Garret Lee, the co-managing partner of Morgan & Morgan’s Boston office, has established himself as a pillar of justice at our firm. Before joining our firm, Mr. Lee was a founding partner of his own law firm, and we’re fortunate enough to have him on our team today. His commitment to clients, record of outstanding verdicts, and work for the Asian community in his hometown of Boston sets him apart from his colleagues, making him nothing less than a hero to those he represents. Mr. Lee is a former co-chair of the Tort and Insurance Law Section and current Council member for the Boston Bar Association, while still finding time to speak publicly on the topics of personal injury law and law firm practice management.
Mr. Lee has earned recognition as a “Rising Star” by New England’s Super Lawyer Magazine and Boston Magazine for eight consecutive years, which is a feat not many other lawyers can pull off. We had an opportunity to speak with Mr. Lee about his career, and the transcript is transcribed below:
This interview was lightly edited for clarity.
Was it always a lifelong dream for you to become an attorney?
Garrett: I always had read about those people that knew they wanted to be a lawyer when they were five, but that wasn’t me. Honestly, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I went to college thinking I would take the business route, but what I found myself gravitating towards were stories, not business. So, I switched my major to history because I liked hearing, telling, and writing stories, but what I really enjoyed about history, in particular, was that you find there are many different ways to tell the story of the same event. That’s what we do in law, so law school was a natural segue from my history major.
Do you feel that your job allows you to continue telling stories and history?
Garrett: Absolutely. When we go to trial, we go through something called the process of discovery. During that stage, both plaintiff side and defense side gather all of the same facts in front of them., When we’re making our case at trial, we’re using those facts to tell a certain story from the plaintiff’s point of view: how it happened in their eyes and what their injuries are. On the other hand, the defense will tell a different story, using those same facts. As trial attorneys, we’re essentially storytellers. You can’t really argue with facts, but you can put those facts into context, and mention other facts that may change the story. It’s our job to tell the jury the story that resonates with them to get the best result for our client.
Why did you choose to leave your firm and transition into a role at Morgan & Morgan?
Garrett: There were a lot of different reasons. I loved having my own firm, but for me, this type of work always starts and ends with doing the best job we possibly can for the client. They’re who’s most important, and we chose to come to Morgan & Morgan because it allowed us to serve our clients best. The firm has developed a strategy for every single type of case that’s out there. There’s a playbook, and it’s a playbook that works. It’s aggressive, and it’s a strategy that cuts no corners for our clients, ultimately yielding the best results for them.
Morgan & Morgan’s philosophy was also very similar to mine when I had my own firm. File lawsuits to get the best results; try cases to get the best results. We won’t let insurance companies get away with making the small offer, so we’ll file every single time and fight for every inch. It was a perfect match regarding our philosophy.
Finally, the resources at Morgan & Morgan are nearly endless. There are 800+ other lawyers across the country. I get to consult with those talented people about my cases and how to best handle them. Essentially, being at Morgan & Morgan is kind of like practicing law without any restraints. You have all the tools at your disposal to fight to bring more value for clients.
As a POD attorney, do you feel that your cases are emotionally or mentally draining?
Garrett: Absolutely. I think it’s probably a good thing that I haven’t become numb to these types of cases over the years because if you can feel for your client, that makes you a better attorney. I handle cases that involve amputations, wrongful death, and other very serious matters, which are cases that make you want to go to bat for your clients all the time. Unfortunately, there’s no replacement for these serious injuries. You can’t equate money to a catastrophic accident, but what you can do is help them get on with their life, and to get some sense of justice. Our clients are going to have expenses that they’ve never had before for the rest of their lives. When the case is such a catastrophic, emotional situation, it encourages you to go to bat for your clients every single time.
Could you tell us a little about your work with Boston's Chinatown community?
Garrett: The Chinatown community in Boston is very important to me. My grandparents came to this country as young adults, and Chinatown became their hub. It was their security net, and it still serves that same purpose for many recent immigrants. Although I was raised by my parents in the suburbs of Boston, my family always had connections to Chinatown.
The Chinese community in Boston can be pretty insulated. If they are new to the county and don’t speak English, many of these people don’t know where to turn to when they need legal help. Quite frankly, there are some neighborhood lawyers that probably should not be handling personal injury cases, but they are the go-to lawyers for members of the community because they’re the only ones who speak the language. We want to be able to offer this community the best legal services possible and not just the only legal services they can find. So we’ve been trying to serve the community through volunteering and just getting our firm name out there. We use interpreters when we need to, and hopefully we can continue to serve the community well.
Who would you say is your hero, and why?
Garrett: I have a lot of heroes, but to answer this one, I’m going to go with a fellow Michigan alum and former New England Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady. Here’s the reason why: my heroes are always relatively ordinary people who have done great things because of their commitment to what they’re doing and to their hard work. So, Tom isn’t my hero because of all of his championships, but it’s because he’s an ordinary quarterback that became the best version of himself through hard work and—in doing so—became the best in the world at what he does.
There are tons of quarterbacks who are way more physically gifted than Tom, but there aren’t any that have committed themselves to the game as much as he has. His commitment is every day. He lives and breathes football. He practices those good habits daily, not just during the game or during the season. He’s at his absolute best. On top of that, I hear he’s a fantastic teammate, a great leader, and it seems that he’s a good husband and father, too.
What's something that people get wrong about personal injury?
A lot of people think that when we bring a personal injury lawsuit, we are trying to take every cent from the person who caused the accident, to the point of their financial ruin. However, our target is the insurance companies across almost all of our cases. It’s amazing to me how little people know about insurance, for how important it is in this society. The insurance companies are our targets; they’re the ones making money by having people pay premiums and then paying out as little as possible when it comes time to exercise on the contract.
When we’re in courtrooms, we’re not allowed to talk about insurance companies, so jurors tend to think that we are going after the personal assets of the at-fault part. That’s why educating people about what we’re really doing outside of the courtroom is important. I think the theory behind not being able to mention insurance companies at trial is that it creates some sort of prejudice against insurance companies. If jurors know an insurance carrier is involved, they are just going to give the plaintiff a lot of money. However, in my opinion, it’s actually the reverse effect. If people don’t know that there’s an insurance company behind the defendant, paying the bills, they’re not going to want to punish someone that caused an accident. They’re going to go easy or even let them off the hook completely. I think that the insurance company’s involvement should be allowed at trial, but I’m not making those rules right now.
What's the worst advice you’ve ever received?
Garrett: As a young lawyer, I was on the defense side, and I was at a few different defense firms. One of them taught their attorneys that in order to be an effective lawyer, you had to be the biggest jerk in the courtroom—unforgiving, no mercy, picking fights with the opposing counsel. They’re like the Cobra Kai of law, so these guys gave each other high fives when they made a plaintiff cry at a deposition, and I was taught that this was the way to do it. That’s the worst advice I’ve ever received, and it took me years to unwind from that mentality.
Now, my view is very different. I know that the best lawyers are those that have maintained their humanity. They’re lawyers who stick to what they believe in and see the dignity in people. They respect the legal process; they spend their time and energy on making the best case, telling the best story for their client, and making the best presentation, rather than trying to win cases by being mean. Sometimes, when we hire defense attorneys, we have to unwind that process for them, too.
What's the hardest part of your job?
Garrett: I manage the Boston office, so I wear lots of hats. Sometimes, it’s hard to turn off all the noise and dedicate myself to litigating my cases. In this day and age, emails fly in every two seconds, and phone calls come in every three seconds. So, as lawyers, we have a lot to do, and it does take effort to focus, remove yourself from distractions, and really dig deep into the case you’re working on. It’s something I’m focusing on improving in this upcoming year. But I also know that all of the work and time is worth it. We’re building the Morgan & Morgan brand up here in Boston as a team, and it means that we’ll be able to serve a lot of people for years to come.