Kelli Lester, a southern Kentucky native, dedicated her career to advocating for the rights of car accident victims, who have experienced some of the most traumatic moments of their lives. She’s the Managing Partner of Morgan & Morgan’s Nashville office and also oversees the daily operations of our Bowling Green, Kentucky office, making her an integral part of our mission here at Morgan & Morgan. Her degree from the University of Kentucky School of Law, in combination with her years of experience as a talented litigator, has allowed her to help hundreds of people in need, often recovering large settlements when the pre-trial offer was $0.
Mrs. Lester is an undeniable asset to both our firm and the clients who depend on her. We had the opportunity to sit down with her, and our talk is transcribed below:
This interview was lightly edited for clarity.
Can you share some insight into your journey as a lawyer?
Kelli: I came from a very humble background. I did not grow up with money. I grew up in a very rural area in south-central Kentucky, and my parents worked paycheck to paycheck to provide for my family. More than anything, the experience made me realize that I wanted more, so I went to law school and became the first person in my family to receive a doctorate degree. My background has become my most powerful tool, and I’m so incredibly thankful to have grown up in such a humble household. Now, I fight for clients who are in the same position that I was as a child, which shows you just how far hard work will take you.
Is there a specific reason you chose to focus on auto accident cases?
Kelli: Before I came to Morgan & Morgan, I practiced auto law and was well-versed in auto car wreck cases. Unfortunately, some of the most catastrophic injuries surround car wreck victims. Once I heard Morgan and Morgan would be opening an office in Bowling Green, Kentucky, I basically beat down their door to work for them. I had read all of John Morgan’s books; I knew I wanted to work there, as our backgrounds are very similar in how we grew up. My dream was to be a trial attorney, and that is where he wants his attorneys most in a courtroom.
What would you say is the biggest challenge for your job? In other words, what’s the hardest part about the work that you do for your clients?
Kelli: One of the hardest things about what we do in our auto cases is handling the many times we’re limited to the amount of insurance that the at-fault party has on their vehicle. In some cases, an individual will get into a catastrophic car wreck with someone who only has a $25,000 policy on their vehicle and no collectible assets. The victims in these situations can only recover that $25,000 from the at-fault party’s insurance company, even if they were paralyzed or lost a limb as a result of the wreck. Now, if our client has car insurance, which many times they do, they’ll also have a claim against the at-fault party’s insurance company. However, this is often an additional $25,000 or $50,000, which is nothing close to the price of their pain.
The difficulty comes when we have to explain to our clients that they’re going to be limited in their recovery if there’s not a company, employer, or excess coverage involved. We knock down every door to find coverage for these clients, and sometimes, we’re able to find additional coverage, but it’s not guaranteed. Then, the real battle begins with their health insurance company and the medical facilities where they treat our clients, as they’ve already gathered hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills at this point. We battle with these facilities to negotiate the medical bills down to an amount that we can pay off and maximize what the client will get in their pocket as many times they will be unable to work for months. The settlement doesn’t fully compensate them for the catastrophic injuries that they’ve sustained, and that’s definitely the most difficult and most heartbreaking part of my job.
On the flip side, what’s the most positive aspect of your fight For the People?
Kelli: The most rewarding part of my job, sincerely, is the end of it, as we’re able to tell the client that we’ve won and they can finally move on from the situation. We have paid all of their medical bills, and collection agencies won’t beat down their door any longer. These people are forced to go through years of litigation with insurance companies who fight them on the silliest defenses, all the while refusing to compensate them for their injuries. It may have taken two years to get it done, but seeing the client satisfied that justice has been done on their behalf is the most rewarding part of any case.
I will also add that Morgan & Morgan is unique compared to other firms. Not every firm will tell you to do “whatever it takes” to help your client recover a fair settlement, but here, we spend as much time and resources as we need to get the job done. I’ve worked with other organizations, but Morgan & Morgan is the only one that provides us with every resource we need to fight for our clients, regardless of the size or severity of their case.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in the last 10 years?
Kelli: The best advice that I’ve ever received came from a female attorney who I would consider one of my mentors. She said, “Be yourself,” and I think that’s important because female attorneys often try to fit themselves into a certain box or act a certain way because they’re a woman. Honestly, I think it’s all nonsense. One of the most powerful tools that I have as an attorney is being a female, as I feel it gives me a set of tools to be empathetic and compassionate in a way that men can’t be.
Keith Mitnik, another one of Morgan & Morgan’s talented litigators, gave me some really good advice when I started here as well. He said to me, “There is nothing more powerful than a good, female trial attorney. They’ll kick a male trial attorney’s butt any day of the week.” His sentiment stuck with me because, well, it’s true. You have to practice the craft and work hard every day, but once you figure out how to do it, there’s nothing that can stop a female attorney.
Would you say that your job is more emotionally difficult than the average job?
Kelli: Absolutely. I will tell you that I’m an empath, so I carry a lot of emotional responsibility with me as I go through life. In other words, I can feel the pain of my clients when I meet with them. Hearing their stories and seeing what they’ve been through is emotionally taxing because, at the end of the day, that client could potentially lose their home. Personally, I try to treat every client like they’re my own family member to really understand the situation they’re going through. It allows me to put myself in their shoes and truly believe in the case that I’m fighting for. If you don’t believe in your case, you can’t express that feeling to a jury, and they won’t believe in it either.