Attorney at Law Magazine Palm Beach Publisher Rhenne Leon sat down with Blake Dolman to discuss his law firm and mentors that helped him along the way.
AALM: When did you first know you wanted to become an attorney? What drew you to this career?
Dolman: My father is an excellent trial lawyer and has practiced for over 40 years. I grew up watching him help people who really needed it. It did not take me long to realize that his rational and analytical approach to whatever situation he confronted was derived from his legal training. When I was in elementary and middle school, I was a bit of a terror and my poor parents were constantly being called into a principal or dean’s office to discuss my “spirited personality.” I will never forget those meetings (which seemed to occur about once a week!) where four or five administrators were sitting opposite my parents and me. They would begin to take turns lecturing and after having closely listened to all of their positions, my father would forcefully take control of the situation and logically defeat their positions. By the time he had finished speaking, I was receiving apologies from the principal and the dean for disrupting my school day. As a result, I quickly decided that I would acquire the skills and knowledge to enable me to help others in situations where they are confronted with an unfair and uneven playing field.
AALM: Do you have any mentors or professors that encouraged you along the way? What is the best lesson they taught you?
Dolman: Everyone who achieves a certain level of accomplishment in this industry will tell you that they credit a large part of their success to at least one mentor. I was extremely fortunate to begin working with Kelly Hancock at Krupnick & Campbell immediately after graduating from law school. After following him around the courthouse for a few weeks, it became obvious to me that he was easily the single most well-liked and respected attorney in Broward County. I quickly decided that I wanted to emulate him not only as a trial lawyer, but as a person. He taught me that you can obtain incredible results for your clients being a strong and aggressive trial lawyer, without making any enemies in the process. By watching him, I learned that treating opposing counsel and their staff (as well as insurance adjusters, bailiffs, clerks, secretaries, receptionists or anyone else you end up interacting with in your career) with the highest level of courtesy and respect is not only the right thing to do, but will lead to better results for a lawyer and his or her clients in the long run. I continue to learn from him every single day.
AALM: What do you find particularly rewarding about your practice?
Dolman: My practice focuses on representing plaintiffs in situations where people have been killed or harmed (physically or financially) as a result of someone else’s wrongdoing. As a result, most of my clients are individuals and families rather than corporations, insurance companies or banks. Of the hundreds if not thousands of clients I have had the privilege to represent on a personal basis, 99 percent have been genuinely nice people who make our world a better place in one way or another. A client’s relationship with their lawyer is a sacred bond based upon trust. Getting to know so many different people from varied backgrounds have put their trust in me has been extremely rewarding in and of itself. What I enjoy most is getting a great result for a client who really needs it, against a large corporation or insurance company that would not take them seriously but for our involvement.
One of my proudest moments came in the first few months of my career. I received a call from an older gentleman who was struck by a vehicle while on his bicycle, sustaining serious injuries. For approximately six months before he hired me, he was told by his insurance company that he was at fault for the accident based upon their investigation and therefore he was not entitled to any compensation under his uninsured motorist policy. After he hired me, I uncovered witnesses who clarified not only that this man was not at fault, but that they had even advised the subject insurance carrier of this shortly after the accident. I was able to get him over $3 million within 60 days of becoming involved in the matter, without having to file a lawsuit. It was one of the most gratifying moments of my life; and, in that moment, I became sure that I had picked the right field of law.
AALM: What traits do you think make an attorney exceptional? What’s the difference between a good attorney and an outstanding one?
Dolman: The difference between a good attorney and an outstanding attorney comes down to effort. I learned very early on that smart people are a dime a dozen in the legal field. Approximately 40,000 people graduate from our country’s law schools every year and a lot of them are really smart. However, only a small handful of these people will put the time and energy into their career which will enable them to become superstars. It’s not just about how many hours of legal research you do. You need to work really hard, especially in the early years, to create a reputation for excellence, knowledge, relentlessness, passion, courtesy and effectiveness. Networking and establishing a rapport with as many members of the legal community as possible will pay off in spades in the long run, not just in in terms of case results but also in building lifelong friends and colleagues. If you never leave your desk and only communicate with opposing counsel in court or via short, pointed letters, you will be doing yourself a major disservice in the long run.
AALM: What do you enjoy doing outside of work? Hobbies? Sports?
Dolman: I do everything I can to stay mentally and physically active. When I first began practicing I saw that happiest and most successful attorneys I came into contact with were those who worked extremely hard but also knew how and when to lay off the gas and take time for themselves. I read no less than three newspapers every morning, mostly because it will drive me insane if people around me are discussing a current event and I’m not up to speed. I get to the gym at least three nights a week for cardio and lifting. I spend the rest of my time playing golf (great for networking) and tennis, fishing, scuba diving, snow skiing, boating, shooting and spending as much time as possible with my family.