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Record Payouts Point to Growth for Valley Office

Trial lawyer Lawrance Bohm already represents former employees in high-profile cases against rock star Eddie Money and Olympic snowboarder Shaun White. And he has won some of the largest employment verdicts in legal history. But he still wants to grow his Valley presence at his Woodland Hills law office, aiming to double its size by the end of this year. “That case (Shaun White’s) began in our Woodland Hills office,” he told the Business Journal. “Now it is a top story in world news.” Bohm has won what are believed to be the two largest single-plaintiff employment verdicts in U.S. history, totaling over $353 million. He started his own law practice Sacramento-based Bohm Law Group Inc. in 2005, which currently has approximately 20 attorneys spread across five offices throughout the state. However, as his case load grows in the Valley with much of the legwork of the Money and White cases taking place at the firm’s Woodland Hills location, Bohm has big plans to further his focus in the 818 and engage the local community. Switching sides Bohm attended college at the University of California, Irvine and earned a partial scholarship to Tulane University in New Orleans for law school. After graduating and passing the bar exam, he began his legal career, defending large governments, cities, police agencies and corporations in mainly employment, personal injury and civil rights cases. Bohm did this for four and a half years, taking note of the imbalance of resources between the two sides. “Big wealthy companies and governments had more than enough lawyers,” he said. “It seemed pretty clear that putting some talent on the plaintiff side of the v, as they say, would be a great way to help improve the legal system and impact my community.” He borrowed $100,000 from his mother-in-law and began his practice in his Sacramento kitchen. As his workload grew beyond the parameters of the capital, he found himself flying down to Los Angeles twice a month to see clients at coffee shops and friends’ offices. As a result of the increased business in Southern California, Bohm decided to begin his Woodland Hills practice in 2012, which grew out of the living room of his now Senior Associate Attorney Bradley Mancuso. In 2013, they moved into an office on Variel Avenue and less than a year later, moved to their current location at 21051 Warner Center Lane. “Logistically, setting up an office in Woodland Hills was relatively easy,” said Mancuso. “The area is friendly to businesses; there are plenty of cost-efficient office spaces and many supporting businesses and services in the area.” Two to three attorneys work out of the West Valley location, which currently has two empty offices. Bohm hopes to fill those spaces with lawyers before the end of the year. “I have eight people who just took the bar, so if all eight pass, we will have eight new lawyers added to the 20, bringing us to 28 (firm wide),” said Bohm. He prefers to bring in unseasoned attorneys who have recently passed the bar, so they can learn to practice the “Bohm method,” as he calls it. Bohm method The method is a team-focused approach that incorporates systems and specifications to encourage collaboration and thoroughness when working a case. It lays out how to organize cases, how to methodically work through cases using checklists as well as how to treat clients. For example, when taking on a client, the firm provides its attorneys with an intake questionnaire so they don’t forget to ask a question that could compromise the case. “What I did after a certain point, because I knew I had to teach so many people my method, is I took the way I practice law and formalized it,” said Bohm. “I put it into tools that my employees and co-workers can use to deliver the same high quality of service that I deliver personally.” For Bohm to personally work a case, it costs clients $1,000 an hour, while his associate attorneys average about $400 an hour. He can command that high price because of his experience, and he has the track record to prove it. In 2012, the same year he opened his Woodland Hills office, Bohm won what was at the time believed to be the largest single-plaintiff employment verdict of $167 million in Chopourian v. Catholic Healthcare West. The verdict was later reduced to $82 million, and the two parties settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. After making several complaints to the hospital, including complaints about patient care, surgical physician assistant Ani Chopourian was inappropriately disciplined and later terminated after receiving repeated sexual advances and being denied meal breaks. Attorney Michael Artinian of Bridgford, Gleason & Artinian of Newport Beach said several factors played into the determination of such a high verdict. He said Chopourian was a high-income earner, which means she could show high economic damages as a result of being terminated. In addition, the defendant, which now operates as Dignity Health, is one of the largest health care systems in the nation, meaning the organization has deep pockets. “One of the factors that plays into such a big verdict is if you have a big defendant on the other side,” said Artinian. “When it gets to the punitive damage phase, assets of the defendant become an issue and become relevant in regard to jury determination.” Two years later, Bohm won a nearly $186 million verdict in Juarez v. AutoZone Stores Inc., surpassing Chopourian v. Catholic Healthcare West. He did not disclose firm profits for either case. In the AutoZone case, Rosario Juarez was awarded $872,720 in compensatory damages and $185 million in punitive damages for pregnancy-related harassment, discrimination and retaliation. AtuoZone challenged this verdict and later dropped the challenge. “When dealing with punitive damages, it’s 100 percent conduct driven,” said attorney Matthew McNicholas of Los Angeles-based McNicholas & McNicholas, who obtained the largest employment verdict ever against the Los Angeles Police Department, worth $12.3 million in 2014. “Punitive damages are not meant to compensate, they are meant to teach a lesson … and what is punishment depends on the net worth, value or income of the defendant.” To combat large punitive verdicts, companies need to remain vigilant when it comes to policy and conduct. Todd Wulffson, Orange County managing partner at Carothers, DiSante & Freudenberger, warns employers to properly train managers and human resources departments as well as ensure a positive work environment for employees. “High morale equals less lawsuits,” he said. “If employees feel connected to their jobs and valued, they are much less likely to sue – even if something bad happens.” Practice growth So far this year, Bohm Law Group has won verdicts of close to $4 million and still has three or four more trials to go before the end of the year. Currently, the firm is contacted between 125 and 150 times a month from individuals with potential cases. It takes between 100 and 200 cases a year, spread among its 20 lawyers. With these numbers, Bohm has room to grow his practice with more attorneys handling more cases. The firm has also started its Spanish-speaking legal service called Tú Central Legal and plans on moving into other languages like Farsi and Chinese in the near future. Eventually, Bohm ultimately hopes to grow his practice from five offices to 10 but currently is giving some added attention to his Valley location. In Woodland Hills, he wants his firm to get involved in more grassroots community outreach by volunteering and donating at local food banks and charities to develop more of a presence in the region. “Right now we don’t have so many people down here, but we have enough people who can start making an impact – not just on the law but also on the community as a whole,” he said. “I think that’s the second chapter for Bohm Law.”

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