Adam Carlson knew he wanted to be a lawyer since the days he would relentlessly argue with his mom. He began as an intake paralegal and now is a managing partner at Casper, Meadows, Schwartz & Cook handling personal injury cases with a client first approach. Adam previously worked at the Alameda County Public Defender’s Office where he aggressively represented a large number of indigent clients, and it was the most fun he’s ever had in a job. Listen to the interview to learn about Adam’s invaluable advice about insurance coverage as well as a big tip to increase your chances of getting hired as an Alameda County Public Defender.
A transcript of this podcast is available at lovethylawyer.com.
ADAM M. CARLSON
Attorney Adam M. Carlson is managing partner at Casper, Meadows, Schwartz & Cook. While he is skilled in various areas of law, he focuses the majority of his practice on serious injury cases, wrongful death and civil rights. While he has extensive experience handling all types of cases involving serious injury or wrongful death, he also specializes in premises and products liability matters. He believes that tailoring each case to each client’s needs is key to providing aggressive and compassionate legal representation.
In 2021-22, Carlson organized one of the most comprehensive trial strategy education series for attorneys in the Contra Costa County Bar Association. The series spanned over eight months and covered all aspects of litigation.
Before joining the firm, Carlson served as an intake assistant for our team, where he was responsible for fielding calls from potential clients. It was at this time that Carlson decided he wanted to do more. He found that he was passionate about helping individuals who suffered injuries and illness due to another person’s negligence, recklessness, or carelessness. After this realization, he enrolled in law school, where he pursued his passion for helping others facing serious and difficult legal matters.
Prior to committing his life to legal work, Carlson attended Middlebury College where he completed his undergraduate coursework. Upon the completion of his undergraduate studies, he enrolled at the University of San Francisco School of Law where he achieved his Juris Doctorate. Following law school Carlson spent several years as a dedicated attorney for the Alameda County Public Defender’s Office before joining our team. Currently, he holds memberships in various associations, including the State Bar of California, the US District Court Northern District of California, the US District Court Eastern District of California, the Earl Warren American Inn of Court, the Contra Costa County Bar Association, the Alameda-Contra Costa County Trial Lawyers Association, and the Consumer Attorneys of California.
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Attorney at Law
Adam Carlson - Transcript
Louis Goodman 00:04
I'm Louis Goodman. Welcome to the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. Adam Carlson is currently a managing partner at Casper, Meadows, Schwartz & Cook. His practice focuses on serious personal injury cases, including construction incidents, motor vehicle accidents, products liability and civil rights. I know Adam from his years in the Alameda County Public Defender's Office, where he effectively and aggressively represented criminal defendants in all stages of criminal proceedings. He has published articles in the Contra Costa Lawyer Magazine and The Bencher, the magazine for the Inns of Court, and of particular importance to me is an interest in his years as the head of ski tuning and sales at Sports Barn. Adam Carlson, welcome to the Love Thy Lawyer podcast.
Adam Carlson 01:02
Thank you, Louis. It's nice to see you. I'm excited to be here. I looked at the list of the past podcast attendees, so to speak, and now I'm gonna join the list and I'm excited to be here.
Louis Goodman 01:15
Where are you speaking to us from right now?
Adam Carlson 01:18
Right now I'm speaking to you from my newly recently purchased home. I recently bought a home. We figured it wasn't enough to just be planning a wedding. We wanted to really, you know, add things onto our lives, to fill our lives with stressful events. So we tacked on a move this year and bought a house.
Louis Goodman 01:38
Well, congratulations and best wishes to both of you.
Adam Carlson 01:40
Louis Goodman 01:42
What kind of practice do you have right now?
Adam Carlson 01:44
Right now I'm one of the managing partners at a personal injury firm, plaintiff's work and representing injured victims and trying to get them compensation in the civil litigation system.
Louis Goodman 01:55
Where are you from originally?
Adam Carlson 01:57
Originally from New York. Grew up in Westchester County, which is the first county north of the Bronx. So a suburb of New York City.
Louis Goodman 02:07
Where'd you go to high school, back in New York?
Adam Carlson 02:09
Yeah. I went to Yorktown High School, of a good public school in Westchester county. It has, you know, any and everything available that you would want as a high schooler,
Louis Goodman 02:22
Yorktown, New York has been there since, before the American revolution, hasn't it?
Adam Carlson 02:27
It's been around for a long time. It's been around for a really long time. And I think now the most famous Yorktowner is AOC. She is from Yorktown.
Louis Goodman 02:39
Adam Carlson 02:40
Yeah. I don't know her, but yeah, we're proud that she's from our town.
Louis Goodman 02:45
Well, after you graduated from high school in Yorktown, where'd you go to college?
Adam Carlson 02:49
I went to Middlebury College, which is a very small liberal arts college in Vermont. I went there and I played lacrosse while I was there. I was very happy to be division three. I didn't really have an interest in playing full time, like division one requires. But I was very happy to get into that school. One of the things I really like about that school is it has a very strong language program. I studied Italian there. I studied abroad in Italy with the Middlebury program and I to this day still have a lot of really close friends from college.
Louis Goodman 03:25
At some point you went to law school. Did you take some time off between Middlebury and going to law school or did you just go straight through?
Adam Carlson 03:33
So after I graduated Middlebury College I came out to work in my uncle's law firm, actually. I did not know yet whether I was gonna go to law school. It was sort of in the back of my mind that I would. I was hired by my uncle working there and one of the primary responsibilities was doing intake. So the firm gets contacted by many, many people trying to hire them and it's free consultations, it's one of the things we offer. You don't pay to speak with us and you speak with an intake paralegal first. And that was me. And I remember pretty vividly actually the one case that led me to want to go to law school and it was a family who had lost a loved one and a motor vehicle collision. And they called and I got to know them through the conversation. And then I went and I had to hand them over to the lawyer. And I was like, wait a second. I want to help them. I want to keep going. I'm getting to know these people. They went through something awful. I want to be that person. And I was like, oh wait, you know what that means? That means I should go to law school because I want to be a lawyer. And so, you know, in the back of my mind, it was always sort of there that I was probably heading down that path, but then it was sort of that moment that crystallized it for me.
Louis Goodman 04:47
How much time went by between the time you graduated from college and the time you started law school? How much time did you take off?
Adam Carlson 04:55
It was only about a year. I was thinking maybe it would be longer when I first started, but then once I realized I wanted to go to law school, one thing to know about me is I'm very, very impatient. It's kind of a problem I'm working on it. And yeah, I was just very impatient. I knew I wanted to be a lawyer, so law school couldn't be, you know, I couldn't start law school soon enough. I couldn't finish law school soon enough to get, to get cracking.
Louis Goodman 05:18
So where'd you go to law school?
Adam Carlson 05:19
I went to University of San Francisco Law School. So I moved into San Francisco, went to that law school and it had a good reputation. I found my experience to be really, really wonderful at University of San Francisco and paved the way to getting a job at the Alameda County Public Defender's Office.
Louis Goodman 05:38
Do you think that having worked in the legal field for a year before going to law school got you better focused for being a law student?
Adam Carlson 05:51
Absolutely. Yeah. You know, I had this sense of what I wanted out of it all and I was, I was really motivated to get through and learn as much as I could, to the extent it could help me in my practice, because I really had this vision in my mind of how much you can really affect people's lives. So it definitely helped me put in perspective the importance of law school and motivated me.
Louis Goodman 06:20
I assume your friends and your family were pretty supportive of the notion of you going to law school.
Adam Carlson 06:25
Yeah, my mom knew from a very early age that I was to be a litigator and someone who argued and it's actually sort of, it was the first, it was the beginning of me thinking about a career in law was because I loved arguing and I loved arguing with her.
Louis Goodman 06:45
So your mother knew at a very early age that you were gonna be a lawyer?
Adam Carlson 06:51
Oh yeah, she did. She was just getting these arguments and I was relentless. I was creative. I would, you know, loop in previous things she'd said in other arguments and use it against her. When she found out I was gonna be a lawyer, she was like, "You're gonna be great. You're just gonna be great."
Louis Goodman 07:15
What was your path from USF to the Alameda County Public Defender's Office?
Adam Carlson 07:21
I did an internship over the summer and I realized how much I loved it when I was hanging out with law school buddies on a Friday night. We were out at a bar and I just wouldn't shut up about work. I just kept talking and talking and my friend was literally like, "Dude, it's Friday night. Let's hang out. I don't want to hear about, like, I don't wanna talk about work." And it was sort of in that moment, I was like, oh, this doesn't feel like a job. This is, this is a calling. This is awesome. And I just loved being a Public Defender to this day. It was, it's still, I think the most fun I've ever had in a job. And so once I realized that I liked it so much, then it was about trying to get the position, trying to get hired. And that was hard. A lot of people do want jobs in the Public Defender's Office. And one thing I did to further my cause was I got good advice from an attorney that people that speak Spanish tend to stick around, meaning people that speak Spanish get hired. So, and it certainly helps. It makes a lot of sense, a lot of Spanish speaking clients. And so I went about learning Spanish. I had the foundation of knowing Italian, which helped cuz it's a romance language and a lot of similarities, certainly in grammar and things like that. So I, a lot of time just grinding to learn Spanish.
Louis Goodman 08:48
What is it that you really like about practicing law? You know, you've just said, "Hey, I really liked it. It really interested me." I mean, what is it that really makes you like the practice of law?
Adam Carlson 08:59
I think there are a number of things. But with my practice right now, I find it to just be incredibly rewarding, the outcome of my, the outcomes of my cases. And oftentimes in life, you go through something awful, an injury, losing a loved one. And really all we're left to do is like lick our wounds and try and move on. But in my cases, there's actually this positive thing, you know, oftentimes it is a life changing amount of money. You know, sometimes I'm involved in cases and I'm like, there needs to be a movie about this. This is just so fascinating. Like this deposition transcript needs to be fed to someone, there needs to be a documentary about this case. And so it just feels, just feels exciting. Sometimes just the cases that, that I've been lucky to be a part of,
Louis Goodman 09:45
If a young person was thinking about a career choice, would you recommend law?
Adam Carlson 09:50
I think so. I think I'd wanna know a little bit about the person because it's not for everyone, but if the person is leaning towards it, I would definitely love to, you know, chat with them and give some perspective. I think one thing that I like about being a lawyer is I feel like it's a powerful position and powerful in the sense that you can really have an impact on individuals' lives.
Louis Goodman 10:15
What about the business of practicing law? How's that gone for you and how's that either met or differed from your expectations?
Adam Carlson 10:22
I've really enjoyed being a business owner. I think if I didn't go to law school, I would've gone to business school. I was very fortunate to take over an established business. My uncle is my mentor and I got a lot of wisdom from him, case wise, as well as just from a business perspective. But then, you know, putting my own twist on it and being creative in ways to just make it a profitable business and a business where employees wanna stick around and wanna work. And I've really enjoyed working with my business partner in all those aspects. I'm very lucky. Nick Casper is very smart. He's very funny. He's a great lawyer. And from just in terms of running a business, he's a pleasure to work with.
Louis Goodman 11:09
Is there anything that you know now that you really wished before you started practicing law on your own and left the Public Defender's Office?
Adam Carlson 11:19
I think it would just be along the lines of enjoying the networking. I sort of saw it as a necessary evil when I first started to do it. When you're a Public Defender, you don't have the network to get business. The business comes to you, it filters down through the system. But then I left and I'm in a business I need to network to get business and I just had the wrong mindset about it. When I was doing it it was feeling like work and now I don't even view it as networking, I just view it as sort of socializing. And I think with that perspective, I wish I'd had that perspective when I first started, because it just felt like this necessary evil, something I dreaded and didn't like doing, but now it's one of my favorite things to do as a lawyer.
Louis Goodman 12:09
Two part advice question. What do you think's the best advice you've ever received? And what advice would you give to a young person just starting out a career as an attorney?
Adam Carlson 12:19
I love that question and I love putting on events to mentor to young attorneys. And when I was hired as a Public Defender, I had been working there for a little bit as an intern. And what I did was I went around to as many Public Defenders as I could and I said, "Give me one piece of advice, no more, no less. One piece of advice and you cannot repeat what anyone else has said." And I ended up speaking with 16 Public Defenders. I came up with this great list and rumor has it to this day that list still gets handed out when people get hired and it's floating around somewhere. And there was just some pieces of gold in there, just some golden nuggets. One thing that comes to mind is always humanize your client. When your client comes into a courthouse, civil or criminal courthouse, they're just a piece of paper on a docket. That's all they are and there's 20 other pieces of papers on dockets with people's names. And it's humanizing your client to the judge, to the jury, to opposing counsel, to yourself. You know, I mean, always humanize your client. And then another one is always helping out another lawyer in a pinch or whatnot, because it comes around, you know, pay it forward type of mentality. And, and I think, you know, those have been some really important things that I've carried throughout my career.
Louis Goodman 13:50
Do you think the legal system is fair?
Adam Carlson 13:53
I think for the most part, yes. I think that we there's so many things that it has to deal with and I think by and large, you know, it being an adversarial system is what leads to it being fair. You have people, you have attorneys involved advocating for their client and making sure that their client gets a fair outcome. So I think for the most part, yes, I do think it's a fair system.
Louis Goodman 14:22
Have you had any interesting travel experiences?
Adam Carlson 14:26
I've been very lucky. I've traveled a lot. I studied abroad in college. I studied abroad in law school, actually, University of San Francisco had this summer program where you could go and study abroad and study human rights and things like that.
Louis Goodman 14:38
What sort of recreational things do you like to do? What sort of things do you do to take your mind off of work when you wanna get your mind off of work?
Adam Carlson 14:48
I'm a very competitive person, to a fault at times. I think it does help me with my work, but I'm always seeking competition outside of work, whether it be games, those are always fun, family games and things like that. But I do enjoy training for and racing endurance events. In my second year of law school, I signed up for a triathlon and I was immediately hooked. And ever since that moment, I've always had an event on the calendar up ahead for me to train for. And it certainly has a lot of benefits. You know, it's, it's healthy, it's exercising, it motivates me to go on runs and, and exercise and swim and bike. And so that's really been, my favorite hobby is training and racing, triathlons and marathons.
Louis Goodman 15:37
Do you have something coming up?
Adam Carlson 15:38
This year, I'm doing the Chicago Marathon in the fall, in October. I did the New York City Marathon in 2018, and it was just an amazing, amazing experience. These big city marathons with 30,000 plus participants, New York City had 50,000 participants. I'm really looking forward to, takes, you know, it takes place in downtown Chicago. The crowds are supposed to be spectacular. So I'm really looking forward to that. I've been training a little bit and gonna kick it into high gear soon.
Louis Goodman 16:11
Let me just point out that you ran a 2:40 marathon for the New York City Marathon and that you came in 188th place out of almost 53,000 runners. So, as someone who has run a marathon and not at the kind of blistering six minute miles that you ran it, I want you to know that I can certainly appreciate that accomplishment and take my hat off to you.
Adam Carlson 16:44
Well, well thank you. I always say, you know, the sooner it's over, you know, the pain stops, so just get it over quickly.
Louis Goodman 16:56
How do you define success?
Adam Carlson 16:58
You know, it's interesting. You know, I think for me it's been client experience lately. It's fun to get a good, you know, big settlement and all that. But sometimes I find that, you know, I feel like I was really successful, even if it wasn't the biggest settlement, If I gave my client the experience that they deserve, and I've really kind of tried to make that a priority in keeping them as involved in the case as I can. You know, if a client goes through the whole ordeal feeling satisfied, feeling informed the whole time, feeling like they were a part of the process, and feeling like they would go above and beyond to refer other people to me and write online reviews and do all that stuff. That to me is success for a case.
Louis Goodman 17:51
What keeps you up at night?
Adam Carlson 17:53
I'm always worried about forgetting to put something on my calendar. You know, it's something that I've become like, paranoid about. Like, I put things on my calendar before I even think about planning them. I don't know. It's just like, it's just anything I can do to make sure I don't miss something. Because I've just like forgotten to put things on my calendar and they've come and gone. Yeah, calendar issues, it's a big one for me.
Louis Goodman 18:20
Let's say you and your fiance came into some real money, a few billion dollars, say three or four billion dollars. What, if anything, would you do differently in your life?
Adam Carlson 18:33
That sounds like fun. I do think I have thought about that. You know, I love the experience of buying a lottery ticket. Even if you don't win, I think it's worth the price of admission, right? Because as soon as you buy the ticket in your head, you're spending the money. You're gonna get it. You're gonna get that helicopter. You're gonna get that island. You know, I love that experience. I have thought about whether or not I would stop working and I don't think I would. I think I would dial it back. I just love, I just love litigation. There's something about the competition in it for me that I just love having to be creative about something very important. I love the stress of it. I think that it makes me feel alive. I don't think I would quit that. Like I said, I would scale it back to have more free time. I would try and find a way I think, to invest in a sports team. That's, I think I would love to try and get into, you know, salary issues, getting the right players. With my sports background, I would probably be the owner who's in the locker room, giving pep talks. That's something that I think would be kind of fun. And then I, I think that I would really let...
Louis Goodman 19:40
What sport, what sport?
Adam Carlson 19:42
I'm really into hockey these days. So I would try and find a way to own a piece of the Rangers.
Louis Goodman 19:47
Let's say you had a magic wand, there was one thing in the world you could change, the legal world or the world in general. What would you do?
Adam Carlson 19:55
Wow. That's quite some power. I would alleviate everyone of their anxiety.
Louis Goodman 20:00
If you had 60 seconds on the Super Bowl, a one minute Super Bowl ad, what message would you wanna put out to the nation?
Adam Carlson 20:12
So, one thing I've always wanted to get out there is sort of a public service announcement. Is this, the issue of uninsured motorist coverage. And unfortunately, people learn about this when it's too late. The legal minimum in California for insurance coverage for an automobile is $15,000. So somebody can hit you, render you paralyzed, you'll never walk again, give you a brain injury where you can never work again. I'm not trying to be too dramatic and scare people, but it happens. You have no control over how much insurance or money the person that hit you has. And people who have $15,000 tend to not have a lot of assets to go after, but you can protect yourself. You have the right to obtain what's called uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. And you can figure out how much you wanna get the coverage up to. You know, you could maybe even go up to a couple million dollars. At least get it up to like a half a million dollars, but this will protect you in the event that you're in a life changing motor vehicle collision and something terrible happens to you.
Louis Goodman 21:21
So, Adam Carlson, plaintiff's attorney, spokesman for the insurance industry.
Adam Carlson 21:26
Louis Goodman 21:28
Adam, if someone wants to get in touch with you, what's the best way to do that, whether they have a referral for you or they have a case for you? What's the best way to do that?
Adam Carlson 21:42
Just shoot me an email. Carlson, firstname.lastname@example.org . If you wanna learn more about who I am or my law firm, how you can go to cmslaw.com and learn about us there. You can connect with me on LinkedIn. I think that's probably makes the most sense to connect professionally. I'm on LinkedIn, if you want to connect there.
Louis Goodman 22:06
Hey great, thanks. Adam, is there anything else that you wanted to talk about that we haven't touched on?
Adam Carlson 22:12
Yeah. You know, I met you through the Inn of Court, the Earl Warren Inn of Court and that's an organization that I am just enamored with. I've gotten to know some great lawyers. I highly recommend people checking out Inns of Court and participating. To me it's the most fun networking. With Inns of Court you get to unleash your creative side, you get to know people working together on something. You collaborate to make a presentation and the presentation is usually some kind of skit. It involves teaching on some area of law, but also you make it on the premise of something fun. I mean, I was in the living room of a magistrate judge, a federal magistrate judge's living room, shooting a video for something. I mean, that's quite an experience, with a judge to connect with them. There's lawyers in the organization, there's judges in the organization. So reach out to me if you ever wanna know more about that. I just love the Inn of Court. I love unleashing the creative side and all that, and I'm really, I really like all the connections I've made there.
Louis Goodman 23:23
Adam Carlson, thank you so much for joining me today on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. It's been a pleasure to talk to you.
Adam Carlson 23:30
Thanks, Louis. Thank you very much for having me.
Louis Goodman 23:33
That's it for today's episode of Love Thy Lawyer. If you enjoyed listening, please share it with a friend and follow the podcast. If you have comments or suggestions, send me an email. Take a look at our website at lovethylawyer.com where you can find all of our episodes, transcripts, photographs, and information.
Thanks to my guests and to Joel Katz for music, Bryan Matheson for technical support, Paul Robert for social media and Tracy Harvey. I'm Louis Goodman.
Adam Carlson 24:12
I don't know. I'm trying to think. That's a good question. I don't know that I have an answer. Maybe we won't do that one.