A unique alliance exists between celebrated attorneys Kelly Hancock and Blake Dolman who function as an elite team of trial attorneys at the esteemed law firm Krupnick & Campbell.
A LEGAL ICON
Kelly Hancock has had one of the most illustrious and successful careers an attorney could ever ask for. His career began where many aspire after years of experience. Opting to remain in Florida following law school at Florida State University, he entered the legal arena as assistant state attorney for Broward County in 1975. Within five years, he had been promoted to chief of the homicide division of Broward County where he remained until 1989.
The proud son of one of Washington State’s most revered attorneys, Hancock has not only proved worthy of this lineage but has paved a path his own two sons eagerly embrace. Hancock recalls how his father, a dynamic trial attorney, shared his passion, frequently taking him along as he traveled trying various cases. “I would have loved to have practiced law with my father,” says Hancock.
During his time with the State Attorney’s Office, Hancock prosecuted some of South Florida’s most widely publicized murder trials, including four particularly climatic cases that have been featured on the syndicated television program “On Trial.” The television movie “Murder or Mercy” was also based on one of his most notorious cases. He’s appeared on 20/20, 60 Minutes and Prime Time Live and was recognized by South Florida Magazine as Best Prosecutor in South Florida.
However, none of this has detracted from the quietly confident and down-to-earth demeanor of a man who sincerely loves what he does. Due to his kind manner, as a prosecutor he was referred to as the “angelic assassin” or “angel of death.” Perhaps most telling of his fair nature, after 30 years he continues to receive Christmas cards from individuals he prosecuted. During his time as a homicide prosecutor, Hancock boasted a murder trial win/loss record of 50/1.
Jon Krupnick and Skip Campbell, recognizing Hancock’s incredible ability to persuade a jury, engaged in a fierce campaign to recruit him as a civil trial attorney for their law firm in 1989. Since, he has represented well over 10,000 individuals who have been injured or lost loved ones under the saddest of circumstances.
“I feel privileged to be a lawyer,” he says humbly. “I am proud of the work we do and our ability to impact so many lives for the better. I feel particularly fortunate to work with such honorable and talented people. When Skip Campbell approached me about joining the firm, I took it as a high honor. I loved my work as a prosecutor in the homicide division, so it took an offer from a firm whose work and people I greatly admired to lure me away. It was one of the best decisions of my life.
“I feel that as lawyers we can help so many people,” he continues. “Really, I don’t believe there’s that much difference between prosecuting and civil cases; in both instances I’m representing victims.”
THE NEW GUY
Blake Dolman grew up in Fort Lauderdale reading and hearing of Hancock’s incredible success in both the criminal and civil arenas. He attended college and law school at the University of Miami where he enjoyed tremendous academic success. He knew from the beginning that he wanted to make a career of representing people rather than banks and insurance companies.
Immediately after taking the Florida Bar exam, Dolman was presented with the chance to act as an unpaid law clerk for Hancock, with the special assignment of working on only one case. Eager to get his foot in the door, he jumped at the opportunity.
“It was a tragic case where a handicapped, elderly woman died when her condo caught fire,” says Dolman. “She had called down to building security and reported her smoke alarm going off and smelling smoke, but by the time they responded to her it was way too late. This woman would have lived had someone taken early, meaningful action. She and her husband were people I had known for many years, which made the issue personal to me.”
When Hancock observed the quality of Dolman’s work and his sharp intellect, he knew he had stumbled upon something special. He began giving the young clerk more cases to work on. Dolman consistently uncovered favorable evidence and pieced together unique theories of liability that added tremendous value to the cases he worked on.
“At the beginning, I was somewhat star struck,” says Dolman. “I was meaningfully participating in high-level matters with both Kelly and Skip, and was really shocked that they were taking me seriously. These two guys were absolute rock stars in the legal community, and I had just traded my backpack for a briefcase. They both quickly became not only colleagues, but also my closest friends.
“After a few months, I had clearly overstayed my invitation to act as an unpaid clerk. I stayed quiet on the issue and just kept showing up. I think after a few months of this, Kelly felt pretty badly for me and offered me a job,” he says.
“I didn’t feel sorry for Blake, I was incredibly impressed from day one,” Hancock responds. “I wanted to grab him before someone else did!”
Since then, Hancock and Dolman have functioned as a specialized division within the prestigious law firm of Krupnick and Campbell.
A PARTNERSHIP IS BORN
Within days of joining Krupnick Campbell as a trial lawyer, it was apparent that Dolman was meteor on the rise.
He was contacted and retained by the victim of a bicycle-versus-automobile accident (another family friend) who had been severely injured in a bicycle accident. Dolman challenged the injured man’s insurance carrier who had entirely rejected his claim for uninsured motorist benefits, alleging the bicyclist was completely at fault for the collision. Within a matter of weeks, Dolman garnered crucial evidence from overseas witnesses which, it turned out, had been withheld from the injured man by his own insurance carrier. The resulting recovery in excess of $3 million came within 60 days. While there is no way of knowing for sure, Dolman believes this set a record for signing up and settling a multimillion-dollar case within two months of becoming a lawyer.
Hancock and Dolman focus on catastrophic injuries, wrongful death, sexual abuse, product liability, negligent security, aviation, nursing home and premises liability matters. They will also work hand in hand with the firm’s lauded medical malpractice team (led by attorney Scott Henratty) to lend their skills and abilities wherever they can add value. The two have also undertaken complex business litigation and debtor/creditor cases.
Dolman, a graduate of University of Miami’s School of Business Administration, has become the “numbers guy” within the group, often focusing on the financial aspects of their cases when it comes to establishing losses, projecting costs of future care and engaging in present value analysis.
“I’d like to think that I’ve convinced Kelly to take on some cases that fall outside the scope of his usual practice. He has been an incredible advocate in our business cases with hundreds of millions of dollars of assets on the line as well as in some pretty hostile cases involving civil theft and fraud allegations. His skill set really translates to any type of case, which is why the guy went from being a top prosecutor to a top civil trial attorney basically overnight.”
Plaintiff-oriented law firms tend to be streamlined by nature, with one attorney handling his or her own files. Hancock and Dolman are unique in that they work on every one of their files together, as a team. In a field that has become increasingly volume driven rendering lawyers who are spread far too thin, this duo is running a somewhat old-school practice.
“When a potential new client calls for either one of us, they are going to speak with one or both of us that day,” says Dolman. “We don’t have support staff handle the client intakes, nor do we have third-parties or investigators meet with clients to sign them up like so many other firms are doing these days. We both believe it is critical to establish a personal relationship with the client from day one so that we can get to know them and vice versa. We find that by doing this, we avoid a lot of surprises later on and can usually determine from the outset, whether we are on the same page as the client regarding the strength and value of a given case. If we are not, we gladly refer them to other counsel as we never want to be representing someone with unrealistic expectations even if we know we could obtain a great result for them. In the end, you will never make that person happy and it will be one less goodwill ambassador you have in the community.”
“Dolman is an extraordinary attorney,” says Hancock. “Literally, from our first encounter, it was apparent that here was an exceptional, determined and very talented young man.”
Clearly, one of the “magic” ingredients that help make these two such a formidable legal team, is the fact that despite apparent differences or indeed perhaps because of them (yin and yang philosophy) each complements and reinforces the other. Despite their generational difference and disparate backgrounds, Hancock and Dolman actually have more in common than not.
They share ideologies regarding the practice of law, integrity and an infrangible dedication in serving their clients.
When asked about their differences, Dolman says, “I’m very analytical while Kelly is much more compassionate and tuned in to the subtleties of human behavior. When meeting with clients or opposition, he’ll infer so much from facial expressions and body language. He has an incredible capacity for empathy.
“I’ve often observed the other side thinking Kelly is not following, but he is actually already at the finish line (mentally) while they’re still waiting for the starting pistol. The way it all comes together, that’s where the real magic is.”
Rarely do you see a partner and an associate showing up for every aspect of a case. For Hancock and Dolman, that’s the case. They attend every deposition, every hearing, every mediation and try all their cases together.
By preparing their cases in this fashion, the two feel that the client is getting better representation because they know the lawyer speaking on their behalf has been on the case since day one and involved in every single aspect.
“A lawyer who picks up a file for trial that an associate has prepared for three years is never going to have the same grasp of the facts and nuances as the one who has lived and breathed the case from the outset,” notes Hancock. “That knowledge of every small detail can be a huge difference maker.”
Further, Hancock explains, “When you are dealing with complex matters, everybody is going to perceive things a little differently, and no one will see the complete picture including all of the details. Having two brains working on the client’s file ensures that client is getting the best representation possible. No matter how big or small the case, we are going to be able to devote the resources and effort that the client wants and deserves. In all the years I have worked with Blake, we have yet to have a single client say they feel their case is not being handled competently.”
With approximately 150 cases open at any given time, the two attorneys can’t remember the last time they had a slow day. Further, they are both grateful to have the other to discuss, strategize and celebrate with.
“I love what I do and am so proud of the results we have obtained as a team. It is important to enjoy what you do, and a huge part of that for me is getting to work with Kelly. In six years, we have not had a single cross word or bad day together nor have either of us ever pointed fingers or shifted blame for any result. Given the high-stakes litigation and volatile issues we deal with daily, that’s pretty unbelievable.”
While the two boast an incredible array of seven and eight figure recoveries (many of which are evidenced by gold plated checks framed on their walls), they remain committed to helping any person who has been wronged regardless of the perceived value of the case.
“We both believe in Skip Campbell’s philosophy that if you can help someone who has been wronged and needs a champion, you do it regardless of whether you’re going to see a big pay day at the end of the case,” Hancock says.
IDEOLOGIES AND IDIOSYNCRASIES
In its more than 45-year history, Krupnick and Campbell has never advertised. Hancock and Dolman wouldn’t have it any other way. Of the advertising trend, Dolman says, “the profession has been eroded and degraded as a result of lawyer advertising. We are so proud of the fact that our results speak for themselves and our clients, other attorneys, judges, insurance adjusters and others in the community recommend us to those in need of our services knowing that the client and their family are going to get the personalized attention and compassion they deserve.”
“Every attorney in this firm has integrity and strives to remain courteous and professional,” Hancock says. “There seem to be too many attorneys these days who are adversarial and combative or worse are driven by money rather than the idea of helping people.”
Dolman agrees. “Most people who come to us are already at a very low point in their lives,” he says. “Disappointed, angry, upset and frequently in physical pain, they don’t need an attorney who’s out for the blood of opposing counsel and will leave a trail of enemies behind; they need to have an advocate focused solely on pursuing justice for them.”
With nearly a half-century of experience under his belt, Hancock has lived through a multitude of changes within the legal community, in the courts and ever-changing public perceptions. Throughout all these changes he has remained constant and true to a personal philosophy that serves both his clients and fellow attorneys very well.
“Blake and I have same philosophy,” he says. “We are here to counsel our clients. I mean, it’s right there in the word – counselor. People all essentially want the same thing: to be heard, reassured and represented with integrity and passion.
“There are no egos here; if we can achieve a just settlement for our clients without having to drag them through a long and costly litigation then that’s what we strive for. Neither Blake nor I have anything to prove in the courtroom. Our first, indeed only goal is to make sure our clients receive justice and the compensation that deserve.”