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DLTS Law. From the Ashes of the Recession.

DLTS Law

D’Egidio Licari Townsend & Shah, APC’s unusual beginnings spark evolution of unique niche practice areas, strengthened the bond of its partners, and secured the firm's position as a successful, multi-faceted SoCal business and civil litigation firm.

“Our story is unique in that we are a veteran-owned law firm made up of attorneys who started our firm right out of law school due to the recession and poor job market,” says D’Egidio Licari Townsend & Shah (DLTS) Partner Arthur D’Egidio. “Seven years later, we are thriving,” he adds.
Indeed, the firm is thriving when it comes to fighting for the rights of individuals and business owners who have been harmed or injured, through no fault of their own, but across multiple practice areas. “Our typical client is someone who has been wronged,” says Partner Michael Licari. “That may mean they have been injured due to another’s inattention, or they are not being treated fairly by their insurance company, or by a business partner who is not holding up their end of the bargain. We know that people come to lawyers because they have no other choice and we take that role very seriously. We want to lift the weight off their shoulders, help them get through the tough times, and get back to their lives,” he explains.
The unspoken metaphor of the phoenix rising from the ashes is hard to deny. In fact, the firm’s own beginnings were a direct response to the challenges facing Founding Partners D’Egidio and Licari upon graduating from law school. But like the clients the firm helps to rise above adversity, the law school friends did the same, by launching a firm that would become a highly awarded, trusted by clients, and relied upon by fellow attorneys, in spite of the obstacles facing them at the outset.

From the Ashes of an Economic Meltdown
After meeting in law school, D’Egidio and Licari found themselves with less than stellar job opportunities as they studied for the Bar in 2009. Even though both were successful students—with D’Egidio participating on Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s mock trial team, while Licari worked at University of San Diego Environmental Law Clinic, and coauthored a brief that ultimately saved the La Jolla seals from their removal in 2009—the economy was on the skids.
“As many firms were closing or significantly downsizing, we made the decision to open our practice in a period of extreme financial hardship,” D’Egidio recalls. “We realized that we’d much rather control our client base, and our own reputation, by staying focused on our goal, which is to emphasize the client’s needs above all else. From that standpoint, our firm has been able to grow and succeed through a very dark time in our country’s financial history,” Licari adds.
Arthur D’EgidioWhen it came time to hang out their proverbial shingle, D’Egidio recalls that there was no shortage of commercial space for rent, due in large part to the real estate crash, which shuttered the doors of many mortgage lenders. As such, the new partners were able to sublease office space from a mortgage company for pennies on the dollar. In the meantime, the two spent day after day, and night after night attending every networking event they could, to spread the word about their newly formed firm. In addition, D’Egidio’s father, a Los Angeles-based dentist, served as an excellent referral source for the new attorneys.
“He would listen to patients talk about their problems, and then call me to see if we could help them. From there, our word-of-mouth referrals from family, friends, and our networking efforts started to take off,” D’Egidio says. In other words, their entrance into the legal arena was nothing if not a baptism-by-fire learning curve. But in hindsight, both D’Egidio and Licari confirm they wouldn’t have had it any other way.
By 2011, the partners had built up a small but mighty firm, with Licari focusing on representing restaurants, real estate companies, HOAs and contractors in business law matters, and D’Egidio focusing on personal injury cases, and bankruptcy cases for the first couple of years. The partners also began welcoming law student externs with the goal of helping to provide hands-on legal experience to students, to prepare them for life after law school. “You’re not taught how to get a subpoena in law school.
You’re not taught how to be a working attorney, so we’ve always made efforts to help give students a head start,” says Licari. “We want to help show future lawyers what you actually do on a daily basis as an attorney.” The partners had no idea, however that the externship program they were running would ultimately lead them to a future partner in the firm. They also never anticipated the reciprocal referral partnerships they would enjoy as their former externs became lawyers. But that’s exactly what would happen.
After moving into their first office space in 2011, Licari and D’Egidio soon realized that many people were facing uphill battles in saving their homes from foreclosure.
“Mike came to me and wanted to introduce me to Eric Townsend, whom he’d worked with on the La Jolla seals case in law school, because he was not only a friend, but an outstanding attorney who was already working with distressed homeowners, and also happened to be a real estate broker,” says D’Egidio.
Like Licari, Townsend was also a former Marine, who had extensive experience in real property law, including working with countless Southern California homeowners in foreclosure litigation and short sale negotiations, resulting from the ongoing recession. Later, the new partners would open a real estate brokerage led by Townsend, which would ultimately franchise with Harcourts USA.

Emerging Strengths in Specialty Practice Areas
Michael LicariAs the increasingly busy attorneys at DLTS continued to deliver successful outcomes to clients, USMC veterans Licari and Townsend began to ramp up their pro-bono efforts for veterans needing legal representation, yet were suffering from financial hardship. “We knew that as attorneys we could make a significant positive impact on people’s lives, including our fellow veterans,” says Townsend. As the result, both partners have served on the Military Pro Bono Project in San Diego and are also active in the Wills for Warriors project, which helps provide estate plans for military veterans. Thus, the first specialty practice group at DLTS serving veterans was born.
Cases in which the firm has fought for veterans include one in which DLTS represented a disabled, quadriplegic Marine veteran in a real estate fraud case. “Our client bought a house through the CalVet program that had numerous issues, making his house nearly unlivable. We sued for fraud and while we settled the case for twice the amount it would have cost to fix the house, we also worked with local non-profits and Home Depot to get the house repaired, with donations and the help of Home Depot’s volunteers. In the end, the Marine was able to keep his entire settlement,” says Licari.
By 2013, D’Egidio recalls receiving a phone call, which would prove to be another game-changer for the firm. “Pratik Shah had been an unpaid intern for us in 2011. We’d had a great relationship with him, and after he graduated from law school, he’d taken a job with the Sacramento District Attorney’s office. He’d since moved to Los Angeles, and launched a successful Personal Injury firm. He called because he actually had too many cases, and needed help,” D’Egidio says. Soon enough, Pratik joined the firm, with a special passion for trial work, and plenty of courtroom experience thanks to his time at the DA’s office and in civil litigation. He was made the firm’s fourth partner in 2016.
With Shah and D’Egidio helming the firm’s personal injury practice, Licari and Townsend were free to focus on other practice areas, including real estate, civil litigation, and transactional work. Given Shah’s passion to take on the insurance companies, and Townsend’s intimate knowledge of real estate, the two put their focus together and thus emerged the firm’s rapidly expanding Fire and Flood division.
The Fire and Flood division arose out of demand, and in part because of the likeness these cases share with personal injury cases. “People are not being compensated fairly when they have leaks, or other plumbing problems, the majority of which are pipes bursting. They are insured, but their own insurance companies withhold what they need to replace losses caused by fires or floods,” Shah explains. Suffice it to say, DLTS’s success in this area is garnering a lot of word of mouth buzz, and referrals from fellow attorneys are coming in regularly. “Our Fire and Flood division is now our fastest growing practice area,” Shah says.

Fortification of the Firm’s Focus & Future Plans
Eric TownsendThe collegial dynamic that exists amongst the team at DLTS is something that all partners agree has been integral to their success. In addition, Licari says that the fact that the partners all share a similar vision for the future plans of the firm keeps their business running smoothly. “Having a law license comes with great power and great access—access that many people don’t have. Our life’s work is to use that power for good. Using that power to represent individual consumers and small businesses against bullies is what we do best. We recognized early on that the biggest benefit of running our own firm is in choosing who you represent. Since we have the ability to choose who we fight for and who we represent, it makes sense to use the power, access and skills to represent those that need it most.”
Those who retain DLTS will find that “we provide clients with personal access,” according to Shah. “We don’t have case managers handle our cases. When you meet with any of our attorneys, that attorney handles your case. We are accessible, no matter how large or small a case may be. Each client gets the representation they deserve.” Continuing he adds, “In order to provide that quality representation, we make sure to thoroughly understand our clients’ needs. We understand that every client is different and thus has a different story to tell. Part of our job is to tell our client’s stories, and we cannot effectively do so unless we have a close, personal connection with them.”
Because so many of the firm’s clients come by way of referral from fellow attorneys, Townsend says that it is vital that the referring attorneys know that DLTS is happy to co-counsel on cases. “The majority of our cases come from other attorneys. If the case is referred by a younger attorney, and they want to learn the business, we will happily provide them with practice guides, templates, and guidance on how to learn the business. We want to help young attorneys, both within and outside of our firm, to grow. On the other hand, if a larger firm is overwhelmed because their marketing has been more successful than anticipated, we help lighten the load. Every year we have paid out more and more referral fees,” he says.
Of course, the firm wouldn’t be on the receiving end of so many referrals, were it not for the premium service the attorneys at DLTS deliver time and again. Pratik Shah“When we take on a referral, we absolutely understand the weight that carries. We have built trust with referring attorneys so they know that their client will receive great representation, their reputation as an attorney will be preserved, and their financial interest in the case will be protected,” D’Egidio says.
Likewise, DLTS is also careful about who they refer their clients to for cases outside of their wheelhouse. “Our reputation is on the line with every client. We know that and we take it very seriously. We take care of our clients first, our employees and referral sources second, and we know growth and profitability will continue to follow,” says Townsend.
“When we refer cases to other attorneys, we are very careful with who we work with and we understand that works the other way as well. We have relationships with some of the biggest firms in Los Angeles and San Diego who entrust their clients and their reputation to us. The biggest compliment we receive is when attorneys refer us multiple cases. That means we took care of the client, we took care of the referral source, and we built trust, which is a winning proposition,” he adds.
Unsurprisingly, as the result of their efforts, the attorneys at DLTS have amassed an impressive list of awards and accolades, after less than a decade in business. A sampling of awards earned includes membership in the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, inclusion amongst the Best of the Bar lists, Distinguished Service Awards from the San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program, inclusion in the Daily Journal’s Top Young Attorneys, and Super Lawyers Rising Star awards.
Moreover, awards for one attorney are an award for the firm, according to D’Egidio, as the team functions in some regards as one unit. “Traditional firms often have strict restrictions when it comes to tracking employee hours and employee freedom. We’re the opposite. Being a few minutes late, or taking a few extra minutes on a lunch break doesn’t really matter. What matters to us is our employees trust that our leadership has their back and supports their growth. The biggest compliment we can get from our staff is employee retention for the long term, and getting to know their families and watching their lives grow with us. We want to work with our team to grow,” says Licari.
As far as growth is concerned, all four partners are looking forward to what the coming years will hold. “We have several big cases in the pipeline, including a major class action lawsuit against Sysco, and a case that involves intellectual property rights regarding a popular animated series,” says Shah.
Beyond that, the sky is frankly the limit for DLTS. “We are very excited about the next five years,” says D’Egidio. “We are expecting and looking forward to continuing growth. We honestly enjoy working with one another, and we know that we are doing good work for people who need our help. So, while it’s sometimes difficult to juggle our careers with family life—we all have young children—none of us would be where we are without the support of our wives and kids. Without a happy, healthy, home-life, a successful work-life is near impossible, so we all owe a lot to our families. We pay forward that support by doing our absolute best in everything we do.”

 

Contact

Arthur P. D’Egidio, Esq.
D’Egidio Licari Townsend & Shah, APC
7801 Mission Center Court, Suite 240
San Diego, CA 92108
619.550.3011
adegidio@dltslaw.com
www.dltslaw.com

Jennifer Hadley

Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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About the Author: Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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