Trial Attorneys To The Core

Recently the firm was featured in an article for the Daily Journal. Below is a copy of that article written by Katie Lucia and originally published on March 15th in the Daily Journal, California’s Largest Legal New Provider.

REDLANDS – Being called a trial lawyer might be a dirty name to some, but attorneys at Welebir Law APLC say they are proud of that distinction.

Founding partner Douglas Welebir – a trial lawyer for 47 years – acknowledges that the general public loathes trial attorneys.

“But even those who don’t like us use us when they need it,” he said.

Welebir has tried more than 100 civil cases to verdict and his firm has managed about 8,000 cases, many of which go to trial. His Redlands-based firm of five full-time attorneys handles a steady flow ofcatastrophic personal injury and product liability cases but is not too proud to try a small injury matter from time to time.

“Ninety percent of lawyers don’t see the inside of the courtroom,” Welebir said. “We see the inside of a courtroom every day. We’re not litigators. We’re trial lawyers.”

Welebir founded the firm as a sole practitioner in 1970 in a small office in San Bernardino. After a year managing cases by himself, he decided he wanted to partner with others. Over the years, he had lawyers come and go, he said. After a major restructuring in 2007, his firm became Welebir Law.

Welebir poached name partner Jim Tierney for his firm 13 years ago, he said. Tierney was practicing insurance defense and Welebir decided to “make him a righteous person and bring him to the plaintiffs’ side,” he said.

The other name partner, Cory Weck, was a former attorney for the U.S. Marines Judge Advocate General’s Corps and still serves as a staff judge advocate to the Marine Expeditionary Court at Camp Pendleton. He began working with the firm 11 years ago.

Both are very talented plaintiffs’ lawyers, Welebir said, as is attorney Justin Kim.

The firm tries product liability cases involving automobile defects and road problems. Such matters can be quite expensive to take on, Welebir explained, as they require a lot of money up front to determine whether there is a defect and if indeed there is a case. He said the firm has had matters in which it spent $50,000 only to learn there was no case. The firm charges clients on a contingency basis, he said.

“The atmosphere here is extremely unique,” Tierney said. “It’s just an open atmosphere. … I probably walk into Doug’s office wasting his time all the time.”

The firm also has three of counsel attorneys, one of whom is Welebir’s daughter in Orange County.

Welebir said he moved his practice to Redlands in 1992 after learning San Bernardino had a water supply just beneath the ground’s surface – something he learned while trying an environmental case. The ground would liquefy in a large earthquake, he explained, damaging or destroying many buildings.

Managing personal injury cases does make one rather paranoid, Welebir admitted. His wife always told him she pitied their children who were warned over and over about certain dangers, such as driving a motorcycle.

But working so closely with disaster has convinced Welebir that risk can be minimized.

“I like to drive and I like to drive fast,” he said. “But driving is not a casual event for me. I don’t go on a drive and look at the scenery. I am very alert.”

The attorneys at Welebir Law don’t take cases they wouldn’t try in court, Welebir said.

“I come from a military background, and it’s about mission accomplished here,” Weck said. “It’s not about doing whatever busy work. It’s about getting things done in the best way possible for the clients.”

Personal injury litigation doesn’t decline in an economic downturn, Welebir said. Business is actually up.

“People still get bit by dogs; they still stumble over cracks in the sidewalk,” he explained. “People are more inclined to see a lawyer in economic downturns, because now they really, really need whatever help they can have.”

At one point the firm had as many as 12 full-time attorneys, but Welebir said he likes the current, smaller size. Being a small firm doesn’t really have drawbacks, Welebir said.

The only real obstacle a small firm faces, he said, is that it often has to prove itself. He said he once worked with a defense attorney who wanted to do a deposition in his Los Angeles office. Welebir counter offered to host the proceeding at his Redlands office because all of the parties were from the Inland Empire. When the attorney visited Welebir’s office, with a view overlooking crisp snow covering all but the bright oranges in the groves next door, the attorney said, “Wow, no wonder you live here!”

“Once you’ve proved yourself,” Welebir said, “there’s no question about it.”

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