Mikal Watts is a San Antonio personal injury lawyer with a nationwide varied practice. He is considered one of the best of his generation and his jury verdicts speak for themselves. He has been involved in product liability cases, personal injury, mass torts, and commercial litigation. It was great to sit down with my old boss and mentor.
Justin Hill: Welcome to Hill law firm cases, a podcast discussing real world cases handled by Justin Hill and the Hill Law Firm. For confidentiality reasons, names and amounts of any settlements have been removed. However, the facts are real and these are the cases we handle on a day-to-day basis. [music] I’m here with Mikal Watts. He was my original boss. This is Hill Law Firm cases podcast and I’m going to talk with Mikal, who was the whole reason I came to San Antonio. He was really an inspiration for me wanting to get into, not just plaintiffs work, but products work, which I missed at the back end of it, but I got to do incredible things at his firm and I got to see incredible things and I got to be part of things that nobody my age got to do.
Mikal: You did incredible things.
Justin Hill: Thank you. I did my best, but to be fair, I’m now on my own and I was only able to do that with the set of skills and the quiver that I left your firm with, so I thank you so much for that. I wanted to do these small podcasts for my law firm to talk about how we do things, why we do things, what we are. One of the things I sit down with every client that I learned from you early on, is I say, “We’re going to file your lawsuit, we’re going to push it fast, we’re going to get to trial as quickly as we can.” That’s something I learned from you. What was your philosophy, because so many people in our industry, they wait ’til this and they send a letter, and then if that doesn’t happen– What was your philosophy to file and push?
Mikal: You can follow as a gentleman and not be a jackass, right? You can just get the process started, apply pressure as a gentleman. To be honest with you, I tried a case last fall that I lost in San Antonio, tough case, but you were in there kicking ass on some guy. They were trying to continue the case and you were pushing, and I said, “I taught him that. That’s awesome.”
Justin Hill: It’s true.
Mikal: I was proud of you. The good news is that probably settled because you applied pressure. You can apply pressure without being rude, and it’s not dishonorable to tell a defendant, “No, we’re going to move, we’re going to get a trial setting. You’ve got the time between now and the trial setting to settle the case.” That’s what you’ve done and that’s what I saw last fall, which is awesome.
Justin Hill: Everything I’ve learned in my process has really been from your firm.
Mikal: Litigation is all about applying pressure. It’s either applied to you or you apply it to somebody else. A good plaintiff’s lawyer is going to apply it to the defendant and then get paid earlier.
Justin Hill: We have a burden to carry and I always explain that to clients, too. It’s tougher on our end. We have to carry a burden. What is your philosophy going into a trial knowing that you have the harder road to hoe? Look, you are always good friends with defense lawyers. It was one of those things that I’ve never met in anybody else. You have good relationships with them, they respect you, you treat them well, but you push your cases. How do you approach a case knowing you have the burden to carry and how do you explain that to your client?
Mikal: We shouldn’t file the case unless we think we can get there, but most of us file cases because we think it’s a righteous cause. Then, when we have the righteous cause, we can be friendly with the defense lawyer, but they know that we’re ready to whip their ass and that’s what we try to do, and that’s clearly what you do.
Justin Hill: I remember one time when I was a young lawyer, you said, “I always told my wife that if anything happens to me, you need to call this lawyer.” I still remember who that lawyer was and it’s funny, I have chosen vendors in my practice because of who that lawyer was and you spoke so highly of them. When you speak to friends and family and say, “I’m going to hire a lawyer,” what are some of the things I should look for? You’re in such a high level of litigation now, but on the normal lever, car wrecks and things like that, on the job injuries. What do you tell people to look for?
Mikal: What I want is people to go down and try cases, and people that are not afraid to take a loss down to courthouse, because nine times out of 10 the jury’s going to do the right thing. So, what frustrates me is when people who need that new bass boat or that new car, settle a case for less money than they should and are afraid to go down and see what our fellow citizens here in San Antonio are going to do, because I have absolute faith that whether it’s here in San Antonio, or in San Francisco, or in Gulfport Mississippi, juries do the right thing the vast majority of the time. So, I think we sell our clients short by being worried about being in that small minority where they’re going to screw you, because they don’t. Juries do the right thing.
They fare it through nonsense, they achieve justice in the overwhelming percentage of the time.
Justin Hill: Mikal, everything I’ve learned in the philosophies I’ve got as a lawyer, I’ve either learned from you or some of the lawyers in your firm. As it relates to San Antonio– My firm now in San Antonio based, we’ve got one office, we’re always going to have one office, we’re going to represent people here, we’re going to know the courthouse here. What do you think are some of the things that are a little bit different about juries in San Antonio and trying cases in San Antonio?
Mikal: People in San Antonio are good people and it’s a great town. It’s that joke, “I wasn’t born here, but I got here as soon as I could and I’m not leaving.” I think this is the best place in America to live. I think jurors here do the right thing. I think the richest people up in the northwest are respectful to the poorest people down in the southeast. We’re all equals and we all show up for jury duty. We treat each other with respect. We all want this town to grow. We want this town to do well. We want its citizens to do well. So, there’s no town in America I’d rather try a case because I know that the integrity and the honesty and the fabric of the jury pool in San Antonio is as good as it’s going to be anywhere else.
Justin Hill: That’s going to do it for this episode of the Hill Law Firm podcast. If you want to know more about where I came from and how I learned, research Mikal and his firm. That was where I became the lawyer that I am today. Thank you. We’ll be back next time. We’ll have more insights and more about what we do.
Mikal: [unintelligible 00:06:11]