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In 1993, Rodney Leffler and Timothy Hyland left Fairfax, Va.’s Odin, Feldman & Pittleman to start their own firm. Today, Fairfax’s Leffler & Hyland provides legal representation for corporate and individual clients in all types of civil and criminal litigation, business transactions, and professional negligence matters. A former assistant commonwealth’s attorney for Fairfax County, Leffler, 52, focuses on criminal matters, professional liability, wrongful death, personal injury, and business controversies. Hyland, 37, focuses on real estate and business transactions, technology agreements, software licensing, and related litigation. Both practice in state and federal courts. Why did you decide to start your own practice? As fugitives from the same large firm, at least by Fairfax County standards, we opened our doors 10 years ago this summer, determined that we could better serve our clients, the courts, our families, and ourselves if we could practice law in the way we wanted. Ten years ago, we put together a business plan that we believed would allow us to be more responsive to our clients, help them make the things happen that they wanted to happen, offer them creative billing options, and do higher quality, more personalized work than we were able to do in a larger firm. Our plan was to never allow the tail to wag the dog the way it necessarily must in most large firms. In other words, we wanted to run a firm entirely focused on the client’s needs and objectives, without the internal firm politics and interminable firm business meetings that by necessity take away from lawyers’ time for clients. We have very few rules and regulations except those designed to preserve our integrity and reputation with our clients, the courts, and the bar. Although we focus on litigation, since we believe the strength and viability of documents memorializing our clients’ objectives are only ultimately tested in the heat of controversy, we set out to be practical, realistic, and cost-effective drafters as well as trial lawyers. Tell us about your clients. We represent some of the largest businesses in Fairfax County in adversarial matters while at the same time spending a good portion of our time advising individuals in the most sensitive aspects of their business and personal lives. For example, we may one day be in court on behalf of the largest health-care provider in Northern Virginia, a publicly traded computer security and domain name registrar, a family-owned retail business with a 50-year history in this county, or a professional defending a negligence claim, while on another day we may be helping an individual respond to a criminal, traffic, or family matter. We handle many and varied types of controversies. We appear in all levels of Virginia courts in all jurisdictions north of the Rappahannock River. We also regularly practice in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria, both as lead and local counsel. Although the identities of our clients are often made public in the media, that information does not come from us. Indeed, we never reveal the names of our individual clients because we cannot see a way in which that would ever benefit anyone but us. In criminal cases, we often tell our clients that the best work a criminal lawyer can ever do is to keep his client from having a criminal trial. We do a lot of sensitive work, behind the scenes and out of the public eye. Many of our clients would never want the public to know that they needed to hire a trial lawyer. Where do you find your clients? Although we are listed in several exclusive publications and have been afforded honors by our peers, the bulk of our clients are referred to us by other lawyers and previous clients. We feel fortunate that we have never had to advertise and that all of our clients come to us from someone who has personally dealt with us or believes in our reputation for service and results. How do you measure business success? We have always believed that we must follow the direction of our practice, rather than the other way around. We follow the same principle when judging our business and financial success. Simply put, if at the end of the year we have served everyone well who has engaged us and have been paid fairly for it, we consider the year a professional and financial success. Because we offer so many creative billing options, we have very few clients who are surprised by our bills and thus very few accounts receivable. We have never measured success by billable hours and as long as we are together, we never will. Our income is usually derived equally from corporations and individuals. All of our work comes from referrals. We avoid hourly billing whenever possible, because if we were clients, we wouldn’t want to be billed that way. For example, I recently saw a line item in a bill from a law firm for writing a letter to their own client giving him the firm’s new address. Every time I see a member of that firm in the future, I’ll remember that. Although every case is different, we prefer flat fees, payable in advance, and believe it or not, so do our clients, especially those who’ve been billed by the hour by other firms. The financial people at our corporate clients particularly welcome knowing the cost of litigation upfront and they know that everything we do in the case has a real purpose. In short, this kind of billing structure builds trust, encourages efficiency, and produces quicker results. We also negotiate minimum/maximum fees and, in noncriminal cases, incentives and performance bonuses. We handle most plaintiffs’ work on a contingent basis. We discuss the arrangement with the client in the first meeting and never get too far into a controversy until we have an agreement that both we and the client feel is mutually beneficial. What challenges to your practice do you foresee in the future? As long as there are business controversies and personal conflicts, we will always have to face the challenge of helping businesses and individuals achieve the results they want, as quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively as possible. Again, we will always follow our practice by listening carefully to our clients, keeping an eye on the trends always evolving in the area of conflict resolution, and working with the courts and our colleagues in the bar to accomplish what we’ve been hired to do.

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