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Episode 68 — Mike Papantonio — The Dangers of Being Average: LIVE from the EVOLVE Summit

"If you are a plaintiff's lawyer, you've chosen to be different from that defense lawyer. So why be average? Go ahead and take the next step rather than trapping yourself. You are a type A personality forcing yourself into a type B world, and it doesn't work." - Mike Papantonio

  • What values led to Mike's legendary career?
  • How can you get involved in mass tort litigation?
  • Why is being comfortable your greatest hurdle?
  • How does Mike approach depositions unlike anyone else?
  • Why do talented lawyers burn out?

One of One

Mike Papantonio needs no introduction. Over 30 years, he's created a well-earned reputation as someone who will go toe-to-toe with unethical corporations and fight for consumers. No industry is safe; he's won billions for his clients across pharmaceutical, environmental, and medical settlements. He pioneered the practice of mass tort law, and now he's shepherding a new generation of attorneys with his conference Mass Torts Made Perfect. There's a reason Mike is one of the only living people in the National Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame.

Mike graciously sat down with us for a wide-ranging conversation at our EVOLVE Virtual Summit. He shared his wisdom on breaking from the status quo, finding balance, and how to diversify your practice. Mike's never followed the crowd, and this interview is no exception. Listen in to hear Mike's wisdom, in his signature, no-nonsense style.

Don't Burn Out; Find Your Fire

Burnout is a huge issue in the legal industry. But Mike says the problem isn't people working too hard — it's working without purpose, settling into complacency, and doing the same thing without possibility for growth. One way to avoid burnout is by challenging yourself to take different types of cases — cases that matter. Those cases can also up your profile, feeding back into your regular caseload.

Mike also says that time with family and off the job is non-negotiable. “I wanted to talk about my quality of life first,” he says, “and then I want to build all the other parts around that quality of life.” This involves sacrificing the so-called “cowboy lawyer” competitive mentality — wanting the biggest boat, the fastest car. But you'll be happy (and in Mike's case, still have a pretty big boat).

Testing the Waters

Mike thinks everybody should get in on the world of mass torts. But he says you don't have to take the plunge all at once. right away. You can test it out, dip your toe in. He recommends, “Make it part of your practice. Take 80% of your resources and devote it to your auto practice, and then take 20% and say, ‘This is my growth money.’”

This can be a great way to diversify your practice. If you've run up against a wall in your area, instead of expanding geographically, expand the kinds of cases you pursue. Mike says it's this lateral thinking that separates good lawyers from great ones.

Key takeaways:

  • Break the mold. There are diminishing returns on following others.
  • Fight for what's right. If you're 100% confident in what you're arguing, you'll convince judges, juries, and the public.
  • Justice is an amalgamation. No one action will change the world on its own, but in totality, they can cause a huge cultural shift.

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