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Sean Foldenauer Has Paid His Dues, Climbing from Musician to Partner to Founder of San Diego’s Small but Mighty Civil Litigation and Trial Law Firm

We help ordinary people and small to medium-sized business owners who have suffered harm. We are courtroom lawyers—the kind that stand up before judges and juries and ask for justice. We are fearless. We are ethical. We are small but we routinely file lawsuits against some of the largest corporations in the world. We prepare every case for trial and try all cases that make sense for our clients. If we must settle, we settle for everything,” says Sean Foldenauer, founder of Foldenauer Law Group, APLC.

Lots of lawyers are litigators, but few of them actually take their cases to trial. We are trial attorneys. We practice the art of courtroom advocacy. We know the evidence code and the art of admitting and excluding evidence during trial,” Foldenauer says. Indeed Foldenauer, together with associates Dan Schwender and Tyler Campbell, spends much of his time in the courtroom. “We have sued corporations as large as Wells Fargo Bank and Liberty Mutual Insurance, on behalf of local business owners. We also seek justice for personal injury victims who have suffered harm.”
Today, Foldenauer Law Group enjoys a practice that is nearly 100% based on referrals from fellow attorneys, former clients, and local doctors who refer their patients to the firm for recovery on personal injury claims. “We are honored to receive so many referrals and are happy to partner with other attorneys. We can work on cases together or handle all the legal representation, at their request, and referral fees are available,” Foldenauer says. In fact, the majority of the firm’s caseload stems from solo practitioners and smaller firms who do not have the manpower or funding to take on large, complex cases.

Because of his firm’s willingness to help fellow attorneys, Foldenauer Law Group has earned a reputation of being a modern boutique trial firm which, “like a large firm, maintains a high performance team of the best and brightest attorneys and staff. The difference is that we do this without big firm redundancies, inefficiencies, and price tags,” Foldenauer says.

Classical Training

Although Foldenauer is clearly passionate about his work, a career as a trial attorney was not his first ambition. “I picked up an electric guitar when I was 12 or 13, and by the time I was 19, I was playing night clubs in San Francisco. Of course, they had to sneak me in and out of the back door because I wasn’t old enough to legally be in a bar. I was fortunate enough to share the stage with notable Bay Area bands, such as Tommy Tutone, Huey Lewis and the News, and Joe Satriani,” he recalls.

Make no mistake; music was not just a hobby for Foldenauer. He trained for many years, studied classical music in college, and attended a prestigious jazz school in Los Angeles. In the 1980s, his band played renowned venues like the Whisky-A-Go-Go on the Sunset Strip. In addition to live performances, he has recorded on records, films, television, and commercials as a studio musician.
This led him to a job with Island Music Publishing in 1989, run by publishing mogul Lionel Conway. The following year, Polygram International Music Publishing (“PIMP”) purchased Island Music and Foldenauer assisted with cataloging the Island Music copyright portfolio. During this process, he had the chance to work under prominent entertainment attorney and author Jeff Brabec. Foldenauer’s work in the music industry eventually led him to law school in San Diego in 1993 where he attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law.

21“At Thomas Jefferson, they didn’t just teach me to memorize facts and laws. They trained me to practice law,” he says. Continuing he says, “I loved it. You couldn’t get me out of the library. I became obsessed with reading Supreme Court decisions, and I developed a desire to passionately advocate for others. Plus, I began to see that the courtroom was a stage in its own way,” he adds. “I went from playing electric guitar in a rock-n-roll band to editor of the Law Review in one year,” he laughs.

Upon graduation, Foldenauer intended to return to Hollywood to work in entertainment law, but at that time, the music publishing industry collapsed. Therefore, he took a position working for tenacious trial attorney Jim Frantz as an associate. “I appeared in court hundreds of times at motion hearings and trials. Within a year of law school, I was able to work on the plaintiff’s side of a case that resulted in a record-breaking $223 million dollar jury verdict,” he says. Foldenauer’s talent earned him a partnership within a few years, and the firm became Frantz, Townsend & Foldenauer, LLP. “We handled catastrophic injuries and product liability cases against pharmaceutical and medical device companies and major automobile manufacturers.
For a decade, I absorbed everything I could. I got amazing experience taking on huge corporations, and I’m very grateful for that opportunity,” says Foldenauer.

Early in his career, several influential judges also trained Foldenauer indirectly. “I remember attending a trial practice lecture by Judge Trentacosta. He noted that some attorneys in his courtroom had lost good cases because they were unprepared or did not know the rules of evidence. Judge Trentacosta also spoke about the honor and privilege we carry as attorneys representing people in court, and the great responsibility we have to our clients. He gave me goose bumps. I try to live up to that, always,” Foldenauer says.
Likewise, Foldenauer says that trying cases against experienced counsel in front of wise judges and savvy juries has armed him with insight on how judges are likely to rule on specific motions and evidence. “Watching and learning from San Diego’s gifted judges has been invaluable to me and my clients,” he says.

The Biggest Gig Yet

In 2007, with a decade of legal experience under his belt, Foldenauer was ready to venture out and create his own firm with the intention of “redefining the practice of law,” he says. Foldenauer set out to create a firm with a simple and straightforward business model. “Even the most prestigious law firms tend to use obsolete and inefficient methods, which can be wasteful, repetitive, and costly. I believe there are more efficient ways to handle litigation and that is what I set out to do. We utilize technology to maintain better client communication, avoid duplicity of work, and to conduct targeted and expedient legal research. We run a digital office and subscribe to LexisNexis for our law library, allowing our attorneys and clients to have immediate access to files and law in a digital format. At trial, we also use advanced presentation methods and software, including Trial Director, which provide the judge and jury with the most comprehensive picture of the facts and evidence in the case. It is a simple formula. Our focus is on solving disputes, not on billing clients. As a result, we get fantastic results for our clients at lower costs,” Foldenauer says.
To maximize efficiencies for the firm’s clients, Foldenauer is quick to say, “I couldn’t have done this alone.” To that end, his team includes associate Dan Schwender, who Foldenauer says, “I grabbed right out of Thomas Jefferson School of Law, and he’s been here ever since, barring the time he spent earning his L.L.M at The George Washington University Law School with a focus on Intellectual Property.”

Schwender assists with the firm’s clients in business and partnership disputes. These clients include companies involved in various trades, such as banking, energy manufacturers, entertainers and athletes, UFC fighters, real estate developers and brokers, importers/exporters, and retailers and distributors.
Although most disputes are generally based in a breach of contract, either with another company or with a partner or shareholder, the issues also often include claims of professional negligence, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and intellectual property infringement and related allegations. These types of cases often become buried in law and motion work, to which Foldenauer says, “Schwender is a wizard at researching and writing—quickly, pointedly, and efficiently.”

20“Tyler Campbell, also an associate at the firm, clerked for me while he was attending Thomas Jefferson, and has now been with the firm for about five years.” Campbell’s practice focuses almost exclusively on representation of plaintiffs in autoaccident and serious personal injury cases. “Tyler has established himself as a tenacious advocate and fierce negotiator for our clients. He just gets it,” says Foldenauer. “He custom tailors effective litigation and settlement negotiation strategies for each case. His contributions are an invaluable asset to the firm.”
Since teaming up with the firm, Campbell has assisted the firm in obtaining millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements for the firm’s clients.

Foldenauer Law Group’s attorneys have found ways to reduce redundancies by working together as a team. “We roundtable our cases, brainstorming and bouncing ideas off each other, to establish a successful case strategy from the outset. Three minds are better than one. Our goal is to solve problems in the most economically appropriate way. This method works for us,” he says.
“We have all worked together for years, so there is no revolving door here. We have a great staff, which also includes our paralegal, Kimberly Pok, who has been with the firm for several years while putting herself through school at USD, and our administrator Thu Tran-Le. Being a small firm means we have lower overhead costs. But, we are flexible and can staff up as needed. These savings are passed on to our clients,”Foldenauer says.

Indeed, the Foldenauer Law Group is committed to helping clients save money, and they have come up with some creative billing practices to ensure this. “We do not have massive hourly billing requirements that our attorneys must meet. Depending on the nature of the matter, we can offer hourly, flat fee, hybrid fee, or contingency fee agreements. We are also able to customize
our billing structures to meet our clients’ needs,” he says.

Continuing, Foldenauer says, “We hold weekly meetings where we constantly put ourselves in the position of our clients. Litigation is our business, but usually not that of our clients. It has made us battle-hardened but we never lose sight of our mission—to represent our clients exactly the way we would want to be represented. By way of example, we limit the number of cases we handle at any given time to ensure each case receives our full attention. We attempt to contact each client at least once a week to provide a case status. It’s a simple phone call that clients deserve and appreciate. We are also upfront about anticipated costs, billing practices, and the range of potential outcomes. No surprises,” he adds.

Setting the Stage for the Future 

19To date, Foldenauer says he could not be happier with the way things have turned out. “It is pretty well known that we are trial lawyers with a history of success,” he explains.
With referrals pouring in and a team effort that is working incredibly well, Foldenauer frankly does not intend to change much about his firm. “I continue to be personally involved in each case. If we keep growing, I won’t be able to do that. We also emphasize a balanced lifestyle. We try to avoid working nights and weekends except during summary judgment motions and trials. This leaves us time to enjoy with our families and friends,” Foldenauer says. This work balance allows Foldenauer to spend time with his loving and supporting wife, his two young boys ages 6 and 3, and daughter age 1.

Because music gave Foldenauer his start, he tries to give back. “We are a sponsor of the Guitars in Schools program which places free Taylor guitars in the little hands of school children. Each year, the firm sponsors a VIP table at the San Diego Music Awards. All of the money goes to the cause,” Foldenauer says proudly. “This is important because music funding has completely dried up in our public schools.”
And, Foldenauer continues to play gigs himself. “I have a recording studio in my house and am currently working on an album. My story is not unusual. There are many great lawyer musicians in our legal community. So many in fact that every couple of years the San Diego County Bar Association sponsors a ‘Battle of the Bands’ contest. My band, Rock Justice, has entered the last two contests and it is always fun, especially since we are back-to-back winners, which feels great. As a trial lawyer, of course, I like winning.”


• Thomas Jefferson School of Law
- Juris Doctorate, (1996)
- Activities and Societies: Law Review, Cum Laude

• California State University, Northridge
- Bachelor of Arts, Business Law, (1993)
• Grove School of Music, Los Angeles
- Guitar Program Graduate, (1988)

San Diego Business Journal’s Best of the Bar, 2014.
San Diego Daily Transcript’s Top Attorneys, (Nominee/Semi-finalist 2008-2013)
• AVVO Rating – Level “Superb”
• Better Business Bureau — A+ Rating

• State Bar of California
• United States District Court of California for the Southern District and Central District

• San Diego County Bar Association
• Association of Business Trial Attorneys
• Consumer Attorneys of San Diego
• Louis M. Welsh, American Inn of Court

Sean M. Foldenauer
Foldenauer Law Group, APLC
(619) 564-8877
2550 Fifth Avenue, Suite 630
San Diego, California 92103

Karen Gorden

Karen Gorden is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal.

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About the Author: Karen Gorden is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal.

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