Hello and welcome to the It’s Law Podcast presented by FR Law Group. I’m Richie Edwards an attorney here at the FR Law Group, and I have the pleasure of hosting the first episode of the It’s Law podcast. It’s our hope that the podcast becomes a valuable resource for all of you into the world of law, business law, and other types here that we practice. We’re hoping to have interviews with attorneys from the firm with opposing counsel, with judges with non-lawyer clients, and other people involved in the legal world to give you a taste of what it’s like to get into a lawsuit, what things you need to think of as you’re forming a business or making important business decisions, and how the law can impact you and your businesses every day. Today, for the first episode, I’m joined by Troy Froderman and Scott Ryan, Scott, and Troy are the founding members and partners of FR Law Group. And here today to tell us about their background, their qualifications, why they started FR Law Group, and how FR Law Group can benefit all of you as one of the premier firms here in Phoenix. So, Troy, I’ll ask that you start by introducing yourself a little bit about your background. Thank you, Richie.
Again, Troy Froderman. I’ve been practicing law in Phoenix for a little over 34 years. How old are you, Richard
That’s not embarrassing. I first started practicing law with an Arizona large-based law firm. We were doing insurance defense and construction. I stayed there for about seven years and then migrated to an international law firm with a little over 1000 lawyers. And I was there for 16 years. Went from doing insurance defense, which I hated to representing insurance policy holders which I love a lot more fun and feel like it’s you’re fighting for a worthy cause less than 30. Yes. I stayed at that firm for about 16 years, then went to a national firm was there for seven years. I’ve known Scott for probably 15 to 20 years. And towards the end of the last national firm, I was starting to feel that the… the pressure on rates was becoming so high that it was becoming very difficult to represent my existing client base as well as bringing in other clients, large firms, big law, if you will they serve a very useful purpose. I was trained in that environment they did a great job for me. But the continued rate pressures… incredible. There are firms in Phoenix right now that are national base that are charging almost $1,000 an hour. It’s crazy. So in 2017, I approached Scott about maybe doing something a little different, unique, was completely out of my lane and comfort zone which was forming a small firm and that’s what we did. Talk about that once we hear from Scott.
All right, so Scott Troy’s background here at Big Law. Tell us a little bit about your background, how you came to be.
My background is all in the construction industry. My undergraduate and graduate degree are in construction and started working for a large national contractor when I was in graduate school as a Project Engineer out in the field building projects around the southwest. I did that for a little bit more than four years and then decided to go to law school. Everyone makes fun that I must have fell off the chair but my head but be it as may I did and went to law school in Chicago practice law in the construction practice group of a large national firm for about four years and then was recruited back to go to work for my former employer as their General Counsel. And I then spent the better part of the next 13 years in various positions within that company and its parent company ultimately becoming Senior Vice President General Counsel of the company’s building group which had five or six building contractors around the country building large-scale commercial developments multiples of hundreds of millions of dollars up to multiples of billions of dollars in Project Value. Troy and I, as he said, I’ve known each other for quite some time. He approached me about making a change and starting something for ourselves and felt it was a great opportunity and we took the plunge and we’re going to be in business six years this September.
Okay, well. That’s excellent. It’s also some very big national experience that you have a little bit different obviously in-house and that. So, Troy, when you went to Scott what was what was the pitch? What was the unique? You mentioned something unique. What was it that you wanted to create?
So, a lot of the large national firms have represented banks and other large organizations that if you follow through their various tentacles they own insurance companies. And so a lot of the large law firms were getting conflicted out of representing policyholders. And that was fine. You know, a vocation if you will was suing them. So something had to come to a head there. And I knew that Scott was tired of traveling every week he had three small children and he needed to have a lifestyle where he wasn’t traveling all the time. And so I thought, this presented a unique opportunity to merge our two experiences into this small two-person law firm that is now seven lawyers probably growing. That was not our intent. But the I felt like we would have enough referrals and enough existing clients that we would be successful. Little did I know how successful it would turn out? And I think a large part of that has to do with and I do think we’re unique in this is that we’re very very transparent with our clients. We don’t take every matter that is presented to us. Not every case is worth the effort for the client. And so we’d let them know that if that’s, in fact, how we view it in that could be from the beginning of a potential claim to the point where they actually have a claim, but it’s going to be not in their best interest to pursue it for one reason or another. And so I really feel like we’re one of the few law firms that are really saying that to our clients and that’s not to bash big law. But big law, they have a lot of lawyers they have a lot of staff they have to feed the piece, if you will, not overhead. Yes, and we have… I unlocked the door to come into the office as of a consequence. So I and I think also the thing that we’re unique on is bringing in you are our first associate and being able to work with you in an environment where we can actually train you and you can help us and you your growth I think is exponential as compared to if you were in a large law firm where you’re having to go if you’re not getting FaceTime you’re not getting fed. Right. And that’s not the formula that we
have here. Right? No, it certainly has been the I know folks I graduated with haven’t taken a deposition yet. And they you know, five years in a career that big loss so it’s not great. You mentioned in Scotch way mentioned, the unique service to the client. and I think your experience in the construction industry versus an engineer and really brings that can you tell us a little bit more about that? I know I’ve every time we get a new case seemed like I learned something new about this wealth of knowledge? Sure,
Sure! Yeah. So, a unique thing about our services in the construction world is that we can handle everything from putting the deals together, negotiating the contracts, getting all the development agreements put in place, help the client structure, the risk management profile on the project in such a way as to mitigate the risk to the greatest extent possible not just not just from an insurance coverage standpoint but also from a contract risk stand point. And we’re able to do that because the years that I’ve been in the field doing that myself on projects and that lends to our ability to be a valuable resource for the clients that they can go to for one stop to handle all those services through managing issues on a project as they arise and then ultimately if there’s a claim at the end of the project or towards the end of the project being able to either litigator or arbitrate the claim. So we’re able to help the client and get into their business to the extent that is much deeper than if we were just strictly a litigation shop where we get involved once the project’s already been done and you’re trying to learn what happened over the last two-three years through the course of the deal get put together and litigation because we in a lot of instances were there with them. And in those instances where we an issue comes about later on for a client that we already work with, we know their people, we know their systems we know the processes, we know where things are, and we can help them get through that process and much more economical efficient manner then someone who comes in without that level of detail knowledge of the client’s business, right.
And let me brag on Scott. So he has the pedigree that I don’t know of any other lawyer in the construction field. Our clients trust him implicitly. He talks, the talk. And his gravitas in the construction industry is second to none. And that’s both in the field as well as being a lawyer. And I think that that speaks volumes of how people in clients especially LOOK AT THAT far longer.
Right, I certainly would agree. And I’ve noticed that you mentioned, Scott, that you take it sort of from the beginning, we get in with a client and it seems to me it’s better for the client it ends up maybe costing a little bit of money, right? A little time for the contract. But at the end of the day, it always seems to save time and money when the both of you are in it from the beginning and you can tell them a bad policy or a bad contract and let’s mitigate your risk. And is that as I understand it that was some of what you wanted to do is create this firm that not overextended but can really do everything the client needs to not just fend off a suit but to grow their business and help us as well.
Yeah, completely. It’s a lot of fun being involved in the development of a project and putting the deal together. And you get to establish those relationships and those senses of trust between everybody on the project where you’re able to have a much higher level of trust from them in bringing you and helping them solve a problem before it turns into a big massive issue.
And to go back to one of your earlier questions which was what makes FR Law unique? At least from the insurance side because we’re unique on the construction without a question with Scott. On the insurance side, what makes us unique is our hands aren’t tied. We don’t have clients who have an interest in an insurance company. We are able to give it our all, and we do. And I know that opposing counsel would say the same thing when they see FR Law Group is representing a policyholder. They expect a fight. And when I say fight, it’s not as if we’re mean… unnecessarily litigious. But we are all in for our client. They also know that I’ve tried over 75 cases to a jury. I may not sound like a lot in 34 years. But it’s very difficult to get to the courtroom, especially in the last 15 to 20 years. That could be for a number of reasons, the expense that time incurred just to get to the courthouse, a variety of factors. So they know that when we appear on behalf of a construction company, a policyholder, or a commercial litigation that we’re not, rollovers were there for our clients. We don’t take the case unless we’re all in. Right,
now. I certainly know this the opposing counsel, tone, and tenor change when Troy jumps on the call or the email thread after you know they’re maybe not sure he’ll be involved. So I certainly think that’s true. I want to focus on that the uniqueness and I see it that we’re unique. And I’ll include myself from big law in a lot of ways that might be obvious but I want to talk about but I think we’re also unique from other peer firms. So there’s smaller firms. How would both of you say that we differentiate ourselves from those other peer firms to win the clients business? Is there I think part of that is your expertise and experience but I’ve told people that it’s really you don’t get a lot of small firms like this that you have such national training and breadth of experience and contacts that you can bring to serve your clients here in Phoenix for a rate that’s much cheaper than one of those big firms Downtown it’s going to charge
one thing that we do in the construction space is that we do have a contract risk management program that I developed 20+ years ago now that I constantly update and keep fresh that we go on we offer and provide to clients and we do that no charge will go to the product except we’ll go to offices, when today’s day and age we’ve done a bunch of virtually such as this. And it’s great, it’s a great opportunity for our clients to leverage that knowledge that we have in all the different facets of their business and train their employees and talk their talk. I was in the field as an engineer, worked my way through college as a concrete laborer at a big contract in Chicago. So, you know, I’ve been on just about every side of the business and I think that that is appreciated by the project folks out there. And they trust what we have to say. And they realize that we’re just not there pontificating about the law. We give it real-world application andn we solicit tons of questions and feedback from everybody that goes through these to have them quiz us on what’s going on using examples for what’s going on their current project or on. And we give them our two cents opinion on what we think the issues are and where they should look and what they should do and how to manage through that issue. So that I think has been I know, it’s been a great clients love it and their employees love it. Yeah. And there are a lot of fun to put out too.
especially in Troy to you know so many years in big law we’ll call it and at these international firms, what differentiates the products and the services that you provide? Because I know they’re getting the same level of service from you that they would have gotten at any other previous firms? But I think it’s better as far as how it benefits the client. How would you explain?
So, we benefit by the experience that I developed at big law. I was the last firm I was with I was in charge of 130 Trial Lawyers. So, I get what needs to be done on a case and what doesn’t need to be done on a case. And what we have is big long experience with very affordable hourly rates. So I think that makes a substantial difference to you and asked about other small law firms. What differentiates us from that? There are other small law firms that also have lawyers that came from large law firms. But what they don’t have is our special niche practices in construction and insurance. I tell folks all the time an insurance policy is nothing more than a contract. It’s usually a contract that the policyholder, one of the parties never red. And they normally don’t read it until they have the claim presented. And then the CEO looks at the policy and says, “What did we buy?” And so we’re able to help navigate those waters, and I think we do it in a way that brings that big law experience to the table.
Right? I have certainly ingrained in you both mentioned in various times that we don’t, you know, you mentioned in the case you know what needs to be done but also what doesn’t need to be done. And I think that it’s just as important to the client that FR Law Group won’t waste their money on frivolous motions and for those discovery that we’re going on and on what matters to get the result that they need and to get them out the door as quickly as they can. I think that’s really valuable. So I’d like to transition just a little bit in when you started FR Law Group in 2017. You mentioned Troy that you weren’t sure it was going to grow to what it’s grown today. What did you hope it would be when you know, opened the door and signed the first client back then?
Well, I thought we’d ultimately have three to four attorneys, and the geographic scope of our representations are probably greater than we expected them to be. And just the sheer volume. We have a an awful lot of repeat repeat clients. We’re very proud that our clients continually come back to us for counsel. We actually serve for quite a few clients as we call outside General Counsel services where they may not have an attorney in their organization or the attorney that they have an organization may not may be more of a transactional person than as opposed to a claims litigation coverage person. So they’ll come to us for those day-to-day business questions. On here’s an issue that we’re facing what should we do, and that’s quite satisfying being able to apply skip through their business operations on a day-to-day basis like that.
Yeah, what I did what I did not expect, which materialized, was the amount of referrals we would get from large law firms. And I know the reason why we’re getting them is because they trust us. So if they have a construction issue or an insurance issue, they have no problem sending the matter our way if they can’t handle it for one reason or another. And I think they do that because we don’t have a tax department, we don’t have a labor to put, we don’t even have any that department. So they know we’re not going to pill for their client; we’re going to represent them to the best of our abilities. And I also didn’t anticipate the increase in the hourly rate of the large law firms, which is causing many of their clients to look to other types of legal services. Some of it might be asked, some of it might be elsewhere. But you know, I think, unfortunately, a number of them are pricing themselves out of the Arizona market. Yeah.
So what you hoped it would be what it’s becoming where do you both see the firm down the line? Right, it obviously evolves and changes, but how do you anticipate it evolving far longer to meet client needs and move into the future? Well, I
think bringing up our younger trainees such as yourself to be able to get in and intake have substantive contact, direct contact with clients is going to be huge. You know, there’s there’s two of us, and there’s not enough to go around. And that’s one thing that I find very satisfying in our office is that we really have that desire to bring out the next generation attorneys to be able to eventually take lead. And then that will just expand our ability to help clients and even more locations where a little need us, right?
Yeah, I just see it continuing to progress, as it is a lot of it’s organic. And a lot of it’s based on client needs. Some of the insurance matters that we have are large and substantial and are not in Arizona. And so that requires more sophisticated ways to approach the business than if everything was just situated right here.
Sure, sure. And I want to go back just a little bit; I sort of skipped over it. But we talked about how FR Law Group differentiates itself from different firms here. What’s different, as you guys see, in how we practice today versus a firm 20 and 40 years ago? What do we do? How has it evolved in what we’re doing day to day?
100%! When I first started practicing, I always hated what I was doing. I mean, with the secretaries were still using typewriters. They were using the carbon paper, so get all over you. And so one big change is that when I first started, there were no fourth or fifth drafts of something you got to write the first time. And I think to a certain extent; we’re all guilty of this. Now that you know, we’re able to change a draft on the fly, and get a little lazy because we know we can always change it later. You had one chance. So I think that’s significant. I think the fact that you can do things virtually obviously has changed the practice a lot. When Scott and I were traveling around doing depositions, you had to go to a remote location. The other option was phone. And that didn’t work. Kind of hard to show witness a document for the phone. Right? Right. And so now, unless there’s a really good reason, there’s no reason why you can’t take a deposition remotely. I did it this morning. That witness was in Ohio, the lawyers were all here. We’re able to show him the exhibits online. And that’s a tremendous saving to the client. They’re saving on the travel costs; they’re saving on lodging. It’s just incredible how much you’re saving. And it used to be that when you would fly. Let’s say you’re going to New York to take a deposition. Well, you have a travel day, but that gets billed to the client. You’re really not doing anything. Right? Right. You’re eliminated the travel day, right? Yeah. And so there are a lot of different things I could touch upon, but those are like some of the more obvious ones to an old dog like myself.
Clients not paying for you to get through TSA anymore. Very Yeah, right? Right. That’s a pretty great day to think. The deposition you did today it save the client &1000s and &1000s of Dollars easily upside Zoom. That’s pretty good. You
got the time difference too. So I can’t fly there this morning to take the guy’s deposition.
No, yeah, that’s true. Scott, your practice was a lot of it in-house and that have you noticed in what well what ways have you noticed that how we practice today is different from the firm you were first hiring, you know, in-house and how we do things now?
Certainly, technology has been a game changer. When we built them when I was in the house, we built one of the mega Casino Resorts up in Las Vegas, and this was just, oh, we started in five and finished it in nine, and just on that project alone, we had somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 or 12,000 boxes of documents and like 20,000 or 15,000 bags of drugs. We did, we unfortunately, had a serious piece of litigation on that, and most of that got scanned, and we ended up having the we did a calculation, we had six times the amount of information that’s in the Library of Congress. That wasn’t the case. So you know, technology is, you know, certainly a game changer. We’re working on litigation right now out of state on a about a $200 million highway project and you would think that there will be just hundreds and hundreds of boxes of documents but we we went looked at 25 boxes and everything else was electronic. So you know from that standpoint, getting through the client’s documents has become much more efficient, which has been a great time saver and a cost saver.
Yeah, Yeah. Saves your time saves the client money, and all that. Now pivoting a little to clients, what did both of you what does that FR Law Group look for in a client? Sure, I mentioned earlier that we don’t take every case that comes for various reasons. But what are you looking for? When a client comes and says, “I have this issue? I want to hire you?”. What gets you to say Yes versus No for whatever reason?
Well, you gotta be good people, right? You don’t want to sell your soul to the devil and go to work for a client who may not be as ethical as he would like them to be. So certainly, if I get a feeling that a client isn’t an honest business person and is going to be upfront on everything will probably decline representation. That’s huge, that’s a huge one, right?
Yeah. A mentor of mine used to take a different twist on the plan about you can’t pick your family but you can pick your clients.
I knew an old attorney who he is Christmas gifts to his secretary every year, but she got the fire one client. And he said that she felt that was the greatest Christmas present. So you know, certainly no one wants clients like that, and they don’t want works like that.
Right. Okay. Well, I don’t know that there’s any that bid we want to fire. I think you’ve done a good job. Yes, Yeah. A good job and email. So again, looking at the clients, FR Law Group, you know I was hoping, I think the potential clients and other folks are listening to this. What do we hope that the podcast is going to be in conjunction with the power practicing line? What do we hope to provide through this moving forward?
So the second episode is with one of our other lawyers, Rita Gara, and we talked about an anatomy of a case and in the importance of choosing the lawyer that’s best for your specific case. And so, I’m hoping that the podcast will have a series of episodes that are educational and informative for clients. And also, we’ll touch upon what we had FR Law Group can provide, and again we don’t do everything nor should we are specific practice areas I would put into three construction, obviously. Policyholder representation and commercial litigation, and what I mean by commercial litigation, is representing businesses in disputes with other businesses. So that’s kind of the tripod of things that we do at FR Law Group, and hoping that the episodes will help kind of unpack those three areas.
Right. Well, I think It’s been mentioned a couple of times that a lot of what you do, Scott mentioned with his courses with clients and the risk management and the contract management, it seems like a real big focus of yours is education from the client. And as I understand it, sometimes that might not result in an engagement letter, and everything are in an actual agreement. But I think it seems like it’s valuable to you, and you think it’s going to pay off in the long run. We’re helping the clients, and then I’ll come back to us in a good way. Is that what I have it about right there?
Yeah, I fix Yeah, for sure. That’s when you get back to your clients a little bit, and you help them succeed. And if they’re succeeding, you know, it’s just a natural byproduct that our firm is going to continue to succeed.
Right. Well, that’s great. Well, it’s, you know, being here… Working it’s great, Right? I think we do really good work. Troy’s dress up a little more today because he did have that deposition. Scott and I are a little bit more casual. But you know, it’s certainly not. I don’t. It’s not indicative definitely of the level of service we provide. I genuinely believe that the service you both provide is, you know, the top level that a client can go anywhere and get the policyholder in the commercial litigation or on the construction anywhere else. So it’s, it’s been a pleasure. I think we’re getting close to wrapping up. What else you know in this introductory episode? Do you want listeners and folks to know about yourselves or the firm?
I think we’ve covered it. If you are listening and you have any questions, you can look us up on the web at frlawgroup.com and our numbers are there and our mobile numbers this is another thing that I would add; maybe it’s not so unique anymore but our mobile numbers are there and we answer those calls of lawyers life is never over so 24/7 pretty much but it’s it’s been a joy these almost six years and looking forward to Ricci and others progression through the firm as we go.
Yeah, well, certainly try doesn’t keep bankers’ hours. So there’s some good service there, and I certainly appreciate the opportunity to be here to host today, and I think it’s gonna be really valuable moving forward. So good, frlawgroup.com, and we’d love to hear from you.
Thanks. Thank you.