From A Basement Office in Queens, Former Treasury Department Investigator Jerry Parker Helps Build America's Leading Personal Injury Firm By Jonathan WidranMay 26, 2011 | Parker Waichman LLP
Next time you meet a young man just out of law school who says he is an IRS Criminal Investigator, do not run the other way or stereotype him. One day he may just be one of the most important people you ever meet, the personal injury lawyer who fights for justice, David vs. Goliath style, against that big corporation and gets you the huge settlement you’re entitled to.
If you are lucky he will be Jerry Parker, whose national law firm Parker Waichman LLP has offices in New York, New Jersey, Florida and Washington, DC. Parker Waichman LLP is considered by many to be America’s leading personal injury firm. The firm was honored by the respected legal guide Martindale-Hubbell with a Peer Review Rating of AV Pre-Eminent 5.0 out of 5, a score indicating the height of professional excellence. The firm is also listed in Best Lawyers, the oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession.
Parker, a founding partner of the firm, holds a Five Dragon rating from Law Dragon, their highest rating. This distinguished score is proof of his business savvy and dogged determination to obtain the best recovery for individual clients and those apart of mass tort litigations.
For someone who did everything he could to avoid college classes involving science or language, Parker finds it fascinating just how many of the important cases he has litigated involved conversing with top scientists on intricate issues in their fields. Some of the details are so exciting to him he often wakes up in the middle of the night to do research on a new point or idea he has developed.
Over the years, the complex litigation and the Executive and Steering Committees that Parker has been part of demonstrate the diversity and dynamics—and the far reaching national impact—of his mass tort litigation work and the way it has established Parker Waichman LLP as a major law firm on the national mass tort litigation scene.
Parker has contributed to several national, high profile cases such as the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing litigation; the mass tort litigation involving Fen-Phen, an anti-obesity medication linked to causing fatal pulmonary hypertension and heart valve problems, which resulted in legal damages of over $20 billion; the Rezulin litigation; the Zyprexa Multi-District litigation; the Ortho Evra Products Liability litigation; the Kugel Mesh Multi-District litigation; the Bausch & Lomb ReNu with MoistureLoc litigation; Vytorin Multi-District litigation; the toxic Chinese-Manufactured Drywall Multi-District litigation; and the Kaba Keyless Pushbutton Locks Multi-District litigation. The firm has been involved in dozens more.
With a staff of 110, Parker Waichman LLP has numerous practice areas and handles cases such as: Personal Injury, Car Accidents/Auto Injury, Medical Malpractice, an Appellate Department, Nursing Home Negligence and Abuse, Social Security/Disability, Mass Tort, Construction Defects, Product Liability, Diseases, Food Poisoning, Veteran’s Disability and Overtime and Wage Disputes.
Perhaps a bit like Forrest Gump making millions when he unknowingly invested in “some fruit company” which turned out to be Apple Computers, Parker was one of the nation’s first lawyers to advertise on the Internet when most of the nation did not know what it was. He and his partner, Herbert Waichman, met in law school and in 1993 began their firm in the basement of Parker’s home. Eventually, the firm expanded to a fourth and fifth floor office space and then to prime first floor space in the same office building with additional office space on the second floor. Their initial local advertising efforts were successful after joining a group television advertising company that routed leads from purchased zip codes. Parker and Waichman built an early clientele on what Parker calls “quickly resolved auto accident and trip and fall cases” from three zip codes. The duo soon decided to do their own ads in New York and New Jersey, where they are also licensed to practice.
By the mid-90s, they had grown to employ 10 lawyers and 50 support staff, but the firm’s real explosion was yet to come. At the time, Parker never realized how innovative he was by creating a simple website that years later would affect the growth of the firm. Currently, the firm has an incredible total of 250 running websites, all branched off from their initial (and still central) site www.yourlawyer.com. Though all the websites are geared towards drawing business to the firm, many are not focused on the law but rather informational sites often quoted by Google News.
“This is an important part in the history of the firm,” says Parker, “one night I was sitting up playing on AOL 1.0 and I thought we should have a website. I told Herb and he asked, ‘What’s a website?’ Herb said, (in 1994) ‘If someone gets in an accident in the South Bronx, are they going to their computer rather than the Yellow Pages to find a lawyer?’ I said, ‘Maybe,’ and my instincts paid off.”
Parker paid $500 for the firm’s first website and that year the site brought the firm eight cases. The firm then created a better website, and the next year, the website brought in 85 cases. Parker soon realized that if they created a database driven website for $25,000, the firm could do even better. That site, in 1997, coincided with www.yourlawyer.com, which became a flagship in the industry and set a standard for every personal injury attorney in the U.S. By 2009, the firm had outgrown its office space and began looking for new quarters – somewhere it could have all of its personnel and operations on one floor. After several false starts and negotiations, a 27,000 square foot building was purchased, completely gutted and renovated with state-of-the-art furnishings and equipment. In April, 2010, the firm moved into its new home.
People often get the wrong idea when they hear Parker once worked for the IRS, so he is always happy to set them straight. When he was an accounting and economics major at Queens College, the Brooklyn native enrolled in a 20-hour week internship as a special agent trainee with the Intelligence Division of the IRS where he focused on organized crime, political corruption and narcotics traffickers. The training program is usually three years; however, Parker was hired in two years, when he completed college.
“I wasn’t a tax collector,” he laughs, “but a Special Agent with the Treasury Department. My job involved investigating allegations of criminal wrongdoings. At the end of a 21-month investigation, we would decide whether to recommend criminal prosecution to the U.S. Attorney’s office. I would be assigned to work with the assistant U.S. Attorney on the cases we passed on to them, and often would be sitting alongside him while a specific case I had worked on was being tried. I found the exposure to the courtroom very interesting, and many of the cases my division worked on were cases that you would read about in the newspapers.”
Considering he was already married and was working steadily for the government for six years, Parker knew his decision to go to law school would involve sacrifice. He took the LSAT and was admitted to St. John’s School of Law, several blocks from his home in Queens which he attended at night. Jerry and Herbert met on the first night of law school and have been friends ever since. They formed their own study group, which met weekly, and would frequently continue their discussions regarding issues that came up in their studies on the telephone, late at night after classes. When Jerry graduated, he saw three career options: go into criminal tax defense work but as he says, “I didn’t want to go defend guys I had been prosecuting.” He inquired about a position with the U.S. Attorney, who told him that he would hire him after he gained one year of experience. Ultimately, Parker was glad the U.S. Attorney felt he was not then qualified for the job.
While he had taken electives in law school on personal injury and product liability, Parker’s venture into those areas came with the opportunity to join the personal injury law firm where his father-in-law, a former New York State Supreme Court justice, had just become a partner. Subsequently, Jerry was instrumental in helping his father-in-law build, develop and operate the new law firm.
Herbert, a New York City Police Department Lieutenant, graduated first in the class. Having received several employment offers from large law firms, Herb retired from the police force and went to work for Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. Not satisfied with the opportunities for trial work, Herb accepted a position as a trial attorney at the new firm Jerry was developing with this father-in-law.
One of the highlights of Jerry’s seven years with the firm (1985-1992), was a client who became the plaintiff in the first major Prozac litigation. In 1991, the firm represented Rhonda Hala, a New York secretary, who filed a $150 million lawsuit against Prozac manufacturer Eli Lilly charging that the drug had driven her to self-mutilate with razor sharp objects more than 150 times and to attempt suicide six times. Parker ultimately joined the Executive Committee of the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee, Prozac Multi-District Litigation No. 907. This was the case that first exposed the class of antidepressants known as SSRIs as a factor in suicidality, and ultimately brought about new class labeling as well as thousands of settlements by manufacturers of that class of drugs.
“Working with world-class scientists and researchers on many of the highest profile injury and product liability cases I handle takes me back to my Treasury days, when I did criminal investigations. Instead of investigating fraud, for instance, I’m trying to find the reason why different drugs cause strokes or heart attacks, why people are getting diabetes, or why different products designed to help people are failing. I’m proud to say that we’ve never worked on a mass tort case that was not successful, which means that we’ve never wasted our time, and our clients have been successful,” says Parker.
“Herb and I have come a long way from when we started with the idea of me being the managing partner and he being the trial guy. We set up shop with a secretary in the basement and looked at ourselves the first day and thought, ‘Wow, we have no cases. What do we do now?’ As excited as we are to have taken our firm so far onto the national scene, we are always eager to see who we can help achieve justice and a fair settlement.”
Jerry has been honored at the New York Families for Autistic Children Awards Ceremony with a Proclamation from the New York City Council (for outstanding service in the city and community); a Citation of Honor from the Office of the Borough President of Queens County; a Proclamation from the U.S. House of Representatives, signed by Congressman Anthony D. Weiner; and a Congressional Achievement Award (in recognition of his outstanding and invaluable service to the community) from the U.S. House of Representatives, signed by Congressman Gregory W. Meeks. He also received a Citation from the New York State Assembly, signed by Assemblywomen Audrey I. Pheffer, and a Proclamation from the New York State Senate, signed by State Senator Serphin R. Maltese, for his outstanding service to the community.
“What a ride it’s been. While there were some bumps in the road, there has been excitement, adventure and great satisfaction. One thing hasn’t changed though, and that’s the constant desire and effort to ensure that our clients receive the justice they are entitled to.”