Attorney at Law Palm Beach Publisher Rhenne Leon sat down with Adam Seligman to discuss what makes a outstanding attorney and what drew him to his firm.
AALM: When did you first know you wanted to become an attorney? What drew you to this career?
Seligman: As a child, I always looked up to attorneys like my uncle – a criminal defense attorney – because they helped people. I also grew up in a real estate development family so when I decided to go to law school and also obtain my MBA, I was immediately drawn to real estate and business law. This way I could combine my two passions to help my clients, and act as an adviser to them. As a more light-hearted mention, I also loved watching “L.A. Law” with my mom.
AALM: Do you have any mentors or professors that encouraged you along the way? What is the best lesson they taught you?
Seligman: I have had many mentors over the years. The most helpful lesson I’ve learned from them is to look at a law practice not simply citing case law or statutes, but looking at the practice of law as a business; it’s about excellent customer service, fair pricing (we often bill a That fee), and simply treating clients with respect. It all helps with profitability at the end of the day. As for non-attorney mentors, that would be my grandmother. From a very young age, she taught me to be responsible with money, to take care of my family, and be charitable in the community. While most kids got toys for their birthdays, she gave me shares of stock, many that I still have today.
AALM: What was the greatest lesson you learned in law school? How do you apply that to your career today?
Seligman: Hard work and focus are undoubtedly my greatest lessons. In law school, you learn to focus on the issue, understand how each side perceives the issue and then strategize the best route to proceed based on the facts.
AALM: What do you find particularly rewarding about your practice?
Seligman: Each day, I enjoy helping people solve their challenges and advise them on the best strategy to achieve their goals in business and with their real estate needs. While I work with a range of commercial and residential property owners and investors, I find particular joy in helping first-time homebuyers reach their goal of owning their own property.
AALM: What traits do you think make an attorney exceptional? What’s the difference between a good attorney and an outstanding one?
Seligman: The difference between a good attorney and an outstanding one is simple. It’s all about understanding your client, listening to their goals and communicating with them. Attorneys should respond to their phone calls, answer their emails and be there for their clients. Too many attorneys are “too busy” and have their assistants speak to clients, or don’t call back for days or weeks. I don’t wait. If you wait, you could lose that client, plus future referrals and work. When a client hires me, they work directly with me with assistance from my staff; the key is the confidence I give them that I am there for them. Too many attorneys stop answering the phones on Friday at 5 p.m. If a client needs me, they can call or email me any time. My cell phone is on my business card for a reason. I know plenty of smarter attorneys than me, but those same lawyers often have a much smaller book of business because they don’t prioritize client communication; they’re lax with answering phone calls and emails, and dealing directly with clients. These attorneys likely would make excellent judges, however, not always great attorneys if you have a goal of growing your business. Being a lawyer is more than just being book smart, you need to understand the business aspects as well and how to deal with people.
AALM: What first drew you to your firm? Tell us about your role there.
Seligman: Ward Damon is built on teamwork, which is engrained in our firm culture today. We help each other because we recognize that the more successful each attorney, the better for the firm. We do not hire difficult personalities. We do not advertise. Cases come from word of mouth. We are a family. Attorneys have lunch with each other every other week in the office. We bring in lunch for the staff on the other weeks. We have monthly birthday parties and casual Fridays with breakfast weekly. The attorneys and staff get along, which is rare. I appreciate the “smaller law firm feel” that ensures clients receive stellar service at a reasonable rate, but with top-notch legal minds. We are proud of the culture that has been built over 30 years. Teamwork is paramount. We care about our staff, attorneys, clients and the community.
AALM: Tell us about your fellow attorneys at the firm? How do you work together?
Seligman: We work individually, in teams and as a firm depending on the matter. We talk to each other all the time. We sit in each other’s offices to strategize without billing every minute. We want to help each other be successful. If someone goes on vacation, the work is covered, no questions asked. It is a true team.
AALM: What accomplishment are you most proud of achieving?
Seligman: I am proud to have become the youngest partner in the firm, and to have been appointed in 2016 as president of our subsidiary, Lighthouse Title Services, where I also get to work with a team of 10 employees to close hundreds of transactions each year. Since joining the firm five years ago and taking over management of LTS, we have tripled our revenues without losing the personal touch we pride ourselves on.
AALM: What do you enjoy doing outside of work? Hobbies? Sports?
Seligman: I know it’s cliché, but I love spending time with my wife and children, Sarah, 7, and Evan, 3. I enjoy painting, travel (I visit Vermont each summer, and I am traveling to Israel in October), tennis and swimming. I also can’t get enough of reading business, financial and real estate books, articles, etc.