The omnipresent marketing by partners Glen Lerner and Kevin Rowe of Arizona has built a personal injury law firm with 60 attorneys in 27 locations in nine states, with 450 support staff.
Lerner & Rowe is propelled by a $20 million advertising budget for television, radio, online and billboard advertising, plus social media, community philanthropy and a private marketing conference. Their slogans are ubiquitous, including “One Call, That's All” and “In a wreck? Need a check?” and “Lerner and Rowe is the way to go, call 977- one nine oh oh.” Lerner and Rowe even bought an ad during the Super Bowl. Their commercials are among the 250 videos the firm has posted on YouTube over the last 10 years.
But they're not stopping there. Lerner & Rowe is in the midst of a national expansion into “one enormous personal injury powerhouse.”
The firm recovered more than $165 million for its clients in 2018. It signs up 22,000 new clients per year, primarily people with traffic accident claims. It also found success in mass torts and product liability. Broadening its scope, the firm is diversifying into new practices in bankruptcy, criminal defense and social security disability. Lerner and Rowe additionally handle commercial litigation, representing land developers and car dealers on a contingent or hybrid fee structure.
“We're very blessed, we have a wonderful practice,” Lerner says.
In May, the firm branded 11 of its offices in Nevada, Illinois, and Indiana under the Lerner and Rowe Injury Attorneys name. In addition, it has offices in California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico, and Tennessee.
Their next target market is Seattle. Rather than building a law office from the ground up in a new city, the firm is trying a new business model. “I don't think large scale vehicle personal injury model will be around forever with the advent of autonomous vehicles,” Lerner says.
Instead, they aim to duplicate their success with New Orleans personal injury attorney Mike Brandner. Lerner and Rowe bought a 50% interest in the firm, kept the Brandner name, and applied its nationwide management experience. “We became partners with Mike, and in only 24 months, the firm has grown 8-fold in the number of cases he does a month. His firm went from 5 employees to 30 employees and he is now one of the main players in the New Orleans market, one of the most competitive markets in the country. That's the model we'd like to follow,” Lerner says.
“We look to acquire existing firms with positive cash flow. We're really good at managing these practices. We have 450 employees, and we completely understand the processes that need to be in place for a firm to flourish. It is a business. The problem is so many lawyers try to be both a lawyer and a businessman. You can't be a guy playing lawyer and run a business.”
His management approach is that of Bob Kraft, the owner of Lerner's favorite team, the New England Patriots football team. “We have one guy who's the offensive coordinator, another guy is the defensive coordinator. Everybody has a job. And our slogan is ‘just do your job'” – exactly the words of head coach Bill Belichick.
“We try to identify people who have our same core values, have strong family ties and marriages, and who are involved in the community in a sincere way,” Lerner says. “When we find an attractive market, we may buy into a law firm with good cash flow that needs better day-to-day management as we've done in New Orleans, or completely take over firms. We're really good at creating a positive culture, and a winning culture. We bring a lot of positive energy and great processes.”
The heavenly hitter
Lerner grew up Jewish and on welfare in Boston. “I grew up poor and had a father in jail for double murder. I never had anything.” He worked as a teamster and garbage man during the summers. “I can truly represent the average Joe,” he says.
Yet in school, he was a star soccer player and a top student who got accepted into Dartmouth College. He transferred to Duke as a religion major and got his law degree from Tulane Law School in 1990. The next year started a solo practice in Las Vegas, typing his own pleadings.
“Lawyers are the police for the corporations,” Lerner says. “These corporate guys never go to jail. Half the time, they know their products are bad. Plaintiff lawyers hold them accountable,” Lerner says.
He started running TV commercials in 1998, spending $10,000 per month, and the firm grew rapidly. His soccer-playing friend, Kevin Rowe, began working with Lerner in 1998. Lerner is the majority owner, and he gave Rowe an ownership interest in the Arizona practice. They became Lerner and Rowe in 2005. By 2012 the firm had 40 attorneys and a support staff of 125.
Bringing in multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts, Lerner got all the wealth of a thriving practice, driving a Rolls Royce Phantom and living in a $5 million house. But it left him empty and his first marriage failed. “I had all the stuff people wanted. I was married to one of the most beautiful person. But I had nothing inside. I was a maniac,” he says. “I was a mad man, a crazy man, an adulterer. I wasn't living the life God had purposed for me. I screwed up 1st marriage, I was on the way to screw up my second marriage. I was at the point where there was nowhere else to go.”
“God in his infinite grace and mercy said ‘it's time to submit to my lordship in your life.' I was a religion major at Duke but I had no idea who God really was,” he says.
Supported by Robynn, his wife of 20 years, he began to read the Bible. “I was broken like everybody else in need of a savior. I'm fortunate that God made me able to acquiesce and give in to His call. It's scary to submit a give up control,” he says. “It's amazing what God has done in my life.” Today he wears a big silver cross around his neck.
Lerner says that growing the firm “is a form of evangelism. I help guys build their practice and get them involved in your community. What I do is all Christ-based. We're hoping to find other people who will spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, but even if they're not, they can still spread the gospel of helping your fellow man.”
A firm with a big heart
Philanthropy is the hallmark of attorney Kevin Rowe, who founded the non-profit Lerner and Rowe Gives Back Foundation, which has three full-time employees. The foundation gives support to the homeless, the hungry, the abused and the sick, and even to our four-legged friends,” Rowe says.
After graduating cum laude and a member of Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Washington, he earned a JD at Southwestern University School of Law in California.
Kevin started to practice at an insurance defense firm but switched to plaintiff's cases. Today he has multimillion-dollar settlements and verdicts to his credit, belongs to the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum, the Top 10 Insurance Bad Faith Trial Lawyers, and the National Trial Lawyers Top 100, to name a few.
While Lerner manages the business and does not try cases anymore, Rowe pursues a special caseload of complex matters, catastrophic injury cases, and major class action litigation. He has an ownership interest in the firm's Las Vegas, Chicago, Phoenix, Tucson, Nashville, Albuquerque, and Indiana practices.
But his heart is in community service. The Foundation is the 2018 nonprofit of the year according to Arizona Foothills Magazine. It was inspired by the 2000 movie “Pay it Forward” and its last four charity golf classics raised more than $1 million for community organizations that serve children and families.
The foundation gives away hundreds of back-to-school backpacks and Thanksgiving turkeys, sponsors a 5K run against human trafficking, backs the #LovePup Foundation's Annual Family Fest to adopt animals, supports the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation of Nevada's annual Superhero 5K, sponsors the Cops and Burgers fundraiser event for Special Olympics, and many more.
The Foundation even donated a state-of-the-art courtroom to a Lutheran high school.
Rowe believes in honoring members of the military and as such, serves on the Board of the Military Assistance Mission. He contributes to organizations that help soldiers transition back into civilian life, send care packages to troops and recognize veterans and their families.
The firm's lively Facebook page is full of pictures from the 4th Annual Salt River Firefighters 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb, the Metro PD Enterprise Area Command's Homeless Outreach, the Arizona Interscholastic Association, the Holmberg's Heat Stroke Open and Operation Hydration and many charity events.
On Facebook, the firm gets an impressive 4.8 star rating (out of 5) based on the opinion of 1,914 people. 80,231 people have liked the page. The client testimonials go on for screen after screen. Many posts are repeated on the firm Twitter page, which features 2,808 tweets, 864 followers, and 530 likes. They even have a LinkedIn page with 249 followers.
Wacky, yet effective, commercials
“I love marketing,” exclaims Lerner, who at 5-foot-9 and 205 pounds has a Mr. Universe physique. He works out with his wife six to seven days a week. Couple that with a winning smile, a broad Boston accent, and a flair for the wacky, Lerner has used TV commercials to become a local celebrity in his markets. “I'm what you see. I'm a real dude and it comes across on TV. I have a big smile. I'm a big dude. For whatever reason, people like me.”
- One of Lerner & Rowe's classic, nutty commercials opens with “we handle all kinds of injury claims.” The voiceover then lists car accidents…UFO crashes, elephant bites, firefighter brutality, knuckle sandwiches and a fly in your soup. “OK, maybe not a fly in your soup. Lerner & Rowe will handle any other injury case.”
- In another, Glen Lerner jogs down a street in a suit, and tells well-wishers that he's “Working.” It ends with him chasing an ambulance. He ran the ad only one time during the Super Bowl, but it went viral and people are still talking about it.
- In “Glen Lerner Saves Christmas,” we see Santa, whose sleigh was in a wreck and the insurance company won't pay. Glen casts a spell and sends Santa a giant-sized check. “I turn wrecks into checks,” Lerner says.
But in 2016, when a rival plaintiff's law firm, Ellis Law Corp. of California, started using the tagline “One Call…Does it All,” Lerner filed suit for infringement of his “One Call…That's All” trademarked slogan. He defends all of his trademarks vigorously. The case is pending in federal court in the Central District of California.
Most of the commercials are short and to the point – primarily 15-second ads. The call to action is loud and clear. But the most memorable ones have an off-beat sense of humor. It's worth a visit to the Lerner and Rowe YouTube site at https://www.youtube.com/user/lernerandrowe/videos where you can see:
- Rowe appearing on the car dashboard – as a hologram – of a woman whose car was just hit from behind. The mini-Rowe gives his cell phone to the driver to call his office.
- In “Hurt in an Accident?” Lerner and Rowe introduce themselves as a white car barrels down the street, just behind them. Lowe looks back and jumps out of the way. Lerner keeps talking until the very last moment when he steps aside.
- Lerner and Rowe making goofy dance moves in “Lawyers Dance in Phoenix.”
- A UFO crashes into a car in “Settlements Out of This World.” “If someone crashes into you, we're here to get every dollar that's owed to you,” Rowe says.
- Lerner and Rowe juggle little cars in “Tricks.”
- A commercial displays upside-down in “Life #Upside-down After a Car Wreck”
- A child performing as Glen Lerner in 1972 confronts a bully in a grainy, black-and-white video. Young Glen harangues the bully to give up his shirt, his shoes, and his bike to the victim. As they walk away, the victim says, “I don't know what I would have done without you. Thanks, Glen Lerner. It's a must-see at https://youtu.be/31DM_pWOh8M.
The firm is now soliciting entries into its Commercial Parody Contest, where entrants can win up to $2,500 spoofing their TV commercials (so long as they are clean, legal, and non-threatening.) “Every time we run our commercial parody contests, we are blown away by the creativity and sometimes even ingenious abilities of those who enter. It's also entertaining for us to get a glimpse into how others view Glen and me, and our commercials,” says Rowe. Details are at https://lernerandrowe.com/3rd-commercial-parody-contest/
The winning parody in 2016 displays two newscasters who watch a car crash into another. “There's our first customer,” one of them says. The video goes on to show a motorcycle crash—“That's gotta hurt, get that man some ice” – and their field correspondent flattened by a bicyclist.
In “The Blonde Menace” parody, a smiling girl slams a car door onto a man's hand as the voiceover says “Have you been hurt in an accident?” She drops a Lego piece on the floor for the man to step on – “Are you a victim of personal negligence?” Now in a wheelchair the man gets a pat on the shoulder from her – “Hey! Hope you feel better” – and he sprawls out on the floor.
Lerner and Rowe have been building relationships – and possible partners – with a biannual, private marketing meeting. The invitation-only program includes 20 law firms from around the country.
“We put together a great bunch of guys that we want to develop long relationships with. We want to see if there are opportunities to do something together in the future, share ideas and help each other grow more.” Lerner says. “We pride ourselves on building bridges with other practices, to either acquire them, take an ownership interest in their practices or just simply share ideas for growth. They say it's the best law meeting they've ever attended.”
“When you start mentoring and teaching best practices, there's still stuff we can learn,” Lerner says. “Each attendee has been involved with our office. On our own dime, we've sent our guys to their office to help with their intake.”
Summing up what they do, Lerner and Rowe cite this quotation: “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises, he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”