I recently had the opportunity to shoot a new branding video for our website. I am very excited to have that project finalized and share it with you. As part of the research before we shot the video, I was asked to share a little more about my upbringing and why I chose to help people by practicing injury law. Here are some excerpts from my interview.
Tell us about yourself?
My name is Clark Harmonson and I have been a lawyer for almost 16 years.
What type of law do you practice?
I am the owner of Harmonson Law Firm, a personal injury law firm located in El Paso, Texas. Our firm helps people who have been seriously injured because of someone else’s negligence. Our key focus is to help people who have been seriously injured in auto and truck accidents. We also help people who have been injured because of the negligence of doctors, nurses and hospitals.
What geographical locations do you serve?
I am licensed in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Our office is in El Paso. The main geographical areas we serve are El Paso, Las Cruces and the surrounding communities in West Texas and Southern New Mexico.
Tell me about your youth?
I grew up in Lubbock, Texas. My dad was a serial entrepreneur and my mom stayed at home while we were very young. When we got a little older, mom started working as a licensed chemical dependency counselor.
My dad has owned all sorts of businesses. He owned a skating rink named “The Skate Machine” in Lubbock during the skating craze of the 1980s. It was as cool as you would think. I was in elementary school at the time and was the envy of the other boys and girls.
After the skating rink, my dad opened a used car dealership in Lubbock. My mom always drove a used car that we would call “Units.” The joke was that there was always “a little something wrong with all of them.” To make ends meet, dad worked at night at a local bingo hall called Gold Star Bingo. I got my first real job at the bingo hall selling markers when I turned 16. My bingo job helped me pay my way through college at Texas Tech.
Dad then moved to El Paso when I was in high school and started a pool construction company with a college friend from UTEP. He still has the pool company in El Paso today.
Tell us about some of your jobs growing up?
The first paid work I did was for a youth pastor at our church when I was in middle school. His family owned a fried pie company that sold pies to local restaurants. On Saturdays, he would pay me to clean the trays and pie making equipment. I recall getting $20.00 in cash to clean all those dirty dishes.
From there, I graduated to the bingo hall. I played basketball in high school. I would get home from school and practice at about 5:30 p.m., shower, change and drive to bingo. I would sell markers before bingo started and during intermission. It was a good gig because I also got to do my homework while the bingo games were being called. The time at the bingo hall really helped me make good grades in high school. I continued working at the bingo hall throughout college. When I graduated, I could do any and every job at the bingo hall.
How did you get your work ethic?
We were taught the value of a dollar from an early age. We did not grow up rich. I did not grow up with a silver spoon as they say. I saw how hard my parents worked to make ends meet. If I wanted any spending money in high school, I had to work hard to make it. I paid my way through college, with a little help from my parents.
That same work ethic has stayed with me throughout school, my career and to this day. I started my own firm 6 years ago. Since that time, we have worked very hard to build Harmonson Law Firm up from scratch. We literally did not have a single client when we started the firm. But I took a leap of faith knowing that we could do a great job helping injured people in this community.
What kinds of people did you meet doing these jobs and how did this pave the way to you becoming a personal injury attorney?
From a very early age, we were exposed to all sorts of people from all walks of life. I spent a lot of time at the skating rink and the car dealership. As the owner’s son, we were expected to interact with the customers and employees. We were lucky to meet all sorts of families in the community that would come to skate. At the car lot, we had fun times with the colorful employees in the garage who taught me a few things that I’m sure I wasn’t supposed to know. The bingo hall was a revolving cast of characters that we served.
I am very fortunate that my youth exposed me to so many people. I have a real affection for people from all walks of life. This has served me well as a personal injury lawyer. We are not a pretentious law firm. We want to get to know our clients on a personal level so we can best serve them. You won’t see me in a fancy suit (unless I’m going to court) and we treat everyone equally at our law firm, from the CEO to the janitor.
Have you always been a personal injury lawyer?
No. I graduated 2nd in my law school class and was offered jobs by two major law firms in Houston. There were more than 400 attorneys at the law firm where I first worked. I worked as a corporate lawyer, helping major corporations with stock and bond transactions. While the pay at the firm was great, I knew early in my career that I did not want to simply work for large corporations helping them make more money. I knew deep down that my heart was meant to help real people with real problems.
On a trip to El Paso to hang out with my dad, he introduced me to a personal injury lawyer that would soon thereafter become my boss. Personal injury law is the perfect vehicle to help the same kinds of people that I got to know and love growing up.
Why do you want to help people?
To me, helping people is simply the right thing to do. As a victim’s advocate, I say that we are on the right side of the law. In every type of case that we handle, the defense is always fronted by major insurance companies. The insurance company’s goal is always to make as much money as possible. Insurance companies put profits over people. My passion is to help level the playing field for our victim clients.
Why is it important to have a lawyer that listens?
When I first meet with a client, they most likely have been through a significant life-altering event. A serious personal injury can be the most stressful event ever faced by our clients. The last thing that our clients want is to listen to the attorney go on and on about every little aspect of the law. The most important thing that I can do is to listen and learn the client’s story. That way, we can give the correct advice and answer the questions that the client really cares about. The last thing I always do at the initial client meeting is to really ask the client if they have all their questions answered. People really do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Why is it important to build a relationship with your client and not treat them like a case number?
Trust is the key ingredient in the attorney-client relationship. Trust can only be built by forming a personal relationship with the client. I am always shocked when I hear that some lawyers never even meet with their personal injury clients.
At Harmonson Law Firm, we do not take every case that walks in the door. We limit the number of cases that we take so that we can get to know our clients and learn more about them, their story and their injuries. We are more effective advocates with our clients when we have formed that relationship. One example of this trust relationship is that we meet with our seriously injured clients at their home so we can get to know more about them and the daily struggles they face dealing with their injuries.
How do you ensure 1:1 attention for each of your clients?
I’m the lawyer in charge of every client file at Harmonson Law Firm. I personally have an in-depth initial consultation with every new client that we take on at the firm. But I can’t do everything alone. I am very fortunate to work with another great lawyer, Hadley Huchton, who helps us with our serious injury and medical malpractice cases. Hadley has the same mentality as me when it comes to client service. We are also backed by a great team who are trained in providing excellent customer service. Our motto at Harmonson Law Firm is “Keeping You First!” and we live by that motto in everything we do at the firm.
What does it mean to serve the community in which you reside?
I really love El Paso. I first started coming to visit El Paso when my parents moved here to start a pool company in the early 1990s. The El Paso mountains and desert were so different than the cotton fields of Lubbock where I grew up. We had such a great time coming here to play golf, eat great Mexican food and make day trips to Juarez.
When I was living in Houston after law school, people were shocked to know that I was moving all the way to El Paso. To them, El Paso but was just a wind-blown outpost that no one really cared about. But I knew differently. I have loved working here and raising a family here in El Paso. And I am very proud of the phenomenal growth and progress that has happened in our City over the last 15 years. I am proud of the small part that Harmonson Law Firm has played in the growth of El Paso.
Personal injury cases are often emotional and tough, how do you help clients cope during this time?
A serious personal injury can be the most stressful event in a client’s life. When a case goes to court, the stress can increase in intensity as the insurance company and their lawyers will explore every aspect of our clients’ lives. I understand how difficult of a time our clients go through during the process. My diploma says that I am an Attorney and Counselor at Law. I am an attorney in that I am a zealous advocate for your legal position. But I am also a counselor. By that, I mean that I can be your shoulder to cry on during these tough days. I want my clients to be able to talk to me openly and honestly about their stresses, worries and concerns. Our goal is to make the personal injury claims process as stress-free as possible.
What would you say to a prospective client thinking about hiring you right now?
I understand the stress, hurt and worry that you are going through as you try to deal with your case. I know that you have choices when it comes to hiring a lawyer or law firm and you are making the right choice in hiring me and my firm. No doubt we have the skill and experience that is needed to deal with your case. What sets us apart is our level of commitment we make to our clients. My promise is that we will treat you with the utmost dignity and respect. You are not another number at our firm or a revenue goal. We will all work tirelessly to get you the best possible result. We will deal with all legal aspects of your case to minimize, to the greatest extent possible, your stress and worry as you deal with your injuries.