The question most people are asking me since founding our new law firm is, “Why did you do it?” What follows is my very personal story of why I moved from a nationally ranked personal injury law firm and formed my own firm serving the most seriously injured people.
The story starts with my upbringing. Growing up in the 1970’s and 80’s, being the son of a high profile homicide investigator exposes you to a world unfamiliar to your friends and classmates. Late night phone calls at our house meant that there had been a murder or serious crime committed and that I wouldn’t see my Dad for the next several days. Death threats levelled by the criminal subculture and aimed at my family meant that there were times when we lived with a security guard – a fellow who I knew as Paul, one of Peel Region’s finest, became part of our family. We were taught to memorize license plate numbers. We learned the code words, “everything is all right,” which we were to say to callers if someone had invaded our home and everything was not all right.
While my parents managed to shelter me and my sister from the vagaries of our situation, there was no missing the whispered conversations, the overheard telephone calls, and the concerned look on Mom’s face that she could never hide from me. As the wife of a police officer, my Mom carried with her the burden of whether my Dad would make it home each night.
What does a child learn from this? You learn that there are some truly evil people in this world. You also learn that there are some true victims – victims who, through no fault of their own, had their lives and the lives of their families changed forever.
It also gave me a profound sense of empathy and desire to help people in need, a theme that would re-surface later in my life.
I was always struck by how Dad carried with him a genuine desire to help victims of crime and their loved ones. Unlike the stereotypes often associated with police officers, you could see in his eyes, how deeply he cared for victims and their families. It fuelled his drive to solve even the most difficult crimes and eventually elevated him to the position of Chief of Police. Whether it’s rooted in our Irish heritage, or a result of my upbringing, he passed on to me his sense of empathy.
While my upbringing exposed me to a different world than my classmates knew and ingrained a sense of empathy, it didn’t prepare me for the day that my values would come together with my professional life.
A few decades later, I am a newly minted lawyer and I enter a new client’s hospital room. He is in serious condition after being severely injured in a car crash. I walk into the hospital room. It’s hot and the room smells stagnant with a hint of excrement. The young man has tubes running in and out of his body. Blood crusts his hands and his face. His skin has an orangey film around the multiple areas where doctors have operated to save his life. His family looks on, with that concerned look in their faces that I knew from seeing it on my Mom’s face many years before.
I am overwhelmed by the thoughts of how utterly helpless this young man is and how grave his situation is. My thoughts turn to what would happen to him and his family in the future. His life would never be the same and his injuries would leave him with a lifetime of daily reminders of the worst day of his life. His life and the life of his family had changed forever.
But who would he turn to for help once the doctors had discharged him from hospital? I didn’t know all the answers, but what I did know was that this was the day my values aligned with my professional life. “I am going to help this man,” are the only words that describe my feelings at the time.
It’s been close to 20 years since I met that young man in his hospital bed and since that time I’ve had the privilege of working in one of the top personal injury law firms in the country. It has been my honour to help hundreds of injured people and their families attempt to get back a semblance of their lives, to help them recover money for lost wages because they will never work again, and to pay for health care costs that they would otherwise could not afford.
Just as important, I’ve been lucky to work with countless people who have also assisted our clients along the way, such as employees at the law firm who played an important role in our clients’ futures, and health care providers who would go above and beyond the call of duty in their efforts to rehabilitate our clients.
Perhaps, most importantly, however, have been my clients. Each of them, in their own way, faces their battles and lives a life of courage, perseverance and hope in the face of disability.
Yet as many of us reach a certain point in life, we contemplate our future. We all learn that life is fragile and can be cut short in an instant. This caused me to think about what exactly I wanted in my career.
For me, I concluded that I was looking to lead. To lead a law firm the way I wanted to lead. To build a team and a culture reflecting my values. To lead a law firm that would fearlessly fight for our clients’ rights and at the same time maintain a passionate sense of empathy for their struggles – where our clients were real people not just a file number. To lead a law firm that values it employees and gives them opportunities to grow not just professionally but also personally. To lead a law firm that fosters true partnerships with the health care professionals helping our injured clients – where there are real relationships not just relationships of necessity.
In short, in order to fully align my values with my professional life, I founded William J. Teggart Personal Injury Law.
- To provide world class service to our clients;
- To foster true partnerships with the health care community; and
- To create a workplace where team members grow both professionally and personally.
That brings me to where I sit today, in our new offices. We’ve equipped our offices with the latest technology and phone systems to serve our clients better. At the same time, we’re a little less formal here. Who’s going to wear a business suit when your makeshift desk is a creaky table normally used to hold shrimp rings and potato salad! Yes, our furniture is on the way, but I don’t think I’ll ever look at this table the same way.
I couldn’t be happier.
I hope you will join us on our journey into the future – join our Circle of Hope.