My goal is to build a new kind of law firm for California and the country. We are the first law firm in the United States equally emphasizing law, consulting, and high-level negotiation. The firm will be based on principles of integrity, great customer service, and a devotion to results on every level of a company’s (=client’s) needs so that it is protected from every angle. It is my belief that the days of a lawyer ‘fixing’ a single problem and walking away from a company’s overall needs are long gone. Sure, some companies may not want a firm to deal with more than one type of problem, but on the other hand, a lawyer should at least be able to spot the problems so that his or her client can be made aware of risks and issues. A lawyer is in a perfect position to do this. Only, of course, if a lawyer’s scope is beyond just law. My attitude is that if you’re going to practice business law, you better know business, or else what use are you? Nowadays you can go on line to set up a company structure (incorporation, LLC, etc) so what you expect from a lawyer has to be a lot more than filling out a firm; it has to be a global solution with foresight built in.
Although I have been very private in the past, I think it’s a good idea to share with you who I am as “the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree”. When you have a business lawyer, you end up telling him or her things you wouldn’t even tell your ‘priest’, so I think it’s good to know who runs the firm. I have full-time staff as well as great people I hire for specific problems, ranging from accountants and consultants, to specialized lawyers and even web design professionals, as well as film editors. You can share in the fruits of my labor. What labor? To find people with integrity, towards the work they do and the prices they command, you need to go through at least 125 people, and I often go through 500 or more. You need to know the questions to ask, what to look for, and what to avoid. At the end of the day you have a team people would kill for.
Moving on, people who have visited with me have asked a number of questions in an effort to know who will guide their firms. I consider it a privilege that you trust me with your secrets, your company’s deepest secrets and your financial future. I will help you understand who I am, as my philosophies guide not only what I do, but what my team does. And that will affect you, and your company’s success. Any lawyer can put his or her picture on a web site and tell you how great they are; however, we are all human and some of us will meet your needs better than others. You have to decide what you are looking for. In being creative, I am going to break the mold and share with you things you won’t find on the Internet or on my resume.
The first thing you most likely want to know are credentials. I am a member of the California Bar and a number of other associations, both legal and business. My first degree is in biochemistry and experimental genetics. Why is this significant? Unlike lawyers who took arts courses to make easy grades, I had to learn science. I had to learn detail, organization, and sequential logistics. This background has done more for my success with legal cases than anything I can think of. I graduated in 1984 with a degree in law, emphasizing business and international law. This means that when it comes to contracts and litigation, I love the work, it comes naturally (more on my philosophy of litigation later). I took some time off in 2000 to study Strategic Management at Harvard, this helped me tremendously with understanding big business and how to get there. It also helped me understand mistakes companies make as Harvard loves case study. I had also joined the Turnaround Management Association and that helped me learn more about company mistakes; I can share with you what I have learned so you can be proactive. When at Harvard I had the honor of working in a consulting firm with Jim McCauley. He was one of the three people (along with Jim Champy and the late Mike Hammer) who developed the formula for Business Process Re-engineering. A great employer, he loved to teach and I learned a lot of invaluable information I can share with you. I had the great opportunity of speaking with a number of companies across a wide variety of industries with problems, and was able solutions while having the most interesting conversations with them; this helped tremendously with the consulting aspect of my firm.
I have also trained lawyers in business law and immigration. My firm was the first to conduct regular seminars worldwide on immigration and business, and I have lectured at both Oxford and Duke Universities as well.
E-Commerce, Marketing & the Internet
People who know me know that a passion I share equally with business is a passion for film making. It all started with a course I took on learning to act to be a better litigator. I enjoyed it so I studied more and more acting and ended up being in a dozen films. From there, I learned directing and producing and in 2004 entered a film in the Cannes Film Festival; what a great experience the festival is! I used that background to create the first, almost 5-hour DVD that explains US immigration to the world in simple English. Then I had to learn all about Internet marketing, e-commerce, and of course, retail distribution. I went on from that experience to create a 5.5-hour DVD on making relationships work based on a theory of conflict resolution I developed as a negotiator. Those are invaluable skills I can share with you. I learned Search Engine Optimization and a lot more as I spent $250,000 one year alone, attending conference worldwide in order to increase my knowledge base in the new online business world. I went on to produce a second DVD, one that uses a conflict resolution model I developed in order to make relationships work (Relationships901.com).
I had an office in England for 4.5 years and then got too busy to fly back and forth monthly. I had my office in San Diego for a number of years and then moved to Boston to go to school. Having lived on Newbury Street I found San Diego boring when I returned. So, I made my way to Los Angeles where I ran my law firm and acted in my spare time to refresh my mind from the intensity of law. I lived there for about 8 years this time and decided I would move to Dallas to find a quieter, more down-to-earth existence. Regrettably, Dallas thinks it’s LA and it was not the experience I was looking for, so after two years of the superficiality I decided it was time to leave permanently. I then thought I would try setting up a European operation in Italy. Milan and Rome were my only available choices as I can’t live in a place without an active business community. I chose Rome, more beautiful than Milan, and definitely warmer. I had no idea how corrupt Italy is and how hard they make it to conduct business. During a meeting with the Secretary of Commerce at the Harvard Club in Rome I discovered that many countries, (small) Belgium included, accept more American exports than Italy. It was a surprise. Now I know why. A year later, in November of 2010 I pulled the plug. Enough was enough of that craziness. Yes I had fun, yes I made many great friends. However, my work day began between 9 and 2:30 PM and ended midnight to 4 AM depending on the time zone of the clients I was working with. I was willing to live with that. The corrupt climate, however, was just too much. You cannot conduct business in Italy if you are an outsider. It’s hard enough to find a landlord who will give you a ‘contract’. Without a contract, you can’t get a doctor (although you can get free medical help if you need it at a hospital), a driver’s license or a bank account. The last landlord was the last straw. She promised a contract but when all the arrangements were made she stated her husband wanted more time (ie not to pay taxes…that’s what a contract means…they cheat) so she would not provide one and I had already provided my notice to the previous place with 24 hours left on my old lease. In my opinion, I think that immigrants will take over that country soon and it’s on its way to a serious decline. Workers aren’t motivated, and people get jobs based on who they know (yes that happens everywhere)…but credentials take no importance and since a company can’t fire you very easily, they are just receiving free money. That brings me to today, when I am moving back to San Diego. However, I do have staff in our Dallas center and that will remain open as great staff is hard to find. We also have a legal research facility in London, England. In order to operate 24 hours a day I have no trouble moving California lawyers to London, but never Rome.
Litigation & Negotiation
Although I am a lawyer and litigation pays well, I do not believe in it. In fact, I routinely turn away clients who want to sue someone for the smallest thing just try and get money out of something small. I think people in California have become too sue happy. The days of getting money from an insurance company for something small for ‘nuisance value’ are more or less over. Litigation can be expensive. Regrettably, anyone can sue anyone else for anything they want. This is the road to craziness as you can break someone’s back financially for something small. If someone is doing that to you, we will be the firm to put an end to it. We may be nice people, but when we litigate, we do so aggressively, almost ruthlessly. After all, the other side started it, they should be able to deal with whatever comes their way. And yes, you can still do this, be a gentleman and keep a smile on your face.
That dovetails onto how I became a negotiator. I dealt with a number of high profile clients who did not want to spend hundreds of thousands in years of litigation, have their private information become public record, or be in the press. One of my clients asked me to learn how to negotiate to put their case to rest. I studied at a number of venues, including the wonderful Harvard-MIT-Tufts $1000 a day conference of international negotiators. I have learned so much I developed my own theory of conflict resolution (I wish I had the time to write a book). I have since negotiated the extortion of a high-level politician, kidnapping of a federal agent’s son, career destruction of an actor with one of the top producers/directors in the world, a 9-figure international business contract, and a number of marital issues where millions of dollars, homes, cars, children, and even dogs were at stake. We won every case. Negotiation uses every skill I have learned in my life, ranging from understanding human behavior (and the brain’s fallback behavior) to acting.
I hope this introduction helps you to understand who I am and what skill set I can bring to your company. I look for long-term relationships with my clients; I don’t try and charge them as much as I can thinking I will never see them again. My current clients are my best sources of referrals and I have over 3 inches of thank you letters to prove it. I am not the cheapest lawyer you will find, nor am I the most expensive. Our rates are fair and reasonable. Also, if I think of something that can be of help, and I initiate a one-hour call with you, it’s on the house. I am working on a multimillion-dollar project for a client now and came up with a number of marketing ideas that I think, as does he, will be of great help. All of those were free. I want to see you grow and succeed. This is what I’m about. I want you to be the next Apple in your own way.
I have a great team to make this a reality. On that note, that is why I don’t advertise who they are until you hire us; too many law firms and companies have tried to steal my staff and I think they are all the best money can buy. And that is the first thing I can teach you in business. Hire people with creativity, and a foundation in their field. They don’t come cheaply up front, but in the long run they are worth more than money itself. Treat them well and you will have their loyalty. Make them know how much you appreciate them. After all, you stand on their shoulder so you can get where you need to be. As far as your homework goes, one of my favorite quotes by Ed Macauley states; “When you’re not practicing, remember that someone somewhere is practicing, and when you meet him he will win” . Business never sleeps. Don’t ever stop learning what you need to know to be the best in your field. Think like Jack Welch, the x CEO of GE. He stated that if he’s not No. 1 or 2 in his field he would be wasting your time and his own. Be the best, whatever it takes. I work 12-hour days on average. Few of those are billable. Many of them are spent being better at what I do. Do the same and let’s both succeed together!
All the best,
Riznyk & Company