Twenty-two, 10-year-old little league football players peered up at Raleigh attorney John Minier awaiting his instructions. His son was on the team, so John volunteered to help out. “I was a little surprised when they called me and asked me to be the head coach,” recalled Minier. “I had watched a lot of football on TV so I said sure, I can do this.”
“Coaching was a lot harder than I thought. I don’t think we won a single game that first season. By the third year, I felt like the team had hit its stride. By years four and five, we were running complicated plays, reverses and Statue of Liberty formations and many said, ‘You can’t expect 10-year-olds to run those types of plays’ and I said, ‘Yes, we can’ and yes, we did,” said Minier.
“That coaching experience fit the kind of person I am. I can’t help being intense,” said Minier, who takes a similar approach as a trial attorney and partner at Yates, McLamb & Weyher. He defends health care providers in civil actions and before licensing boards.
Minier has a roll-up-your-sleeves, no-nonsense approach with an air of self-confidence. “In trial, I try to exude that,” he said. “I am comfortable and I’m at my best in the courtroom.”
Litigation Is Exciting
Minier was raised in Hackettstown, New Jersey, 90 minutes west of Yankee Stadium.
He grew up a hard-core Yankees fan. His favorite player was Reggie Jackson. “Reggie came through when it counted. When he was under pressure, he absolutely delivered. He was fearless,” said Minier who sets for himself the same goals when representing clients.
Minier’s mother was a school teacher and later a stay-at-home mom. His father was one of five general practice doctors in Hackettstown. “He was the school physician and the one we all went to for our physicals for the soccer team.”
Minier considered becoming a doctor like his father and took pre-med courses as an undergraduate at Dartmouth College. Ultimately, he was attracted to the law.
After he graduated, he joined Lord Day & Lord, a large, blue-chip New York City law firm as a paralegal. “They handled a lot of litigation. It was exciting to me.” He decided to make a career of the law and earned his Juris Doctor with honors from Duke University School of Law in 1988.
Making It Simple
Minier’s father was once sued by one of his former patients. “I thought my father was a great man and a great doctor who worked hard to take good care of his patients. The lawsuit was very upsetting to him.”
“My father’s experience gave me a unique empathy for physicians who are taking good care of people and wind up getting sued.” When Minier joined Yates McLamb & Weyher, he was excited to have the opportunity to become a part of the firm’s practice defending health care providers.
He also brought to the practice a solid foundation of medical knowledge from his pre-med classes at Dartmouth. “I took enough chemistry, physics and biology to have a head start in learning real-life medical issues.”
“There’s certainly a cumulative progression in terms of understanding medicine generally; but when you get to a specific case, we do learn it one case at a time. We’re not learning at the level of a surgeon, but we are learning it at a level necessary to successfully defend our clients in court,” said Minier.
“Taking the complex and making it simple so the jury can grasp it is both the challenge and the art. I think that skill is the most important part of what really separates lawyers,” said Minier. It brings to mind a quote by Leonardo da Vinci. He said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
“It’s one thing to read a deposition and know what the witness said. It’s another thing to read all of the depositions, completely understand them, and know how they interrelate. Then, you can begin to look at what the cross-examination of a witness looks like,” said Minier. “It takes a lot of time.”
“The challenge is to look at a case from a macro level, and obtain enough information from the various witnesses and sources so that you have a whole picture view. Then, in those last weeks before we get to trial, we shift to the micro level to ensure that something important has not been overlooked.
“It is truly a team effort. I typically have a core of four people – me, the second chair attorney, the paralegal and the legal assistant, plus an additional four or five support personnel. We all have developed a level of communication vital to the success of the litigation. Every member of the team knows exactly what each other is responsible for and what I need before I go into the courtroom in order to be successful.”
“Trials are stressful and they require an amped-up level of full concentration.”
It’s a level that can tip the work-family balance during the trial. “The best solution is to talk about it with the whole family so they understand during a trial, times could be difficult. When I’m in trial, my focus is on winning for my client.”
Minier makes sure he clears his calendar annually for a big ski trip to Idaho or Colorado with his teenage sons. “We’re in an environment that is competitive and task-oriented. We’re trying to accomplish something, but we don’t lose sight of being in a beautiful place.”
In addition to skiing, Minier’s other interests are golf and CrossFit. “All three of these require concentration, inner drive and setting individual goals for myself. Not surprisingly, they are similar to what I do to ensure success for my clients.”
I Am Their Champion
Yankees memorabilia sits atop a cabinet in Minier’s office. Next to it are commemorative cups and Lucite plaques from appreciative doctors he has successfully defended.
“In the eyes of many, these physicians are powerful people; when they’ve just been sued, however, they are often deeply humbled and scared with a real feeling of powerlessness. I try to be their guardian and to be able to help them is rewarding.
“I remember a case when the jury came back with a successful verdict for the physician I was representing,” he continued. “I looked at the doctor and I saw a tear run down his cheek. That gave me a real sense of pride. There was brief exhilaration … then it was time to move on to the next case.”