Andy Siegel maintains a special commitment to representing survivors of traumatic brain injury in his practice of law. He is on the Board of Directors of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association and of the Brain Injury Association of New York State. His many trial successes have regularly placed those outcomes among the “Top 100 Verdicts” reported in the state annually. A graduate of Tulane University and Brooklyn Law School, he now lives outside of the greater NYC area.
Andy Siegel is also the author of several adventurous legal thrillers, three of which are newly released today.
A Time with the Author
In your bio you twice mention your “sense of justice.” What does that mean, and how does it affect your work as a lawyer and a novelist?
My sense of justice is an internal feeling I get when my hard-fought legal efforts have resulted in achieving an outcome I know to be more than fair and reasonable. And … the resolution leaves my client with an impression of satisfactory closure. As a novelist, I create good versus evil and/or David versus Goliath scenarios in my stories. So I believe a sense of justice is attained for my eponymous character when the readers find themselves viewing Tug Wyler as an ambulance chaser they can root for.
What is the civil justice system?
The best and only game in town. Where people can come under one roof and address real grievances in a civilized way, judged by members of their own community. I’ve never considered any area of law other than personal injury, embracing the fact that the media likes to poke fun at guys like me. Any related scene you’ve ever viewed in a movie or on television will show a guy in a neck brace, representing a scammer of the system. I get it and appreciate its humor too. I mean, just look at the home page of my andysiegel.com website. It reads: “Finally, an ambulance chaser you can root for …”
But I specialize in injury cases involving traumatic brain insult. My commitment to these individuals extends beyond the courthouse walls, as I sit on the Board of Directors of the Brain Injury Association of New York State. I represent real people whose lives, and those of their families’ lives, have been tragically altered in a nanosecond of negligent conduct. I try to make life easier for those folks who—through no fault of their own face a future long in challenges. For some, that challenge is just getting out of bed in the morning.
You strike me as a natural storyteller. Name the similarities of trials, cases, and victims to storytelling.
Each has a beginning, middle, and an end. It’s that simple. But, if you’re going to be a storytelling novelist, you also need an audience. In court, my audience is captive, with a court officer keeping them in that jury box until their service is over.
You stated “Justice is something you shouldn’t have to compete for, … but it is.” In light of this statement, what are the flaws of the adversarial nature of the justice system?
The flaws are not in the system per se but rather in the manner in which an injured individual selects and hires their lawyer. People spend hours and hours researching what car they’re going to buy, but that same person will hire any accident lawyer upon the recommendation of a friend—or even a friend of a friend—without doing any due diligence. The fact of the matter is, not every lawyer has the requisite knowledge and experience to handle cases of significant proportion. Especially when it comes to traumatic brain injury (TBI), an area I have a compassionate interest in.
And I’m not the “right guy” for every TBI survivor with a lawsuit. There has to be a particular connection between the attorney and the client in these matters for things to be holistic. For a greater understanding of the message I’m hoping to share here visit: http://tbihelpline.com/traumatic-brain-injury-lawyer-new-york/, which memorializes a lecture I gave at the annual conference of the Brain Injury Association of New York State called the“Dos and Don’ts of Hiring a TBI Lawyer.”
And what I mean by “justice is something you shouldn’t have to compete for” is that your case will only be as good as the lawyer you hire. If the other side has a better lawyer, then you may lose that competition for justice.
Who is Tug Wyler?
Part me, part my alter ego. But you knew that already. However, I live in the real world and not a fictional one, so I’m unable to follow Tug Wyler’s model as he goes about representing his clients in such an antic, creative, and risk-taking way.
What motivates him?
What keeps Tug digging deeper and deeper into the circumstances giving rise to his legal retention is his compulsion, like mine, to make the system work for the injured victim, an outcome the big insurance companies vigorously resist. Please remember, as I always do, that there’s no one type of victim. We’re all vulnerable.
Do you have any other creative ideas for books besides the Tug Wyler series?
Easiest question of the bunch. No. Every single word in the Tug Wyler Mystery Series is derived from, inspired by, and influenced by each and every legal case I’ve handled over the years. I write from a true insider’s perspective. So, I’m not very confident that I could write an engaging book outside of this series. I have written a screenplay though …
How did you go from “not knowing what you wanted to do” to Brooklyn Law School?
My college roommate made a very compelling argument in support, stating, “Hey, let’s go to law school. Let’s be lawyers, get a JD degree. Knowledge is power. Power is king, and we’ll command respect from our peers. Respect.”
Sounded good to me. My only plan at that moment was a decision whether to get a Domilise’s hot sausage po’boy or to go to the Camellia Grill for a piece of pecan pie. I recall being stretched out on our disgusting couch, sore from lacrosse practice, thinking how I needed to investigate this lawyer thing a bit more, already knowing exactly who I needed to speak to: my childhood next-door neighbor Jack B. Weinstein, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, appointed by President Lyndon Johnson.
As I grew up, Jack had taught me a lot of useful stuff over the years—how to change a flat tire on my bike, how to bait a hook and scale a fish, and how to use a lock wrench, among many other things. One day on college break, I walked down his driveway. He gave me his patented smile and said, “Back from New Orleans. Great, here.” He handed me a potato sack and a broomstick. Jack, for certain, was the only person in Great Neck, Long Island, who owned a potato sack.
Anyway, he led me to his fenced-in garden, which was on a narrow tract of land between the Long Island Sound and the Library Pond, where I asked what the sack and the stick were for. He responded with a pointed finger. What I saw was a gaggle of Canadian geese swimming in the Library Pond.
“And?” was my next question, which led to his second finger point. A gosling was stuck in his garden, trying to get out by repeatedly attempting to jump through one of the square openings in the wire fence. Unfortunately the little guy was too big to get through, and, with each jump, he scraped the top of his head on the wire, which wound was now bloody and deep. “Jack, why don’t I just pick him up and put him over?”
He responded, “Go stand in front of the fence, and, when I pick up that chick, you ward off mama goose with the stick and the sack.”
I gave him a curious look, which was met with a You’ll understand in a moment expression. The one thing I knew about Jack was that he was always right, so I didn’t question him and took my position.
Jack asked, “Ready?”I nodded, and, when he went to pick up the tiny frightened chick, it began squeaking some alarm call. This cry for help caused mama goose to take off like a high-powered fighter seaplane on a dive-bombing mission, flying straight at my head at forty miles per hour. Barely fending her off, I screamed, “What the fuck, Jack?” realizing I had just sworn at the highest and most prestigious federal judge in New York State. Turning back to him, I saw that little ball of fluff was in the exact same place it had been before the mom took her run at me. Unnerved, I asked, “What’s up?” Jack responded, “I couldn’t get a grip on him.” Now I’m not one to take issue with a famous federal judge—and famous he was—but I did strongly urge him to get a hold next round, which didn’t happen until after four more attempts and close encounters with a highly protective and dangerous mama goose.
Recovering from our confrontation, we found ourselves sitting on a bench, facing the Long Island Sound, next to his rowboat. Over the years, Jack and I had had several conversations on this bench, but this was the most important one. I said, “Jack, I’m thinking of going to law school. Why’d you go?”
He responded, “I didn’t know what to do next.” That was good enough for me. He added, “I’d be happy to write a recommendation but don’t apply to Columbia Law School.”
I said, “Thanks, but why not Columbia?” He didn’t hesitate. “Because you’ll get in, but you’re not qualified.” He of course was right again.
Long story short, my roommate didn’t show up for the LSAT test or apply to law school, but I owe him dearly for that “knowledge is power” speech, for that conversation propelled me to go to law school. I will add that I love what I do.