you are replaceable. So am I. Attorneys can just hire another attorney to do my job if they really need to. But because I don’t have an ESQ at the end of my name, they use that to save a few bucks. Regardless of how much I settle or how many clients I bring in.
The Good news. Progression in salary is much easier than you think, and it is very easy to ask for a raise. Here is how. First, you need to understand your role as a paralegal at a current stage and create goals for the next stage in paralegal status once you reach the next stage. Example: If you’re a general paralegal and started doing basic litigation, I would give it a few months before you perfect your craft. Once you perfect your craft and find yourself doing more work, never be shy about asking for a raise. Most attorneys have no time for bullshit. Just be direct. If the attorney says no to the raise, that brings me back to my first point. Don’t hesitate to start looking for a new job. Paralegals are always in demand at every stage, and if your current boss doesn’t appreciate the work you do, someone will.