Innovative. Intelligent. Invested.
By Dan Baldwin posted Sept 2016, Attorney at Law Magazine
“Our advantage can be summed up in three words: innovative, intelligent and invested. These are the principles that we stand by,” says Sean Chalaki, owner of Chalaki Law, a Dallas-based firm serving clients statewide.
The firm’s practice areas fall into two general categories – catastrophic injuries and civil litigation cases. The first category largely concerns brain injuries, fractures, spinal injuries, heavy impact collisions and wrongful death cases. The second category concerns cases that extend from family law, commercial litigation, business litigation, real estate law, as well as probate law.
“We process and investigate our cases from day one to be litigation ready,” Chalaki says. “We structure the injury cases in the same format and with the same detail as civil litigation. This is one of the many ways in which the firm’s civil litigation practice complements the catastrophic injury side. Through practicing civil and business litigation we are more prepared, precise and experienced when handling severe injury collisions.”
Whether handling a civil case or an accident case the firm’s attorneys conduct a thorough investigation. “Our advantage is within the pre-litigation research. We discover and research everything about the facts, figures and personalities involved in all of our civil matters,” Chalaki says. “We encourage our attorneys to maintain a high level of communication and collaboration with the client regardless of the nature of the case. As attorneys, we must understand every element of every case. Because we have to put a value to our client’s losses, we conduct a meticulous investigation right off the bat. In-depth investigation and scrupulous representation is what our clients expect and deserve.”
In terms of innovation, Chalaki says he created a digital office before most others in the profession ever considered implementing such innovative technology. The firm often uses the most advanced technology to produce demonstrative evidence for presentation in court.
“I manage and present cases use cutting edge technology,” Chalaki says. “Because I run a digital office, I do things faster than most others. The technology enables us to access information and communicate with clients better. Accessibility is key for our clients, especially if they are suffering from a catastrophic injury. Whether their vehicle is broken down or they have a debilitating injury I am able to go to them. I take my tablet and can sign them up remotely. Once I press send, the information goes immediately to my office, where they can begin working on the case before I even leave the client’s home. By the time I return to the office, our staff has started processing the case. That gives us the cutting edge.”
Chalaki’s application of innovation works in each major practice area. “How does that work out in civil cases or commercial cases? One word – discovery,” he says. “We process discovery digitally, without need to review or provide paper documents. I save money for the clients because they don’t have to pay for prints. They don’t have to pay for certified mail, faxes or for me to have boxes and boxes of papers to go through. Everything is already organized in the computer with metatags. It takes less time and it saves the client money.”
Chalaki urges his team to be innovative and progressive. “I want every aspect of our office to function better than the offices of other attorneys. I don’t like to take no for an answer, and I don’t settle until I have discovered solutions to the issues at hand. Our job is to think around a problem and find a solution. I want to do everything possible for my client. I invest myself and my time. Furthermore, I implement rigorous employment techniques that ensure the hired candidates receive appropriate training. Once I assemble a team of driven and creative individuals, I give them the tools and mentorship they need to grow our practice and better serve our clients.”
As important as the practice of law is, Chalaki says that a firm is still at heart a business and must be managed as such. “A client is like a customer at a retail store who needs to be provided with exemplary products and services. A good attorney knows the law but also knows how to apply the law to everyday life. This method of practice is the kind of service I like to provide to my clients.”
Chalaki law has grown due primarily to referral business. “Each one of my clients is worth five additional clients to me. So, I take an intelligent approach to taking care of them so I can get those additional referrals,” he says.
Invested in Clients
“We are always working under high pressure and high stress and that’s just part of being invested in the success of our clients. If we’re not feeling pressure, we’re not doing a good job.”
The approach has worked to attract clients from one side of the business to the other. Chalaki says, “I represent doctors most of the time and commonly I end up representing their business. For example, when they want to move into a new office, they come to me to review their commercial lease. When they need an employment agreement, a new business agreement, or when they want to buy into a new surgery center, I look into that agreement for them. If they want to invest into some area that may not be in the medical field, they call me. I have negotiated deals for our clients which include franchise agreements. Almost without effort, we begin to handle more and more of a client’s civil needs simply because we’ve done good work in other areas.”
Those efforts in turn bring in additional clients. For example, after working with a physician on a real estate transaction, the landlord or property owner will often become a client based on his or her experience with the firm.
“It all works together and is tied into a practice so that we can serve a diverse client base. I started off as a tiny office we called the dungeon and from that one room I started representing one person at a time, and the business grew and now we’re on the top floor. Somehow it all came together and it all worked perfectly,” Chalaki says.
The Intelligent Approach to Challenge
Chalaki says everything always goes back to the intelligence aspect of the business, especially in what he sees as the three big challenges facing a law firm: managing a successful business, finding and keeping a top quality staff of attorneys and support personnel, and maintaining a high standard of performance. “One of the greatest things I tell my clients is, ‘You can either be a lawyer or you can be a businessman. You can either be a doctor or you can be an office manager.’ Has it been hard? Absolutely, it has been hard to be a businessman and a lawyer at the same time.”
When he founded the firm, Chalaki couldn’t afford to hire lawyers to handle the legal side while he managed the business side. One of his initial challenges was finding the balance between how much time and effort he devoted to administrative work, marketing, advertising and so on with how much time he devoted to being a good lawyer.
There is only so much work one person can accomplish, so a great staff is essential if an attorney wants his clients to receive effective representation, he says. “These days it’s a different ball game. We’re growing and there are now attorneys in the firm handling the legal work and I focus mainly on being able to handle administrative aspects and to ensure the cases are handle correctly. Having a great team is key to making a law office work and I have a great team.”
The third challenge he mentions, which is the toughest for many, is to maintain integrity and the ability to treat each client on a personal level instead of looking at each of those clients as “just another number” on the roster. “I never want to have too many cases so that I do not know what’s going on with each client,” Chalaki says.
The culture of Chalaki Law is always quality professional legal service.
“My employees work hard to maintain our goals. I treat my employees as professionals. I do not restrict their time at the computers. I encourage them to be outgoing, to network, to always interact with clients, and to always be on the lookout for new contacts. This is not only a great way to gain reputation in the community but also to generate new business.”
Chalaki challenges his staff, but he maintains an open-door policy. “Any time anyone needs anything he or she can come see me. I encourage self-learning tactics in order for individuals to discover what needs to be done next. However, I do watch over things to make sure they’re done correctly, and I jump in whenever I believe they need my help,” Chalaki says.
Overcoming challenges is an ongoing process, but a process Chalaki enjoys. “I love to represent people. I love being able to find solutions. The combination of the two creates a drive to succeed at finding solutions to the challenges my clients face,” Chalaki says.