Scott Ford – Managing Partner
Scott has over 27 years of legal experience as a trial attorney. He is the former Chair of the Litigation Section for the Virginia State Bar. He regularly assists clients serving as local counsel with federal court matters in both the Eastern and Western Districts. In this interview, Scott talks to me about his experience and passion for practicing law in the field of workers’ compensation.
Starting Out In The Legal Domain
Scott has been practicing for 27 years with much of it devoted to the defense of workers’ compensation. He started with a small boutique firm that predominantly handled workers’ compensation defense. He stayed with them for a couple of years before moving on to a mid-size firm involved in workers’ compensation and commercial litigation where he worked for almost 20 years. He served as President of this prior firm for a number of years before starting his own law firm. About four years ago, Scott co-founded the present firm, Ford Richardson. The company has four offices across Virginia with a strong focus on workers’ compensation.
“Your reputation just develops in the field, and we have been able to snowball our relationships as time has gone on.”
Scott recalls landing his first client about 24 years ago. She was a tough customer who was hesitant in moving from her then-current firm. Scott and his team relished the challenge as not only did they do good work for her but also brought her excellent results. Over the years, she became one of his best customers.
“We have a talented bunch and each of them has been able to attract business and it has been an interesting ride to grow so quickly in such a short period of time.”
Current Business Structure And Organization
Scott states that his firm is one of the largest providers of legal services in Virginia in the field of workers’ compensation defense.
“If a firm is in the writing business in Virginia, we are likely representing them either as panel counsel or in the context of a direct referral from the employer.”
At his current firm, there are about 50 employees. Of these 17 are attorneys along with about a dozen paralegals that work on cases. Talking about their clients in the workers’ compensation business, Scott estimates the number to be upwards of 40 to 60 clients.
Talking about handling voluminous paperwork, Scott reveals that the firm has a standard approach for it. The medical records are brought in by way of subpoena and are immediately put in a chronology by the paralegals. This promotes efficiency and cost savings. They also do medical summaries in complex cases.
Standout Moments As A Business Leader
Scott believes this field is ever evolving and one of the things that differentiate them from others in the industry is their focus on education. They have been doing an annual seminar, one of the largest on the East Coast, for the last 21 years for workers’ compensation professionals.
They also print materials to help new adjusters get acclimated into the jurisdiction including an adjuster handbook that is helpful for those that want to adjust claims in Virginia. Further, they do an annual case law update to stay updated on new trends under the law ensuring their clients are well positioned to understand any of the new cases and emerging trends.
Regarding his firm, Scott feels proud of the group that has come together. Even though the company is only 4 years old, it is home to a strong team of talented professionals.
“Along with excellent legal services, we pride ourselves on making certain that we stay close to the client and provide top-level communication.”
Overcoming Challenges In Business
Scott believes that the competition for top legal talent will continue to be a challenge. During COVID and post-COVID, there have been mass resignations across industries and law firms were not immune from that challenge. Scott states that retaining and recruiting top talent is an ongoing top value.
One of the reasons he believes his firm did not face much attrition during COVID is the culture created in the company. Creating a workplace where people work collaboratively and are cooperative with one another is core to the firm.
“From the first moment we meet a prospective employee, we remind them that we hire for culture first and talent second.”
Scott also says that the top management stays close to the employees, checking in with them to see how they are doing, and receiving feedback from them. The firm is also flexible with its work-from-home policy which he feels has been beneficial in not only recruiting but retaining current talent.
Business Plans For The Future
Currently, Ford Richardson has four offices across Virginia. Going forward, the plan is to look at other jurisdictions outside of Virginia. In the short term, Scott reveals that they are looking for growth in Northern Virginia and Virginia Beach.
With the litigation practice booming, Scott believes that the practice area is likely to grow further. The firm is growing on the general liability side and the business and employment practices are both expanding.
“We will continue to expand in those areas, and for the next three to five years our goal is to reach 30 to 40 attorneys.”
Talking about the marketing methods that have worked so far, Scott mentions their annual seminar which is currently in its 21st year and one of the most largely attended conferences in Virginia.
They also share a constant update of all legal opinions out of Virginia with a monthly electronic newsletter to clients.
Top Philosophies And Core Values In Business
Number one would be respect, and that is part of the culture at the firm. Another top value is making certain that the firm is providing excellent communication to the clients.
“We recognized that as we survey new clients, one of the chief complaints with their prior legal relationship was not having the level of communication that they would like.”
When it comes to litigation, especially from the insurance side, people want to partner with a law firm that is able to provide them with timely updates and bring matters to closure quickly and appropriately. This requires effective and ongoing communication with the firm that is connected to the case and has those same values.
Advice For Newcomers Entering The Workers’ Compensation Field
Scott believes that the development of relationships is important. He advises making certain that one is mindful of the need to provide excellent communication to the client. This value has been helpful to develop business by being available as an educational resource to clients.
“We have an obligation as a partner to our client to make certain that we are not just doing legal work for them but that we are helping educate them to be part of the legal team.”
Key Benefits Of Services At Ford Richardson
The key benefits are good results, excellent communication, and a good resource for clients to develop their bench of insurance professionals because of the firm’s commitment to education.
Vision For The Future Of The Industry
Scott expects clients will continue wanting to affiliate with firms like his that have a strong presence across jurisdictions. An increasing number of insurance clients don’t want to have 500 contacts to provide legal services. They are realizing that few are better because they are able to observe the style of the firm and develop a rapport with them.
For other law firms and professionals looking to remain successful in the workers’ compensation domain, Scott advises hiring top talent and staying close to their clients.
“We are constantly surveying our clients to determine what we can do differently, what we can do better, because if you don’t do that then you are going to be vulnerable.”
Leadership Lessons Learned Over The Years
Scott recalls some advice he received when he was young, “your trade is your reputation, and nobody will protect your reputation and care about your reputation as much as you do.”
He firmly stands by this and believes in zealously guarding one’s reputation, always doing the right thing by treating people well, and if it comes under attack unfairly, to vigorously defend one’s reputation
“This is our bread and butter, our reputation. I think it served me well over the past 27 years and it served our group well.”