Ed Walsh is a Commissioner of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism and Chair of the Outreach and Communications Committee of the Commission. Under Ed’s leadership, the Commission has expanded its use of technology to leverage its impact, including by taking on a video project to profile leaders of our profession and make their perspectives and wisdom available for less seasoned lawyers to emulate. Today, Ed Walsh, founding member of the Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice firm Walsh Knippen Pollock, Chtd. shares some of his thoughts, insights and advice for today’s lawyers.
Pro Say Blog: You specialize in catastrophic personal injury and medical malpractice. How do you deal with the emotional stress of working with people at these very difficult points in their lives?
Ed Walsh: We look at this as an opportunity to give our clients hope that life isn’t as terrible as it seems to be … Families end up breaking up because the sadness, stress, disappointment, lack of hope for any change…these highly charged cases require us to listen, counsel and empathize with our clients. If we can secure for our clients enough in our recovery to provide the proper medical treatment and daily care they’re going to need for the rest of their life, that’s a tremendous personal incentive. You personally commit that you do your very best and hopefully you do beyond the best you can.
Pro Say Blog: What advice do you have for younger attorneys in terms of responding to incivility by opposing counsel?
Ed Walsh: I would say that to the extent that it’s possible and appropriate, respond courteously and professionally. Certainly never drop down to the level of the unprofessional lawyer, because in general, I believe that when you’re being treated unprofessionally by another attorney, he or she wants you to respond in kind. Be nice to people; it may not always work, but it usually does.
Pro Say Blog: Ed, you were an early adopter of integrating technology into your legal practice. Tell us about that and whether your firm has integrated the internet and social networking into your practice.
Ed Walsh: The Internet as an efficiency tool for us is outstanding … For example, from 1988-1991, I handled a very complex case where we ended up taking 78 depositions around the country. Without a deposition management program, there would be no way to efficiently handle that case. Social networking has not really been something that we have promoted internally. We have generally, fortunately, had more legal business than we could usually handle at any given time … Early on we saw that internet inquiry and clients that come in via the internet, don’t consistently have meritorious cases… therefore the internet has not been a source of quality work for us. In contrast, at the Commission, where the goal is to inform and engage across the whole state, I am excited to see the progress we are making.
Pro Say Blog: You spend a great deal of time in your practice out of the office. How do you balance being able to work remotely with the desire to turn off constant connectivity?
Ed Walsh: I try and limit my work activity when I’m away. I look at my email early in the morning and at the end of the day. If it’s pressing, I’ll put the time in … It took me years to understand the meaning of the profession’s time honored phrase “The law is a jealous mistress.” I have always felt lovingly pulled between my clients and my wonderful family. It’s a privilege to be pulled in that way.
Pro Say Blog: You mentioned that you are mentoring a new lawyer. How do you talk to a young attorney dealing with a setback?
Ed Walsh: Failure is something that almost all of us will certainly experience, usually more than once in our personal and professional lives. Some people can’t come back from failure. Some learn from failure and move on. What I’ve told young lawyers at my firm, you really have a choice after any setback or failure – you can either quit or you can sit back, analyze, take note of, and learn from, what happened and move forward. Successful lawyers move forward after failure; and their lives are enriched and enhanced.