I handle only Plaintiff’s personal injury and workers’ compensation cases. For the first 5 ½ years of my career I was an insurance defense attorney at Costigan & Wollrab, P.C. in Bloomington, Il, so in one way or another, I have spent my entire 21 year career handling injury cases.
How has your practice evolved in the last few years?
In 2014 I opened my own practice. In addition to maintaining current with and practicing law, I now manage a business and deal with personnel issues, building maintenance, technology, etc. I’ve learned that I’m a much better trial attorney than a business person, but, like anything else, it’s a work in progress. In the next few years I hope to grow my practice to the point where I can delegate much of the “non-legal” day-to-day matters to a manager while I focus on what I do best – practicing law.
If you could offer one piece of advice for young lawyers, what would it be?
My advice would have to be two-fold. For all of my mistakes in life and career, I managed to do two things right and I believe it has made all the difference in the word.
- Never forget why you work. I work FOR MY FAMILY! You cannot sacrifice your family for your career. When my children were very young I would try to get into the office by 4:00 a.m. so I could be home by 6:00 p.m. every day. That way, the “extra” hours of work that I had to put in was, by and large, during their sleeping time. As they got older, I would include one child in out of town depositions. The travel time and one on one time with Dad while he was doing something so important was a cherished bonding experience.
- Find a great mentor! Choose someone that you admire and learn how they handle various situations, how they communicate and how they present themselves. “If you want to get rich, find a rich person and do what they do.” This quote has been attributed to everyone from Zig Ziglar to Dave Ramsey, but the premise is similar: “If you want to be a great, ethical, highly esteemed lawyer, find a great, ethical, and highly esteemed lawyer, and do what they do.”
What’s one technological device, application or tool you could not function without?
I hate technology! Having said that, I probably would have a very difficult time without my computer and, of course, Westlaw. I spend a lot of time researching the law. It’s almost an illness. I still learn something new about the law nearly every day even after 21 years of practice. I would absolutely love it if all cell phones were lost forever though!
How has civility made a difference in your practice of law?
I once had a mentor tell me “The practice of law, if you’re doing it right, is difficult. That’s why so few people enter this profession. Why would you want to make it even harder by not playing nicely?” I have found this to be right on point. I have been extraordinarily lucky to have been a member of a few county bar associations that have a long history of civility. Sometimes I see younger attorneys who mistake civility for weakness or not being a zealous advocate. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are in the business of conflict resolution. Creating additional conflict while attempting to resolve the underlying conflict only adds cost, time and stress to both you and your client. No one will think you are a better attorney because you are difficult to deal with.
What do you do for fun?
I like to spend most of my free time with my family. I have four children now, ages 22, 21, 20, and 17, and we do quite a bit together. Somehow, they are like an instant de-stressor for me.
Joseph Dunn’s law office is based in Pekin Illinois.