Mark Kosieradzki is the Managing Partner at Kosieradzki Smith Law Firm located in Plymouth, Minnesota.
Mark is recognized in “Best Lawyers in America” and is certified as a Civil Trial Specialist. Known as one of the country’s leading authorities on deposition technique, strategy and law, Mark has published the hornbooks for depositions: 30(B)(6): Deposing Corporations, Organizations & the Government 2nd ed. and Deposition Obstruction: Breaking Through. Mark and his partner Joel Smith have published the leading book on Nursing Home litigation, Nursing Home Cases: When Caregivers Stop Caring.
Learn from his expertise and what trends are helping grow his firm on this episode of The Managing Partners Podcast!
Erik J. Olson (00:00):
Hey everybody. This is Erik J. Olson with another episode of the managing partners podcast. Each week, we come to you with a new interview from one of America’s top managing partners, where we ask the tough questions about how they form their firms, how they’re running their firms and how they’re getting new cases. And today I have with me, Mark Kosieradzki. Did I say it correctly?
Mark Kosieradzki (00:24):
Pretty close. It’s kosher on ski.
Erik J. Olson (00:27):
Ooh. All right. I had to look that one up too. <Laugh> it’s a, definitely a unique for me at least last name. Well, I appreciate your time. Do you mind telling the audience a little bit about yourself and about your firm?
Mark Kosieradzki (00:41):
All right. Thank you, Larry. Well, first of all, thank you for having me. I’ve been practicing law for 43 years, so it’s, it’s been a while. And I started my practice in a, a large advertising firm where, you know, I had 28 partners, 150 employees in a volume of cases of literally a caseload of thousands. And all of us handled anywhere from 150 to 250 cases at a time. And it was a great training ground and it’s a great law firm, but I wanted to do something different. So after 17 years I started my own practice and it kind of evolved into a boutique practice where rather than high handling high volume, we handle a very small number of cases that are more challenging, but usually larger cases. And so instead of handling, you know, 250 cases per lawyer, we have a law firm of five lawyers that has at any given time 45 cases. So it’s a really different model.
Erik J. Olson (01:48):
That is a completely different model than most of the personal injury managing partners that come on to the show. It’s usually, yeah, very high volume, lots of cases spending a long time. How so when, when you started your firm, what were you frankly, lucky enough to be able to pick and choose like that? Or did you have to kind of build into that?
Mark Kosieradzki (02:13):
Well, it it was actually a conscious decision. I had, you know, a pretty successful practice to start with and I, I had national practice when I left the firm and I was generating all my own cases, even though we had a giant advertising budget. I never got those cases because I got my own. So I kind of figured, you know, I’m, I’m generating my own cases, so I might as well do it my way. And it started with the high volume. And although I said, I’d never get a partner ever again. I met Joel Smith and, you know, we’ve been at least professionally married for over 20 years now. Yeah. And he’s just been a, a great partner. And my wife calls him my second wife <laugh>, you know but we started with that volume and we had this really major quadriplegia case and it was a product liability case and we never had any time to work on it because we were running off the depositions or arbitrations in $14,000 cases.
Mark Kosieradzki (03:29):
And we finally were able to dig in on it and we settled it for $5 million and we sat down and looked at it and said, you know, we’ve had this case for three years. You know, it would’ve been nice to have finished it in one year. And he said, well, you know what? Let’s look at the 80 20 rule where we take all of our cases and, and list them from the maximum fee to the minimum fee. And what we found was 20% of our cases were doing over 80% of our fees, but the 80% of our cases were taking 90% of our time. So we made a conscious decision to, you know, not send the cases off, but change what kind of cases we were getting. And during that process, I was talking to one of my clients, a former client means he called me up with some advice and said he had just resolved a case with another law firm for like, you know, I don’t know how many million dollars.
Mark Kosieradzki (04:35):
I said, well, congratulations. But you know, I’m kind of surprised you didn’t call me. Did we do something wrong? He goes, no, I thought you were a great lawyer, but I thought you were a small case lawyer. And I wanted a big case law firm. And I, so that kind of reinforced what we did. So now we’ve changed our model or we did, you know, 20 years ago and, and, you know, we’ll take any big case that comes our way. But what I found is, as we were practicing, we got this nursing home case some years ago and we turned a good result on it. And, and that was, you know, like 10 times what you would expect from that identical injury in a car wreck case, because we changed the way we looked at it and the way we worked it. And so the word got out, we started getting a lot of nursing home cases. And now I would say 85% of our cases are elder abuse cases all over the country. So we have this kind of boutique practice. So
Erik J. Olson (05:49):
V very interesting how that evolved for you, because it sounds like you used the Preto principle, the, the 80 20 rule twice actually. Right?
Mark Kosieradzki (05:58):
Erik J. Olson (05:59):
So once to kind of narrow into the, the larger cases that you wanted, which, which I assume were always the, the PI kinds of cases, and then within that, you know, once, once you transition within that to narrow in even further, right. To the nursing home cases.
Mark Kosieradzki (06:14):
Well, that’s where we started focusing our marketing. I mean, I still, because of my reputation from other stuff get cases, I just resolved a multimillion dollar construction site case. It came to me just because people knew what I did, but we don’t get that many calls on that because all the other law firms want them. You know, it’s kinda like a trucking case. I love trucking cases, but the people who throw a million dollars a year into advertising get them.
Erik J. Olson (06:43):
Yeah. So, yeah. Yeah. And I, I did notice that on your website, it, it does definitely focus in, on, on the nursing home aspect a lot more than the other parts did, did did it. So I have questions for you where I’m thinking about managing partners that are maybe struggling with this kind of nicheing concept and it’s, and it’s not just for law firms, it’s it’s for every business. What did you find that, that once you started to tell people the kinds of cases you wanted, that those were the ones that came back to you more, was it, was it, was it almost like you could, will it into existence by saying it
Mark Kosieradzki (07:27):
Well, I think the more you talk about what you do and the successes you’ve had in it, the more you’re gonna get. The thing that makes nursing home cases different is it’s not the traditional PI model where, you know, the way you make a million dollars on a case, or screw up a $4 million case. I mean, you know, it’s, it’s not looking at the medical bills and you know, this is a cheerleader. I mean, we’re dealing with a death of a 90 year old with a three year life expectancy. So how does that turn into a multimillion dollar case? And what it is is your start focusing on not who was injured or what happened, but why did it happen? And it, all of a sudden, we start focusing on the concept of systemic neglect, because now it motivates jurors. It motivates them that, well, this is a systemic problem that this isn’t mark trying to make a lot of money on a case.
Mark Kosieradzki (08:30):
This is a case that’s gonna make a difference to me or my loved ones. If we end up in a nursing home, because our verdict is gonna speak to changing the system, or if you’re in a car wreck, you know, everybody’s been in a car wreck then. So, you know, if you, if you had the death of a 90 year old in a car wreck, you know, you’re lucky to get $30,000. Mm-Hmm <affirmative>. Whereas if you get one, because some cor corporation is siphoning money out of, you know, the company. So they’re cutting staff and they’re hiring crappy people and they’re letting bad stuff happen so they can make more money. Now it’s not an accident anymore. It’s mama died because someone was trying to get rich. Yeah. Yeah. And it changes it, but, you know, kind of take swinging back to that is nursing home work is different.
Mark Kosieradzki (09:22):
It’s kind of like the we’re here in the north where it snows well in the spring, there’s a lot of do dog droppings in everybody’s sidewalk in the yard, and nobody wants to deal with it. So kids will make a lot of money going around saying, I’ll pick up your dog droppings. Right. So it’s like this one kid said on NPR it’s not that hard hearted job. It’s just like, it’s just, nobody else wants to do it. So as a result, I make a lot of money. Well, nursing homework is like a hard malpractice case, but because nobody wants to do it, or hasn’t really dug into understanding this whole systemic corporate structure thing, as a result, we get a lot of cases coming to us because nobody really wants to dig in and learn how to do it, particularly for one or two cases.
Erik J. Olson (10:12):
Yeah. Yeah. Really interesting. And I also found it interesting that you get cases that are not nursing home related because people know you. Right. And you have a reputation. And so you don’t have to necessarily say no to the cases that, that you don’t really focus in on, in your marketing, you can still say yes. And I think that’s what a lot of people business owners, partners, managing partners struggle with is if I tell everybody I do X and something else, Y comes along, well, actually it won’t come along. That’s really the, the, the fear, well,
Mark Kosieradzki (10:47):
You don’t get as much of it. Yeah. And you, I mean, I’ve had some friends who started the trucking world and they convinced everybody that trucking is hard and they just focused on that. And all of a sudden they’ve got these fabulous caseloads. Well, you know, I’ll take a trucking case any day of the week, but you know, I’m not spending, you know, a hundred thousand, 200, 300,000 trying to get them. Yeah. so, you know, I focused our marketing on, you know, our, our skill sets, you know, our litigation skill sets. And through that process, everyone knows we’ve done it in nursing, nursing home and elder abuse. So we’ve, we’ve kind of tailored our website to saying, this is what we do. And then incidentally, we’ll do all this other stuff that they’re big.
Erik J. Olson (11:37):
Yeah. Got it.
Mark Kosieradzki (11:39):
But but if, but if you’re doing, if you specialize in something that nobody else knows how to do, you’re gonna get a lot more business. Yeah. But, you know, car rack case, you’ll that, that’s a, that’s a game, that’s a numbers game. Trucking are great cases. You have to have a higher skill level, you know, knowledge base to handle. Those just means you have to understand the trucking regulations, but then you move into me, medical malpractice or nursing home. You have a whole regulatory scheme and a whole medical causation scheme that, you know, you’re not talking about this. Someone being killed means he got crushed between two cars. You’re talking about someone got killed because they, they weren’t properly managing their medications. And so, you know, we built a team of lawyers in our firm to be able to handle that. So we have one lawyer that’s a, a second career lawyer. Who’s a doctor before we have another lawyer. Who’s a second career. That was a forensic investigator for a, a medical examiner and another lawyer that was a nursing home Abu. So right there, we’ve got the fire power to take on these cases that we don’t have to learn this stuff. We’ve got it in house.
Erik J. Olson (13:02):
And, and as you were saying, the previous careers of, of these lawyers that you have on staff, how you probably saw me smiling and shaking, like yep. That’s that, that’s a great skill set. So that’s what it sounds like a lot of your marketing focuses on,
Mark Kosieradzki (13:16):
Erik J. Olson (13:17):
How do you get that message out? What are some, some different ways that you get that message out?
Mark Kosieradzki (13:22):
Well, we get that message out in our website, but the fact of the matter is most of our high quality cases come from reputation. And over the years I’ve been teaching at the advanced deposition college a lot for like 25 years through that process, I’ve learned some stuff. And I learned a lot of information about the rules of engagement as lawyers. There’s a lot of lawyers say, wow, you know that, you know, I’m a storyteller, so, well, if you wanna be a storyteller, go be an actor. You know, you need to know the rules of engagement and the rules to know how to handle it. So I started capturing all this stuff that I had done in my practice, in a book, just so I could, you know, access it quickly. Well, as a result, I’ve, we’ve written a number of books that I didn’t realize how powerful a tool that is to establish you as a thought leader in your, in your area.
Mark Kosieradzki (14:25):
So I’ve done books on 30 BK, and I kinda laughed that became the national authority on it. Not for any other reason that who else is crazy enough to spend five years on one little rule that nobody knew about that we spent 30 seconds on in law school. And so I, I wrote that book and that just exploded in people asking me to come and speak all over the country. And because when I speak, I play video tapes of what I do. Most of ’em are nursing home cases. Then they call me about nursing home cases in B Montana or New York or Florida. And so that speaking really develops an opportunity to get out there and tell your story about who you are. And if you’re a thought leader in something, regardless of what it is people will come to you for advice. And so we wrote a book on nursing home cases recently, but I, the 30 BK book and the deposition conduct books have turned out to be best sellers for the publishers. And they’ve been a great source of business for us.
Erik J. Olson (15:36):
Interesting how it, it evolved because you needed to collect the information yourself. It was, you wrote it, right. It sounds like initially, at least for yourself and you realized, Hey, I’ve got something valuable here that others could use. I’m sure you went through a process of repackaging, especially if there’s a publisher involved to get it out. But but it’s, it’s interesting how you talk about speaking and being a thought leader. I think content has that ability content, whether it’s a book or articles on your website or, or just your website in general, but content has the power to make your firm, or you personally as a personal brand, a thought leader. And there’s a whole lot of benefit that comes with that.
Mark Kosieradzki (16:18):
You spot spot on, on that. Eric it’s you know, the typical marketing model is we are warriors. We will fight for you.
Erik J. Olson (16:31):
Mark Kosieradzki (16:32):
There are thousands of websites like that. And we actually did an analysis about how we view cases and how our clients view us and to kind of think of, well, really what is our brand? And, you know, we fight these battles more than most people, but that’s really not what drives us. What drives our firm and at least drove me personally. And my partner is that we viewed ourselves as professionals, that we wanted to use tools to help people. And most of the people in the nursing home world just wanna find out why did my mother die? Yeah. What happened and what, and they come to us not to get money, but actually to try to do something to just say, my mother didn’t die in vain. So if we bring a lawsuit, maybe the system will change. So our brand, if you look at our law firm website, is we, we help you find out what happened and hold wrongdoers accountable.
Mark Kosieradzki (17:38):
Yeah. And that we are thought leaders who have the tools to be able to do that. And what we find with that is the, the kinds of clients that come to us are more consistent with what we see ourselves as, and what we do. If someone just comes in and says, well, I just wanna make a lot of money jurors. Aren’t gonna like them. You know, they’re looking like money gr houses. Whereas if the people are coming here saying we want to make America better for all of us to live in, that resonates with jurors. And it actually resonates with our firm values.
Erik J. Olson (18:19):
Very nice. You know, I’m gonna share your website right now in the video feed here.
Mark Kosieradzki (18:27):
Erik J. Olson (18:28):
Yeah. Our, so for those that, that are listening, I’ll read the headline right. At the very top of the website, our law firm gives you the power to expose wrongdoers and hold them accountable. That’s, that’s a really powerful statement. And by the way, I’m gonna, I wanna share your contact information now just because it has your website address in there for those that want to go take a look and I’ll, I’ll put this up at the end of the podcast interview as well, but here’s the website address? Ks law.com K OS law firm.com. But you know, if it, I, I shared with you before we went live that I was riding my bike and, and I got hit by a car and, and I was just thankful to be alive and nothing broke. And of course my friends who don’t know what they’re talking about were saying, you should Sue ’em for a, a gajillion dollars, big pay day.
Erik J. Olson (19:23):
And I’m like, I, I don’t care. I’m just, I’m happy to be alive. Right, right. I’ll take it. Well, what happened was the, the insurance adjuster kind of started screwing with me. Right. And I, I didn’t feel like I was getting a fair treatment. Well, it turned out I was, cause I consulted with one of our clients. Who’s a personal injury lawyer. But, but what, what drove me to take some action to contact our client for, for my own issue was, was that I, I, I thought that, that I was being jerked around, right. That I, that someone was doing me wrong. Basically I did not want money. That wasn’t the case. That wasn’t the situation at all. So, but yeah, I think that’s a very powerful, motivating factor for people. And I would imagine that resonates well, especially when you’re sitting down in that first consultation with prospective clients explaining why you do what you do, what your why is.
Mark Kosieradzki (20:16):
Right. And we find that with jurors too, if you study the jury biases, you know, there’s a lot of biases about lawyers and lawsuits. And they say everybody should be personally accountable, you know, and it starts with, you know, the injured person should be responsible and personally accountable for themselves. But then that transfers into the wrong doors should be personally accountable also. So if, if a injured, you know, owns what they did, but said, others should be personally accountable for the decisions they’ve made, then that resonates with the conservative jurors. And now in our setting is, you know, most of the time we have in the nursing home world, people who are vulnerable, so they don’t have a lot of their own problems, you know, causing it. But, but there are accountability issues that drive how we view things. And frankly, you look at you, didn’t like the way you were getting jerked around by the insurance company, you wanted to hold them accountable. You know, they took money for something they should get, they, you know, pay they got for then they’re gambling and that’s right. If they’re not do it, I mean, the, the biggest way that insurance companies could put people out of plaintiffs, lawyers out of business would just fairly approach people and try to resolve things fairly, but they try to Nick and dime them and that pisses people off and that drives them into you know, more lawsuits.
Erik J. Olson (21:56):
Yeah. Yeah. Completely agree. Now that, that, that headline, the positioning statement exposed rounders, I’m guessing that is not something you started with right off the bat. I’m sure you’ve iterated that many, many times over the, the few years that you’ve been practicing
Mark Kosieradzki (22:14):
It, it evolved because we started with everything else. You know, we’re the warrior gladiator here to protect you and to get justice. And, you know, and as I was trying cases and I originally used those phrases, there is no justice. There isn’t any, there’s a, because you killed my mother. There isn’t enough money in the world to do that. Or if you, you know, ran me down with a car, you wouldn’t take any money to get run down by a car. That’s right. But accountability is a whole different story. And I started using accountability in my trials when I was that, you know, we’re here, you know, to hold Ron GOs accountable. And that kind of became a thing that resonated with the way I approached the cases. And then from that, that kind of became, you know, the thesis of how we ran our firm, that everybody is accountable for what they do.
Mark Kosieradzki (23:15):
And so then when we decided to redo our website, we, we talked to some branding, people about not coming up with a brand that the public would like, but rather what differentiates us from everyone else, from the way we see it. And also the way our referring sources see it and our clients. And they interviewed our referring lawyers and our clients. And they said, what is it that you like about Koski Smith? And they said, we like the fact that they were always straight with us that their mission was to hold wrongdoers accountable. And they had such a high level of professionalism that I felt like I was important in doing something. And from that, we said, well, let’s get rid of all this warrior stuff. And just tell people who we really are. And some of our biggest cases have come in through that brand.
Erik J. Olson (24:14):
I love it. That’s great, mark. You know, I didn’t actually ask any of the questions that I sent over to you. This has been a really interesting conversation and frankly, I’d rather have a conversation like this. But we’ve talked about a lot of things. Nicheing pivoting how to find your niche, how to find your, why, how to find your positioning statement. The branding part of the bur end was really interesting. I think that’s really smart of your branding agency and we’re, we’re not a branding agency, right? We’re an implementation shop for digital marketing. But but, but I, I know enough about branding to know that yeah, you have to ask your clients and others, their opinion, what makes your firm unique and, and, and better maybe than the rest. So it’s, it’s good that they interviewed everybody and sounds like they did a really good job.
Mark Kosieradzki (24:59):
They did because it, it was a brand of what we really are as opposed to creating a brand that’s right. I think people would like
Erik J. Olson (25:07):
Mark Kosieradzki (25:07):
Right. What resonated? Just honest.
Erik J. Olson (25:10):
Yep. Well, this has been excellent. I appreciate your time and I respect it and we’re, we’re actually a few minutes over, so I, I wanna wrap it up here. But I did want to give you the opportunity to let people know how they could reach out if they have any questions for you.
Mark Kosieradzki (25:26):
Well, we would love to talk to people. We take hundreds of calls. A lot of ’em are just advice on cases. Others are, you know, whether we’ll get involved in a case. So the best way to reach us is one. We have an email address to contact us, which would be mark cause M a R K K O S cause law firm.com or just call us at (763) 746-7800. We’d love to hear from you. We’ll always honestly share our thoughts and help get you in the right direction. Or if we’re the right people for you, we’ll we’ll work on your case.
Erik J. Olson (26:06):
All right, mark. Thanks so much. All right, everybody, if you would like to reach out to mark, you have this contact information now, and if you’re interested in digital marketing for your law firm, that’s what my company array digital focuses on. You can find us firstname.lastname@example.org, mark. Thanks again. Appreciate it.
Mark Kosieradzki (26:24):
Thanks for having me.
Erik J. Olson (26:25):
You got it.