An Interview with Attorney Jonathan O’Steen, President of the Arizona Association for Justice
See Jonathan Negretti’s full interview with attorney Jonathan O’Steen, which was conducted as part of Negretti & Associates’ Legal Beagle Podcast.
Jonathan “Jon” V. O’Steen is an incredible trial attorney who has advocated for injury victims for the past 15 years. Recently, he assumed the position of president of the Arizona Association for Justice (also known as the “AAJ,” and formerly known as the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association) — the largest group of plaintiff’s trial attorneys in the state of Arizona.
As part of Negretti & Associates’ Legal Beagle Podcast, Jonathan Negretti had a virtual visit with O’Steen to learn more about trial work, what AAJ is doing to help the community, and what he thinks is the biggest threat to plaintiff attorneys. Below is an excerpt of their conversation. See the video above for the full interview, and visit vanosteen.com to learn more about O’Steen’s work.
Jonathan Negretti: Jon, do you love to win or hate to fail more?
Jon O’Steen: I remember reading Andre Agassi’s autobiography, Open — and if you haven’t read it, I’d highly recommend it. But one thing that really struck out to me in that book was his statement that the losses stung far worse than the joy that he experienced from wins.
Jonathan Negretti: Other than Agassi’s book, what other books would you recommend that every trial attorney read?
Jon O’Steen: My favorite book is Polarizing the Case [by Rick Friedman]. I read that book before every trial.
Jonathan Negretti: Who do you admire in this profession?
Jon O’Steen: Geoff Trachtenberg would be probably at the top of my list. He has built a tremendously successful practice, which in and of itself is challenging. But I look at what he has done generally for the community. It’s pretty inspiring what he has done to make this a better place.
Jonathan Negretti: How do you respond to people when they call injury attorneys “ambulance chasers?”
Jon O’Steen: I just laugh. You know, I think people are quick to criticize attorneys until they need one. I’ve yet to have a client tell me that I’m an ambulance chaser.
Jonathan Negretti: Can you tell me a little bit more about Arizona Association for Justice — its mission and your ascension to the role of president?
Jon O’Steen: What we’re out to do is preserve the right to a jury trial and ensure that people who are harmed by the wrongdoing of people, corporations, and governments have a civil justice system that is prepared and equipped to meet their needs.
One of the things that I really appreciate about the civil justice system is that it is the one area where a person who doesn’t have resources and doesn’t have an education can stand toe to toe with the biggest of corporations in the world. That doesn’t happen in our other branches of government.
At the end of the day in Arizona, we’re going to be judged by eight jurors in our civil justice system. And I think that one of the things that’s really scary for corporations is that they don’t have the control. They can’t buy off a politician. They can’t buy off a judge. They can’t buy off the jury.
Jonathan Negretti: Do you believe in the good of a jury?
Jon O’Steen: Yeah, I think that juries can be a little more predictable than we give them credit for, and my experience with jurors is that they want to do the right thing.
Jonathan Negretti: What are some mistakes that you see young attorneys making?
Jon O’Steen: I think the biggest mistake that young attorneys will make from time to time is being somebody who they’re not. I think it’s important to really hone your skills and understand what your personality is and embrace that when you go to trial.
Jonathan Negretti: When you ask a jury for a big verdict, how have you made it less awkward to talk about money?
Jon O’Steen: I think any time you’re asking somebody for money, it’s an awkward situation. You have to be comfortable at it, though. If you’re nervous when you’re asking for that money, a jury is going to recognize that and they’re going to attribute things to your nervousness that may not be legitimate, like, “He’s asking for too much money because he’s nervous.” It is something that ultimately you have to be comfortable with.
Jonathan Negretti: Finish this sentence for me. The biggest challenge facing personal injury attorneys today is …
Jon O’Steen: A recent change to our ethical rules that will allow non-lawyers to own law firms. The idea was sold to the public as being necessary to expand the availability of resources to underprivileged or underserved populations in Arizona. I simply don’t agree that allowing non-lawyers to own law firms is what’s going to solve that.
The reality is that the person who lives in Kingman, Arizona, is in a bad situation, and has a potential claim against his landlord — those aren’t the cases where hedge funds want to jump in and provide assistance to.