Brian Farlow has been our firm's go-to guru whenever a business dispute is on the near horizon. I am always in awe of the way that Brian can quickly take in facts and information about the dispute at hand, distill it down to the important issues, and figure out ways forward for the client in the courtroom. Brian is the quintessential litigator who can dive into many different types of legal areas, digest the information, attain expertise, and be comfortable conveying the client's story in a clear and convincing way to the judge and jurors in the courtroom. At the same time, Brian is one of the kindest and most generous people I know, always willing to jump into the fray and help with little regard to his own needs.
FJ: What influenced you in making the decision to become a lawyer? Have you always planned to pursue law as a career?
BF: I never had the dream of being a lawyer. In high school, I wanted to serve my country and was fortunate enough to earn an appointment to the United States Military Academy. There, my focus became being the very best leader/military officer I could be. Upon graduation, I was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Armor Corps and assigned to the 3rd Armored Division—which was located in the Federal Republic of Germany. In 1991, after serving with 4-32 Armor in Desert Shield and Desert Strom, I was nearing the end of my active military service obligation. Since my commissioning in May of 1987, the World has changed a great deal. The Cold War had ended; the Warsaw Pact had ceased to exist; and the Soviet Union had dissolved. My services no longer seemed to be required. Consequently, as I completed my initial active-army service obligation, I was forced to ponder the question: “If you are not going to be an Army Officer, what do you want to do?” I knew that I wanted to be in a profession, but nothing actively jumped out at me. My Dad had always told me that, if nothing else, do what you are good at. At West Point, I received an “A” in only two subjects other than swimming (FJ: Brian was so good at swimming, he represented the USVI in the 1980 and 1984 Olympics): Constitutional Law and UCMJ (basically Army Law). Upon this realization, I began to look into being a lawyer and discovered several aspects of a legal career that appealed to me. I successfully applied to and entered law school. Once in law school, I began to understand the various career paths open to lawyers and decided that litigation best fit my personality and skill sets.
FJ: Have you always practiced law in Texas? How did you end up in Texas? What brought you to Fulton Jeang?
BF: Prior to graduation from Albany Law School in 1995, I was offered a position with a regional litigation firm. I chose to join their Dallas office because I had clerked in Dallas and was very impressed by the energy and growth I found in North Texas. After more than 20 years of practicing law in traditional law firms (both national and regional), it became apparent to me that there had to be a better way. The traditional law firm models created (perhaps even intentionally created) dysfunctional dynamics that were neither personally nor professionally rewarding. Associates were not team members, nor even the future of the firm--but fungible billing units to be used and discarded once it was determined that “he or she did not cut it.” Partners were not mentors training future firm leaders—but charlatans empowered to promise the associates the “brass ring” was right around the corner. Of course, it was always around the “next corner.” All of this clashed with all the leadership training I had received at West Point and in the Army. I knew there had to be a better way. Lawyers "failed" not the “stress of the practice of law” or “client demands.” My personal experience taught me that highly diverse individuals could be molded into a professional team that took on (and accomplished) very difficult, stressful, and dangerous missions. I knew the problem had to be the traditional law firm model.
When I learned about FJ, it was obvious to me that the organization broke the traditional mold. It encouraged lawyers to be professional—even complimentary—to each other. Client service was the focus—not mere buzz words. FJ’s firm structure, flexibility, and organization permitted lawyers to be dynamic and forward-leaning.
FJ: Please tell us some of your career highlights or recent “wins.”
BF: While at Jones Day, I worked on a team representing a credit-reporting agency and another team representing a tobacco company. These were very unpopular clients on the street. Regardless, the attorneys at Jones Day did not permit the clients' popularity to impact the quality of the work performed. The issues were also very complex and some opposing counsels would even openly question the morals or ethics of the attorneys on our teams for even providing representations to such clients. We worked closely together to both effectively represent the clients and to provide support for one another team members.
On a personal level, I suppose one of the greater “successes” I enjoyed was being assigned to be a second chair on a matter for a client who had recently hired the firm. The dispute was in arbitration. The client, a large bank, has grown frustrated with the progress of the arbitration and hired the firm as new counsel. The dispute arose out of a long series of complicated sales of mortgage-backed securities. The opposing side claimed that the bank owed millions in payments for the mortgage-backed securities. I was told to jump in and get a firm grasp of the facts. I quickly determined that the “purchase price” for each series of mortgage-backed securities was complicated and turned on numerous factors—including things like market rates and required buy-backs. With the assistance of the client’s staff, I worked through determining the purchase price of each series—by figuring out the market adjustment and buy-back rates. Although tedious and time-consuming, the work paid off when we realized that—due to the adjustment—the bank had actually significantly overpaid for the for the mortgage-backed securities. After we asserted the counterclaim, the opposing party became far more reasonable in settlement negotiations and the matter was ultimately resolved favorable to the client.
FJ: Why does Fulton Jeang’s virtual business model suit your practice and lifestyle, and what do your clients think about Fulton Jeang’s virtual business model?
BF: As described above, the FJ model permits the flexibility for lawyers to best represent a client’s interest and resolve a client’s disputes. By jettisoning the layers of law firm management and titles, FJ avoids the dysfunctional dynamics inherent in the traditional model. This is particularly beneficial to smaller clients who are usually priced out of the large-firm model. Clients can struggle to identify which lawyer (or law firm) is “better.” With almost no comparative data points, clients are left with only the price as the data point. Larger law firms can capitalize on the often-mistaken notion that more expensive = better product. FJ helps clients break this cycle and determine what firm actually best fits the client’s needs. We believe it will usually be FJ—but we also know that sometimes it will be a different firm.
FJ: What are your sweet spots for client/legal issues you love to work on or that you have expertise in?
BF: My experience is entirely in litigation and nearly all of that is in commercial litigation.
FJ: What can the firm do to help you reach your goals for the next year?
BF: Continue providing guidance and litigation opportunities!
FJ: Do you have hobbies? What do you do for fun?
BF: Having watched my two girls play high school and college softball, I continue to watch NCAA ball. To relax, I enjoy hanging out at my local cigar lounge. I listen to college courses (from the Teaching Company) when I’m driving. Stop me on a random day, and you might catch me listening to lectures on the Crusades, or ancient Chinese History, Roman History, or the Ancient Egyptians; or Particle Physics, Radio Telescopes, Astronomy, Confucious, the Buddha, Jesus and Muhammed or numerous other subjects. I am also active in a few veterans organizations.