Kenneth Hoffman is a Founding Partner and Personal Injury Attorney at Mitchell Hoffman & Wolf, a Chicago-based law firm providing legal representation for victims of negligence or misconduct. Ken is an award-winning plaintiff’s personal injury attorney with over 25 years of experience specializing in cases involving automobile and trucking accidents, medical malpractice, and wrongful death litigation. His legal expertise, combined with a unique, individual approach, has led to numerous multi-million-dollar verdicts and settlements for his clients. Ken’s successes have earned him recognition from prestigious professional organizations and media attention, with features in ABC Eyewitness News, Chicago Tribune, and the Chicago Law Bulletin.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Kenneth Hoffman discusses his pursuit of the legal industry and the early days of his career
- How Ken knew it was time to launch his own firm
- The difference between owning a firm and practicing under someone else’s firm
- How Mitchell Hoffman & Wolf acquired its first clients
- What Ken enjoys most about being a plaintiff’s personal injury attorney
- The biggest milestone Ken is most proud of
- The key to winning big cases
- Memorable advice from Ken’s mentors
In this episode…
Do you ever wonder what it takes to succeed in the challenging field of personal injury law? What are the key milestones and transformative experiences that define a law firm’s journey, and how does one navigate the hurdles and triumphs within this particular sector of law?
Kenneth Hoffman, a personal injury attorney with over 30 years of experience, offers invaluable insights into the intricate dynamics of personal injury law, the changing landscape of the legal profession, and the crucial role of preparation and continuous learning in achieving courtroom success. His recollection of his journey within the legal industry encourages present and future law professionals to continue providing exceptional service to their clients.
In this episode of 15 Minutes, Chad Franzen sits down with Kenneth Hoffman, a Founding Partner and Personal Injury Attorney at Mitchell Hoffman & Wolf, to discuss his experience launching his firm. Ken explains the difference between working for yourself versus someone else, how the firm acquired its first clients, and the key to winning cases. He also shares what he enjoys about being a plaintiff’s personal injury attorney, the milestone he’s most proud of, and imparts advice passed down from his mentors.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- Chad Franzen on LinkedIn
- Gladiator Law Marketing
- Kenneth Hoffman on LinkedIn
- Mitchell Hoffman & Wolf
- Paul Wolf on LinkedIn
- Jay Mitchell on LinkedIn
- Bob Reifenberg
- Clausen Miller
Sponsor for this episode…
This episode is brought to you by Gladiator Law Marketing, where we deliver tailor-made services to help you accomplish your objectives and maximize your growth potential.
To have a successful marketing campaign and make sure you’re getting the best ROI, your firm needs to have a better website and better content. At Gladiator Law Marketing, we use artificial intelligence, machine learning, and decades of experience to outperform the competition.
You’re listening to 15 Minutes, where we feature community leaders sharing what the rest of us should know but likely don’t.
Chad Franzen 0:12
Hi, Chad Franzen here one of the hosts of share your voice where we talk with top notch law firms and lawyers about what it takes to grow a successful law practice. This episode is brought to you by Gladiator Law Marketing, delivering tailor made services to help you accomplish your objectives and maximize your growth potential to have a successful marketing campaign and make sure you’re getting the best ROI your firm needs to have a better website and better content, lighting and a lot of marketing uses artificial intelligence, machine learning and decades of experience to outperform the competition. To learn more, go to gladiatorlawmarketing.com where you can schedule a free marketing consultation. Ken Hoffman is an award winning plaintiff’s Personal Injury Attorney focused on automobile and trucking accidents, medical malpractice and wrongful death litigation. With over 25 years of experience. He is a founding partner of the Chicago-based firm, Mitchell Hoffman & Wolf LLC, where he has dedicated his career to client advocacy. Ken, thanks so much for joining me today. How are you?
Ken Hoffman 1:11
Good. Happy to be here.
Chad Franzen 1:12
Yeah, thanks so much. Hey, tell me how did you get started in the legal industry?
Ken Hoffman 1:16
Well, it started back when I was a college student. And I worked one of my father’s friends in the summers. It was basically a gofer running to and from court and our offices, making deliveries. I really enjoyed the experience. And then I went to law school, following college and then got involved in personal injury work shortly after graduation
Chad Franzen 1:39
Where did you go to law school?
Ken Hoffman 1:40
I went to law school at Washington University down in St. Louis.
Chad Franzen 1:45
How did you enjoy that?
Ken Hoffman 1:46
It is a really good experience that my wife down there so worked out pretty well for me.
Chad Franzen 1:50
Very good. Very good. How did you know that you wanted to be an attorney prior to that summer job? How and when did you know that that was what you wanted to do?
Ken Hoffman 2:00
Well, I’ve always loved history. I always love political science and going back to junior high school, I love what he had to study for the Constitution exam. So it’s always intrigued me. So definitely was something always piqued my interest. And college continued on that same path in a law school was a natural progression from there
Chad Franzen 2:20
Were you always like a good debater or something like that?
Ken Hoffman 2:25
My wife would say yes, my father would probably say the same as well. But yeah, I always enjoyed the back and forth of discussing issues and topics. And like I said, always enjoyed the political science history aspect of school in law was a natural follow up to all that.
Chad Franzen 2:40
After you finished law school at Washington, what were the early days of your career like?
Ken Hoffman 2:45
Well, my first job out of school was actually doing defense work in personal injury cases for a firm here in Chicago. And I was really lucky to get some really good experience working there. My partners who I was working below, gave me a lot of responsibility early on in terms of court appearances and taking depositions. So it was a really great experience working there. And then, after about two or three years, I was offered a position to work for a well known plants personal injury firm here in Chicago, and it for three years doing defense work, I jumped over the fence, so to speak, and started doing plaintiffs work in the summer of 1994.
Chad Franzen 3:21
From an attorney’s perspective, is there a big difference in your passion for defense work compared to plaintiff’s work? Or is it just a different mindset that you have to have going into it?
Ken Hoffman 3:33
Just different mindsets entirely? Obviously, on the defense side, you’re working by the hour for insurance companies or corporations. And the plaintiff side, it’s a contingent fee based practice, where your clients are always individuals and families. So oftentimes, your clients in a personal injury case, you’re the first lawyer they’ve ever had in their life who works for them. And they’re less sophisticated, generally speaking about how the attorney client situation works, while the defense side for those few years I was doing that work. The clients are all said insurance companies and corporations, and they are used to dealing with lawyers and lawsuits and things of that type.
Chad Franzen 4:12
So now you are an award winning plaintiff’s Personal Injury Attorney. How did you know it was time to start your own firm? What do you did?
Ken Hoffman 4:18
Well, after working at that other plaintiffs firm here in Chicago for three or four years, me and my two current partners, Paul Wolf, and Jay Mitchell, we went together pretty much every day as the associates at this firm, and we decided that it was time to do this for ourselves. We are doing a lot of work for this firm doing a good job for them. And obviously, we weren’t receiving the lion’s share of the profits. So we had a very amicable way, approach that firm and said we were going to leave and that was exactly 25 years ago, this month. So March of 98. We started Mitchell Hoffman & Wolf here in Chicago. We’ve been together ever since.
Chad Franzen 4:57
What have you what were some of the biggest differences between having your own firm and then you know practicing law for somebody else’s firm.
Ken Hoffman 5:05
Well, the first thing is you find your own business, and you work for someone else, it’s their responsibility, generally speaking, to find the cases. And then for you to work on the cases, when you are your own boss, your name is on the door, you have both responsibilities, you have to make sure you’re bringing in new cases on a regular basis, and good job on the cases you bring in. And for the most part, we work on fairly sizable personal injury cases. So not auto accidents that involve chiropractor treatment, or bumps and bruises that are purely significant, automobile and trucking cases with serious injuries and putting wrongful death. So it’s, it’s a balance out both the business development end of this and the lawyer part of it, as best as you can.
Chad Franzen 5:45
Was that a big adjustment, or were you guys kind of prepared for that kind of knowing what you were getting yourselves into?
Ken Hoffman 5:51
I think we knew that was gonna be part of the job. I think that as time went on, we realized that the business development and the practice was more important or equally important as doing a good job on the files, because you can be a really, really great lawyer, but you don’t have any cases to work on, your skills are going to go to waste. So it’s an equal balance between those two things. And anyone who starts their own practice has to realize that you have to spend equal amount of time on the development of business and new clients as you do on the files themselves.
Chad Franzen 6:23
Is that something you’ve come to enjoy then? Is that business development part something big you came to enjoy? Or was that something that you, you know, you just knew had to be done?
Ken Hoffman 6:36
I actually really enjoy it. I enjoy getting out and meeting new clients, new referring lawyers, whether it’s going to ballgames with people having lunch playing around a golf, I really enjoy the meeting of new people developing new resources for client development.
Chad Franzen 6:52
How did you guys go about getting your first few clients?
Ken Hoffman 6:56
Well, I think our case has come from three separate buckets. We have friends and family who send us cases. We have old clients who send us cases have a fair number of referring attorneys, whether they’re attorneys that do smaller personal injury cases, or attorneys who may practice in an unrelated field like divorce or real estate, they may have a client call them up, who has personal injury need, they refers the cases to work on.
Chad Franzen 7:25
What do you most enjoy about being a plaintiff’s personal injury attorney?
Ken Hoffman 7:31
I always enjoy the sense that we’re helping an individual in a family in a time of need. Quite often people come to us after a pretty devastating event is taking place to them. And as I mentioned earlier, are often the first lawyer they’ve had on their side, their prior experiences with attorneys have been maybe a prosecutor a traffic situation, or maybe a real estate situation with a bank totally here that we work for them, and that we are their attorney, to certain sense of relief that they have on their face and satisfaction that for the first time in their life, someone’s going to be having their back and working for them thoroughly enjoy that aspect of it.
Chad Franzen 8:10
What’s kind of your–what’s kind of the objective? I’m sure most attorneys know the answer to this already. I just don’t what’s kind of the objective of a personal injury attorney? Who you kind of like – for the lack of a better word – kind of going after?
Ken Hoffman 8:24
We are not going after anybody. What we are doing is when people come to us after a serious personal injury, accident, car accident, work accident, medical malpractice, we’re trying to make them whole. I mean, the civil justice system in the United States allows for people who have been injured in a trucking accident or a car accident, for example, to be made whole for the lost wages, the lost medical expenses, and then beyond that, to receive compensation for pain, suffering disability, loss of a normal life or disfigurement. So I don’t view it that we’re going after anyone I view is that we’re trying to get compensation for our clients who’ve had things taken away from them by the negligence of others.
Chad Franzen 9:08
As you look back over the years, what have been some of the biggest turning points in your firm or maybe big milestones that you’re proud of?
Ken Hoffman 9:18
I think the biggest milestone early on in the firm was we started the firm in 1998. And we were doing pretty well early on. But back in 2002 I and my partner Jay Mitchell, we tried a medical malpractice case against Cook County Hospital, which is the big public hospital here in the Chicago area. And it was a medical malpractice case involving the death of a mother following childbirth. And the death was caused by the failure of the medical providers to not recognize that the woman was suffering from a pretty well known complication of pregnancy called preeclampsia. Which if had been timely recognized, would have most certainly prevented her death. They did not recognize that she was developing preeclampsia. And following childbirth, she died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage. And we try their case in the county hospital offers $250,000 before trial to self case, which we turned down, she was a mother of three small children at the time and had a husband. And we try the case and obtained advert for just under $10 million. I think that really put us on the map, both as a firm that was good, get good results, and also that we could try a case because hard to get good results on personal injury cases, and lets the insurance companies know you’re willing to take a case to trial, you’re not going to sell for short money. So that was really a big turning point for us. And that was in the summer of 2002. And since that point, we’ve had a number of great successes for our clients.
Chad Franzen 10:55
What do you think are the keys to being successful in cases like that?
Ken Hoffman 10:59
Preparation is the biggest thing you have to spend, you can’t just show up at trial. Early on that case, I had a sentence it was gonna go to trial. And from maybe the first deposition forward, everything we did was geared towards getting ready for trial, you can’t work on a case hoping it’s going to settle and all of a sudden realize midway through or after that, oh, God, I have to try this case, I better get ready. So from the very beginning, every deposition we took every witness we met with every expert we talked to it was always directed towards getting ready for trial.
Chad Franzen 11:32
Have you known that that preparation is basically the key throughout throughout the duration of your career, even in your first few cases?
Ken Hoffman 11:40
Correct. Preparation is always the key to success.
Chad Franzen 11:44
What has there been, during the course of running your own firm has been maybe a mistake that you guys have learned a lot from, you know, ended up being a great learning experience?
Ken Hoffman 11:57
Well, I don’t think of them as mistakes, I think of it as learning experiences. And like you mentioned, I think that the biggest mistake anyone can make, if you’re gonna call it a mistake, is not trying to get better. I think this technology has changed over the years. And certainly with the pandemic, bringing video more into practice. If you’re not trying to get better with the newest developments and trial practice and technology and the case law, you’re going to fall behind. So I think anytime that we’ve realized that we’re falling into step behind on the technology side or any other area, we always quickly try to correct it and make sure we’re staying ahead of the curve as opposed to falling behind the curve in those respects.
Chad Franzen 12:41
Have you had a mentor or mentors over the course of your career? And if so, what is their best piece of advice for you?
Ken Hoffman 12:49
Well go back to my father’s friend, a man named Marty Corry, who I worked for back in the summers when I was in college. And he was a real estate corporate lawyer. But I always saw that Marty was he was prepared. And he worked hard for his clients. And I remember that back when I was a 21 year old college kid, you know, running errands for him at that time. So preparation was always a great thing. So that was the first thing then I think after that, I was lucky to work for a guy named Bob Reifenberg at my first firm, which is called Clausen Miller here in Chicago. And I was on the defense side. And Bob also just made sure that you never misrepresented anything. And he always stuck to the facts. And I think preparation and being honest and aboveboard, never, will never fail you.
Chad Franzen 13:36
I have one more question for you. But first, tell me more how people can learn. Tell me how people can learn more about MHW Law.
Ken Hoffman 13:45
Well, Mitchell Hoffman & Wolf is a Chicago-based personal injury firm, you can go to our website, which is mhw.law, or mitchellhoffmanwolf.com. You can read about my background, the background of all the attorneys who work here, and also some synopsis of cases that we’ve had great success with on the website.
Chad Franzen 14:03
Last question for you in your first ever in your the first trial that you ever worked. Were you what was your what were your kind of emotions or feelings going into it? Were you? Were you nervous, facing maybe a more seasoned attorney? Or were you always confident in your preparation? Because he knew that was most important?
Ken Hoffman 14:20
The answer is both. I’ve never lacked confidence in my abilities to do things. But certainly when you’re doing something for the very first time, you’re nervous because you don’t know what to expect. And you also know what could go wrong. And that carries on even to this day, I think even for having tried cases for 30 plus years now. You are nervous before every trial starts because again, you are nervous about what you know could happen or can’t happen for your client. And that nervousness like like playing a ballgame or sport is important to being ready and being prepared for any possible circumstance.
Chad Franzen 14:58
Just last call actually kind of a follow up to that question. So I’m guessing you know, once the trial starts to get going, and you’re, you know, you’ve gotten a few, the first few anxious moments out of the way. It’s kind of just natural and you’re doing your thing and the nerves died down.
Ken Hoffman 15:13
All right, get if you’re well prepared for trial, you’re giving an opening statement. For example, you should know the case backwards and forwards, where you’re telling the story to the jury the same way you be challenged to your friends and family over dinner. That’s something I tried to do when I’m getting ready for trial, I want to say rehearse an opening statement, but I’ll try to continually talk about the case with my wife or friends. And so I realize they can understand what I’m trying to explain and try to prove who they are, in essence, potential juror. So just being yourself being natural is always a great key to success when you’re trying cases in front of juries.
Chad Franzen 15:49
Okay, great. Hey, Ken, it’s been great to talk to you. Thank you so much for your time and all of your thoughts today.
Ken Hoffman 15:54
I thank you for your time also, Chad. So long, everybody.
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