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Top Lawyers: Jordan Acker Of Goodman Acker PC On The 5 Things You Need To Become A Top Lawyer In Your Specific Field of Law

Drive to do it. Do something every day to improve.

Being a lawyer and doing this job is hard. Nobody knows how to do everything naturally, even after law school. It’s all through experience. The best and most experienced partners are still learning each and every day — it’s what makes us better attorneys.

The legal field is known to be extremely competitive. Lawyers are often smart, ambitious, and highly educated. That being said, what does it take to stand out and become a “Top Lawyer” in your specific field of law? In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Become A Top Lawyer In Your Specific Field of Law”, we are talking to top lawyers who share what it takes to excel and stand out in your industry.

As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jordan B. Acker, partner and attorney at Goodman Acker. Goodman Acker has been serving the state of Michigan for more than 25 years, providing expert legal representation in the areas of car, motorcycle and premises injuries, as well as medical malpractice and election law. They have offices in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Sterling Heights and Dearborn.

Growing up around the law firm, Acker enjoyed watching his father work hard as a Detroit personal injury attorney and fight for people’s rights. Acker graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts in History in 2006 and earned his J.D. from American University Washington College of Law in 2010.

While in law school, Acker maintained his academics while volunteering for several political campaigns, including President Obama’s historic 2008 campaign. After graduating from law school, he spent three months as an associate in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel before being appointed by President Obama in March of 2011 to be an attorney-advisor to Secretary Janet Napolitano at the Department of Homeland Security. While at Homeland Security, he worked on cyber, immigration and other homeland security issues. After working in the Obama Administration for three and a half years, he decided to return to Detroit and join Goodman Acker P.C.

Since joining Goodman Acker, Jordan has focused not just on practicing law, but also on business development and growth. He serves on many boards and is an active proponent of equal rights, gender equality and equal access to healthcare. Most recently, Jordan has been providing counsel to educational institutions on the topic and legality of NIL (Name, Image, and Likeness).

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. What is the “backstory” that brought you to this particular career path in Law? Did you want to be an attorney when you grew up”?

Thanks. I grew up around the law. I knew a lot of lawyers growing up and spent a lot of my childhood running through the halls of Goodman Acker where my dad and Barry Goodman started this practice. I always knew I was going to law school, but never knew I was going to be a litigator. Actually, I wanted to be a congressman and the funny part is that now I’d rather do anything else!

Can you tell us a bit about the nature of your practice and what you focus on?

My practice focuses on medical providers and individuals. I serve people who have been hurt in accidents, from the accident scene and all the way to MRI facilities.

You are a successful attorney. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? What unique qualities do you have that others may not?

I’m hardworking, creative and open to learning and understanding new things.

I know what I don’t know. And being as honest and ethical as possible is really important because reputation is everything — I value holding my head up high and looking clients, judges and community members in the eye.

Do you think you have had luck in your success? Can you explain what you mean?

Of course. Anyone who says it isn’t luck is not being honest with themselves. Success is talent and timing. You need both of those things. And, as it happens, the second is almost entirely based on luck.

Do you think where you went to school has any bearing on your success? How important is it for a lawyer to go to a top-tier school?

As the chair of the Board of Regents at the University of Michigan, I think it has everything to do with it (lol).

No, I think it’s more important to work hard than to go to a top-tier school. Absolutely.

Based on the lessons you have learned from your experience, if you could go back in time and speak to your twenty-year-old self, what would you say? Would you do anything differently?

Don’t be afraid to fail. In fact, fail.

It is okay to not be good at everything. Everyone is good at something. If you’re not in that right seat right now, it doesn’t mean you won’t be. Part of your journey is finding that right seat.

This is not easy work. What is your primary motivation and drive behind the work that you do?

My primary motivation and drive is to continue upholding the good reputation and service of this practice that my father — and so many others that I respect — built.

I also strive to make our clients feel good when they arrive for help and even better when they leave.

From a business perspective, I’m always striving to get a larger share of the market, not because I’m necessarily greedy, but because I believe in the state of Michigan that Goodman Acker does the best job for our clients in our practice areas. Our clients deserve high-quality representation.

Where do you go from here? Where do you aim to be in the next chapter of your career?

There is a lot on the horizon that I’m really excited about. But the big one as far as Goodman Acker is concerned deals with expanding our practice areas and leveraging our extensive experience to continue our steady-growth trajectory.

Without sharing anything confidential, can you please share your most successful war story”? Can you share the funniest?

My favorite story is when I tried my very first case — start to finish — on my own. It was here in Southfield, Michigan. A client was given two MRIs and the insurance company refused to pay anything on a bill right around $7,000.

I won the case with a unanimous jury verdict. The judge was so appalled with the insurance company’s behavior that he awarded my client the full bill — plus he awarded me as well. Unreasonable denial.

I was so proud because this was the summer of 2016. I was really sick at that time and had to delay the case twice. I found the energy to do it. The jury was out for an hour and a half. It felt like a big victory as a young attorney.

What is a funny story?

This year, Theresa, my marketing director, and I received a great deal on a Super Bowl advertisement at the last minute. We didn’t have any creative that was “Super-Bowl ready,” but we did remember that we had an audio track of my dad that was meant to be a joke at the time it was recorded — kind of an outtake. In it, he’s swearing about the insurance companies and acting VERY uncharacteristic of my father, who is a really reserved, well-mannered guy.

We decided to take the audio and run it with a static image that made it seem as though it was a public service announcement. I didn’t tell my father and we all saw it for the first time during the game — my dad’s voice with a bunch of loud “bleeps” to cover up the slew of F-bombs. He was surprised and had a good laugh; so did all the people who know him who saw the spot, too. I loved it because it showed my dad’s humorous side rather than the serious “lawyerly” side that most people see.

Ok, fantastic. Lets now shift to discussing some advice for aspiring lawyers. Do you work remotely? Onsite? Or Hybrid? What do you think will be the future of how law offices operate? What do you prefer? Can you please explain what you mean?

We have a hybrid model. I believe most firms really need to have staff in the office at least part of the time. There’s so much we must discuss in our teams and so many impromptu discussions that happen as cases develop. We really need that face-to-face time.

We also feel strongly that we want to enable our clients to come in and have face-to-face meetings with their attorneys and legal teams if they so choose. It’s an important part of building trust and creating relationships.

That said, there’s a lot that can be done remotely now, thanks to the plethora of technologies that have been introduced before and during Covid. We like to provide options to our team.

How has the legal world changed since COVID? How do you think it might change in the near future? Can you explain what you mean?

More willingness to be remote. Judges are far more flexible. Clients need less face time and more time at different hours.

Based on your experience, how can attorneys effectively leverage social media to build their practice?

Use social to engage, not to promote. Engage, provide value. Engage with the media, too.

I was on Twitter last week. Chris Hayes from MSNBC was tweeting about car accidents. We engaged in a real conversation together and I was able to provide him with some data that added to a real conversation rather than one-sided self-promotion. That’s ultimately what I think social media should be used for value, education and social discourse.

Excellent. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Become A Top Lawyer In Your Specific Field of Law?” Please share a story or an example for each.

1. Drive to do it. Do something every day to improve.

Being a lawyer and doing this job is hard. Nobody knows how to do everything naturally, even after law school. It’s all through experience. The best and most experienced partners are still learning each and every day — it’s what makes us better attorneys.

2. Work ethic. This is not a 9–5 job.

An attorney doesn’t clock in at 9 a.m. and clock out at 5 p.m. Nobody wants to be spending the night researching briefs or filing motions, but if this is a job you love and you’re working in the area of practice you care about, learning and mentoring others, you’re going to never feel like it’s work and it will be rewarding for your time.

3. Take criticism. Successful attorneys say they lose a lot.

There are two stories I want to share here to explain my point. The first was after I joined the firm in 2013. I went to Wayne County Motion Day to handle a minor issue and the lawyer that sent me knew I was going to lose the motion. It happens. Sometimes the facts are against you or your client didn’t follow the court’s instructions. There’s nothing you can do except to go on and win the next one. Well, I lost. I came home and I was really upset. I called my dad and told him about the motion and told him how I lost. He looked at the facts of the issue (I think a client failed to appear for a medical examination they were required to and the court was not happy) and said, “look, you’re going to have this happen all the time and it’s best not to take it personally. But more importantly, you will learn from every case, keep the damage down when you lose and when you have the advantage you’ll learn to win.” And that’s exactly what I’ve done in my career.

The second was my first solo trial. I had no idea what I was stepping into, but walking in and getting up there felt so wonderful. I remember during the cross-examination of the Defendant, which went brutally badly for the insurance company, the more experienced defense attorney started looking very nervous. We ended up losing the trial because of things outside of my control, but the insurer brought in a 40-year experienced partner to face me because it was not going well, even though the facts were on their side. While we were waiting for the jury to come back, he whispered to me, “You did a hell of a job on this case. You really turned sh*t into a fantastic prosecution of your case, and that’s the best compliment any lawyer can give anyone.” I haven’t seen that lawyer since — this firm settles with me now — but it really was an incredible feeling.

4. Perseverance and tenacity.

While most goals and life plans require perseverance and tenacity, a legal career demands it. A young attorney, for example, must be prepared to fail sometimes, but those failures must be seen as learning experiences that propel him or her forward rather than roadblocks. It’s hard to carve out a career as a lawyer because we are a dime a dozen. If you want to be successful, you have to be ready to work hard and get up when you fall down. You aren’t going to get your dream job right out of school, most likely. You’re going to have to prove yourself repeatedly. You aren’t going to win every case. You are going to have to do a lot of work that you didn’t necessarily picture yourself doing when you decided to pursue this career. But those who make it are the ones who keep going even when they think they can’t.

5. Empathy for your clients.

This is really the one that’s the hardest to talk about, but you must remember the people who are your clients are not calling because things are going well. They’re calling because things could not, in fact, be going much worse for them. You have to feel for them in that moment, feel what they’re thinking, how they’re feeling and what they are going through. Take it personally. They get to deal with you 24/7. You should feel it 24/7.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might see this. :-)

I would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors. Not only has she broken down walls for women all over the place, but she has and continues to find great success changing the culture of a monolithic organization. She is innovative, resolute and she cares about the future of the planet and her company. I think what she has done at GM is tremendously admirable.

I would also love to have a private breakfast or lunch with Michelle Obama. I admire her for the same reasons so many millions of us do. She walked into the most visible and critical role in our country during a time when every eye was on her and her partner — for better or for worse. She did it with grace, incredible intelligence and fortitude, and she got down to work. She protected her family while also using the opportunity to bring attention to important issues. She did all of this with a sense of humor, which is an attribute that can’t be underestimated.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

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