Attorney at Law Magazine Greater Cleveland publisher Jim Shultz sat down with Stacy Callen to discuss her career.
AALM: How would you describe your practice?
Callen: My main area of practice is workers’ compensation, both at the administrative level and litigation in Ohio’s courts. I also have extensive experience with unemployment and social security disability. It is common for these three areas of law to intersect, and my knowledge in all three areas allows me to best advise my clients. My desire to help people who get lost in the system drew me to practice in these areas.
AALM: When did you first know you wanted to become an attorney? What drew you to this career?
Callen: I have always been problem solver. If there is a problem, I strive to figure out the best solution. This led me to become an attorney, I wanted to use my problem-solving skills to help everyday people. In the workers’ compensation arena, this usually involves listening to the client, reviewing their medical records, and then explaining all options available to them so that they are well-informed. Ultimately, any final decision is the client’s, but I get them to that point by educating and advising them.
AALM: What experiences have taught you the most?
Callen: I seem to learn the most when I have an unusual set of facts and have to be creative. Having unusual facts makes me leave the normal framework of a workers’ compensation claim and take a closer look at the situation, the law, and how to come out on the winning side for my clients. Also, I try to always learn something from adversity and setbacks in the process of litigating a case. I try to use what I have learned from past experiences in dealing with unique situations and to build my skills for the future.
AALM: What do you find particularly rewarding about being an attorney?
Callen: As an attorney, I meet people at one of the most difficult times in their lives. My clients are injured, some cannot work and some are not sure of their future. As would be expected, most workers who are injured have no knowledge of the administrative system and they find it confusing and frustrating. I navigate my clients through the intricate workers’ compensation process with my understanding and experience, which is rewarding. I see a large part of my role as an attorney as translating a difficult system into plain language for the everyday worker. It is a shame when injured workers miss opportunities or benefits available to them because they do not understand the system or do not have quality representation.
AALM: What case most defined or redefined your practice?
Callen: There is not one case that has defined my practice, but a few specific cases have changed my outlook about my practice. These cases involved investing a lot of time and energy and ending with a positive outcome. From these cases, I saw firsthand that hard work and persistence can change the course of a case that may otherwise get lost in the system.
I have some interesting cases going on now that challenge me to work harder. Two of the cases involve workers who are not U.S. citizens but who have suffered life-changing injuries; a fireman who fought a two-year battle to win his Ohio Police & Fire Disability pension and now is fighting for workers’ compensation benefits; a death claim with an employer who was not paying its workers’ compensation premium; and a case in which I won a mandamus action for a young injured worker that overturned an Industrial Commission denial of Permanent and Total Disability. Cases where workers are treated unfairly by their employer or the system motivate me to fight even harder.
AALM: What do you enjoy doing outside of work? Hobbies? Sports?
Callen: I try to slow down and relax when I’m not working. I enjoy being outside, staying active with different sports including golf and sand volleyball, and being with friends. I am a certified scuba diver and love traveling to different places to dive. Some places are better under water! I am also an avid reader, which is difficult with a busy schedule so for the last few years I have been listening to a lot of audio books.
AALM: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Callen: Being an attorney means wearing many hats. In my case, on a daily basis, I am an educator, listener, counselor, motivational speaker, and always an advocate. I try to keep the whole picture in mind and give advice as to the best way to move forward for each individual’s situation. At the end of the day, tailoring advice to each client’s unique circumstances is important to me in order to act as the best advocate.
At Dworken & Bernstein, we have five attorneys who handle Ohio workers’ compensation law. This allows us to draw on the experiences of each other whenever needed. We strive to facilitate a close relationship with our clients so that they know their attorney and we always put the client first. Especially in a highly contested matter, our attention to detail and work ethic may not only determine the outcome, but distinguishes us from other law firms.