Scott Rahn is the founding partner of RMO LLP, a national probate litigation law firm focused on representing beneficiaries, heirs executors and trustees in contested trust, estate and probate litigation matters and families and fiduciaries in contested conservatorships and guardianships. A frequent contributor to news media such as the BBC, Scott has been named to the Chambers and Partners “2022 High Net Worth Guide” and the “Best Lawyers in America” list by Best Lawyers. He has also been recognized as a “Top Litigator” by the Los Angeles Business Journal and a “Visionary” by the Los Angeles Times.
To Learn More about Scott, please see the links below:
- RMO Website: https://rmolawyers.com
- Scott’s LI: https://www.linkedin.com/in/scott-rahn-trust-estate-probate-litigator-7b71602
- RMO LI: https://www.linkedin.com/company/rmo-rahn-muntz-o’grady-llp
- RMO Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/probateandtrustlitigators
- RMO FB: https://www.facebook.com/RMOLawyers
And now here’s Scott Rahn.
Full transcript below
Video With Scott Rahn – Fixing Messed-Up Family Situations
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Podcast with Scott Rahn. Fixing Messed-Up Family Situations.
people, firm, case, client, scott, lawyer, thought, question, lawyers, family, probate, rural wisconsin, friends, fraud, big, law firm, community, college, bad, life
Scott Rahn, Mike Malatesta
Hey, Scott, welcome to the “How’d It Happen” podcast. You know I’ve been looking forward to this. You and I were introduced by Justin Breen, one of my favorite people and probably one of the world’s best connectors, I would say. He’s connected me to so many people. And he’s got a great new book out called Epic Life. Justin Breen. If you want to get his book, I’ve promoted it before. But anyway, Scott and I were introduced by Justin, we had a quite a nice call while I sort of peeled away from the Meachum Auto Auction a couple of weeks ago to get to know one another, and I think you’re gonna love this episode. So let me tell you a little bit about Scott. So Scott, is the founding partner of RMO LLP, a national probate litigation law firm focused on representing beneficiaries, heirs, executors and trustees in contested trust, estate and probate litigation matters, and families and fiduciaries in contested conservatorships and guardianships. So that’s a really big mouthful for most of you, because it definitely was a mouthful for me. So I’m going to distill that down. You tell me if I’m crazy with this, Scott, but in other words, he fixes messed-up family situations.
Scott Rahn 02:04
Thanks for having me, man. Is it a fair summation? Yeah.
Mike Malatesta 02:07
Okay, so Scott fixes messed-up family situations. He is a frequent contributor to news media, such as the BBC, and he’s been named to the Chambers and Partners 2022 High Net Worth Guide, and the Best Lawyers in America. He’s also been recognized as a top litigator by the Los Angeles Business Journal, and a visionary by the Los Angeles Times. Scott is based in California. And let me give you an example of some of the things that he does, this is from his website, RMOlawyers.com. So these are just some briefs, don’t mind if I go through a couple of these, Scott, sort of brief summaries of cases that he and his firm handle. This one says “Incapacity – secured a sizable judgment for an elderly woman whose deceased brother had been taken advantage of by an unscrupulous advisor. This one is titled “Fraud – led the investigation into a long-term multimillion dollar fraud committed against a wealthy middle eastern family, and one more “Undue Influence – unwound the undue influence of an interloping gardener and his caretaker wife. That’s like a movie there, a 94-year-old woman and secured the family home that she hadn’t intended for the client. And there’s a lot of there’s a lot of nasty family stuff going on out there, Scott.
Scott Rahn 03:33
Just family stuff, Mike, everybody has a family.
Mike Malatesta 03:37
Oh my gosh. So you can find out more about Scott at his website, which is our RMOlawyers.com. And you can find him on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, where do you like to hang out most, Scott?
Scott Rahn 03:55
We hang out everywhere. LinkedIn, our website is probably the best way to find us.
Mike Malatesta 04:00
Okay. So, Scott, I start every podcast with the same simple question. And that is, how’d it happen for you.
Scott Rahn 04:10
So great, loaded question. Like it’s an overnight success, 30-plus years in the making. You know, I wanted to be a lawyer ever since the fifth grade. It was either a lawyer or a fighter pilot, I think, as I had mentioned to you, and it’s pretty much the same thing, right? Just different stakes. All jokes aside, you know, the reality here is that I grew up in a small town in rural Wisconsin, and community and family meant everything to us. And I get a chance now in this life to help families that are struggling with dysfunction. They’re dealing with a loved one who’s compromised and needs a guardianship or conservatorship, If they’re fighting over that, or after they’ve lost a loved one, now they’re dealing with the dysfunction and learning what might have happened during their loved one’s lifetime that perhaps doesn’t accurately reflect their wishes. So, you know, that 30-year journey from farming and rural Wisconsin in that small community to helping families here in California. And we also have offices in Florida and Texas and Kansas. And Missouri. Really, it’s a combination of many things, but a career path that was meandering from that farming town to LA over these past many decades. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because I’ve learned so much about people that helps me relate to them in these cases, so that we can make sure that we’re not only adding to their bottom line, but really helping to ensure they have peace of mind at the end of their case.
Mike Malatesta 06:03
You use the word meandering. I’d like to go into that a little bit further. So from the time you were five, you wanted to be a lawyer or a fighter pilot. But as I recall, when you got out of high school, you kind of weren’t on a path for either one of those things.
Scott Rahn 06:24
No, no, no, not even close. Getting out of high school. I worked, you know, construction, pizza joints, factories, coming from a very blue-collar part of the country in rural Wisconsin, I grew up about a half an hour outside of Green Bay. You know, their kids didn’t go to college. At least nobody in my family really did. We had one of my uncle’s, my mom’s sister’s husband, who went to college as an adult. And, you know, my mom worked in factories. My dad was a mechanic and then later in life, a truck driver. He was a high school dropout. So college wasn’t really something that was talked about in my family. So you know, I did what we did after high school; you go to work. And it was at one of those factory jobs that I ran into my boss’s friend, who came to work with us for the summer to make a little summer money, he was going to UW Oshkosh to make some more money. And at the end of the summer, he kind of pulled me aside and said, you know, you need to do something with your life, go back to school. And that same fall, some of my friends were starting in junior colleges and my sister, my younger sister who always wanted to be a teacher since we were teeny tiny kids, she used to put the bears in the desk and you know, teach them, she was starting school. So I thought, well, you know, if these other people are doing it, I’m going to try it as well. And I started at Fox Valley Tech, I took a business math class, and there was a go-at-your-own-pace class. So I did that for two weeks. I think I finished the class in two weeks and thought this isn’t so bad. And I then applied to the junior college in town. It was the UW it was a UW Extension at the time, UW Fox Valley. And it all started there and continued to work and put myself through school waiting tables bartending, you know, whatever other jobs I could, I could use to scrape money to pay for rent and cars and insurance and all those other kinds of things and just kept to the path, kept putting one foot in front of the other went from that UW extension to the University of Wisconsin Madison, and ended up getting a dual degree in Spanish and international Latin American relations. With my I always pointed at law school and came to Southern California for law school and have been out here ever since. So it’s been that’s 26 years ago, I think since I first came out for the first time
Mike Malatesta 09:15
how long was it that you were you know, between high school and this person, you know, having this conversation with you and you taking the step to go to Fox Valley Technical School
Scott Rahn 09:28
to two and a half years I
Mike Malatesta 09:30
want to say okay, so a good period of time. It wasn’t just like, oh, try this work thing and then go back to college. It was
Scott Rahn 09:37
Oh man. Yeah, I remember when I had to take the AC T to go from the tech school to the junior college. I had never taken the LSAT or the pre LSAT or you know any of those tests and I took the AC t and I remember my scores were they were good, but my math score you know, it was it was the size of the Grand Canyon because I hadn’t done math for Right. Here’s what I remember some of the questions, you know, were extraordinarily
Mike Malatesta 10:06
difficult. You had to know a little math. Yeah.
Scott Rahn 10:10
Math, and I did not know a little math. Well, a little math
Mike Malatesta 10:14
on that. So in the while you were working was there before this person had a conversation with you? Like, well, I guess what I’m thinking, Scott is if this person didn’t have a conversation with you, and no one had that conversation with you? Can you? I mean, I know it’s hard to go back 26 years, or however long but what? It’s just always amazing to me, like the people you run into and the things you hear and the person who says that one thing to you, do you think that if that person hadn’t come along, you’d be somewhere else in life?
Scott Rahn 10:50
You know, it’s really hard to say my right, yeah, the whole sliding doors phenomenon, right. And, you know, I happen to hear him at the time. And, you know, if it had been a year before, when my friends weren’t starting to matriculate back into college, and if my sister wasn’t going to college that fall, I might have looked at it as a more insurmountable endeavor. But, you know, I had friends who were doing it, so why not? Right, I’ll try it. Yeah. And better to be lucky than good happened to, you know, become friends with, you know, somebody who would, who would influence you know, that direction in my life. And it was Paul very, very thankful for
Mike Malatesta 11:36
all my, so I didn’t have the same path. But when I, I did go directly to college, but I dropped out after a semester, and I had a job at the local parish cemetery where I grew up. And I did that because well, I’m, I guess I’m, same thing with me, I’m putting myself in 2022, you know, mindset of trying to figure out why I did that when I was 18. But I think I did that, because I just thought I’d had enough to school and having money in my pocket, even though it was modest. It felt like a lot to me, at the time. And my, the person that ran the cemetery was a brother. So not a priest, but a brother in the Catholic Church. And yeah, he sort of said the same thing to me after the summer. So I worked there, basically, all the way from January up through the summer. And he said, You know, I just don’t have room for another full time, kid who should be in college. So I think that’s what you should do is go back to college. And, and, and, and that’s what I ended up doing. But I, I just I I’m not sure if he hadn’t said that if I would have just kept doing it, because I liked the people there actually admired like, the foreman and stuff, because I thought he was cool. You know, he didn’t go to college, you know, and he was running the cemetery. You know, I thought, this is pretty good. And, and, you know, I’m saying I’m very thankful now that I that I had that experience, but that I went back, but it makes me think like to you, what was what? What was the what was your favorite thing you were doing while you were in that two? Plus year period? And could you see yourself doing something like that? Like, I can’t see myself working at a cemetery at 56? Like what I am now, but you know, who knows? Maybe it wasn’t that I didn’t dislike the work. But anyway, so I’m just curious for you. Yeah.
Scott Rahn 13:39
I mean, I think the my favorite thing was being you know, between 18 and 21 was just being free and having my independence. Yeah, I mean, I worked my tail off. I used to work, you know, double shifts at the factory. Right, I’d work at the pizza joint on the weekends, right. I mean, I was working hard to make as much money as I could, frankly. You know, so I could have I bought a nice truck, you know, I had, it was a used truck. It was a little Chevy S 10. But I loved it. I had a nice apartment, like my own apartment. I was just thinking about this the other day, and I was talking with one of my kids about, you know, how rich and lucky I felt I was making, I think $6 an hour you know, working my tail off. But you know, I had a pretty good life. You know, I had, I had a nice home, I was making, you know, a life for myself until, you know, somebody else stoked, you know, this fire to go and do something else.
Mike Malatesta 14:49
And when you said that when you know from a young age five or so I think you said you wanted to be a lawyer or a or a fighter pilot. Where did That so many kids, right? They have dreams when they’re kids, you know, I’m going to be a firefighter, I’m going to be a police officer, I’m going to be a lawyer, I’m going to be a doctor, I’m going to be an astronaut, whatever. And then, you know, by the time they get out of college or high school or into, you know, even into high school has dreams of sort of dropped off, and it sounds like yours kind of dropped off. And then, you know, reignited themselves later, what? What were you thinking about that made them? Like, what took that? And no, ambition is not the right word. But take that dream or what you thought as a five-year-old? What happened to it? For you?
Scott Rahn 15:41
That’s great question. I mean, I think, you know, I think I was heavily influenced by Hollywood, growing up in rural Wisconsin TV and movies, right? I mean, Top Gun, iron Eagle, you know, all those fighter jet. Movies were really popular when I was a kid. And I thought that was the coolest thing ever. And probably a lot of the legal shows that were popular around that time. I mean, I remember watching divorce court, you know, and yeah, you know, Waldner, obviously, People’s Court, la law was popular. Looking back on, you know, la law. Now, it’s, it’s not as, as glamorous when, you know, you know, how the, how the bread is baked. But I think those things were big influences on my perception of what was out there. Because you don’t really get exposed to it in small town, America. It has a lot of other advantages. Obviously, everything has its pluses and minuses. But that was for me, those were things that were reaches right outside my comfort zone outside my local community. So that was something that I was really interested in pursuing. And, you know, as I got older, and more people tell, you know, I remember my high school guidance counselor, I was talking to him about trying to go to the Air Force Academy, and his blanket response was, Oh, you’ll never get in there. Don’t waste your time. Right. And I was like, Oh, okay. Yeah, I mean, thinking about it. Now, as an adult, I’m like, Isn’t it your job to push people and, you know, try to help them? You know, without? I don’t know, I mean, there’s a sense of realism to that, too. But, you know, at the same time, you know, I look back on that and think, gosh, if I were a guidance counselor, and somebody said, Hey, this is what I want to do, I would hope I would give them a path to succeed as opposed to doing whatever, whatever are taking whatever opportunity, I had to squash their their dream,
Mike Malatesta 17:48
right, while taking the easy way out, to take it
Scott Rahn 17:51
easy. There’s no work if you if you didn’t dream, then you don’t have to help me figure out how to get there. Right. You know, he was also, you know, one of the assistant football coaches, and, you know, I think being the guidance counselor is one of five hats, the war, so I don’t think it was necessary, necessarily his calling. But you know, I think it’s those kinds of things, you know, as you get older, you know, a lot of people tell you, you can’t write, you can’t do this, you can’t do that. And, you know, for me, you know, we do a lot of mentoring at the firm, not only internally, but externally in our communities. And I love it when people are like, hey, my son, or daughter or my friend or my family friend, you know, they’re they want it, they want to go to law school, which will you talk to them? And I was like, yeah, absolutely. We need more good lawyers, right? There are enough bad lawyers out there that we have a plethora of bad lawyer jokes. I’m all for mentoring and bringing along the next generation of good lawyers, right, good people who want to do good work for people, right, that serves our communities. I’m always happy to champion and help those people figure out what their path is to be able to become a lawyer. Because I think it’s a, I think it’s a noble profession, I think you get a chance to help people in need. And so I strongly encourage and even if it’s not law, right, there are other opportunities, other paths? So sure, yeah, try it.
Mike Malatesta 19:18
This is an ignorant question. So I’ll preface it with that. But for you, what is the difference between a good and a bad lawyer?
Scott Rahn 19:27
I think perspective, really, and I’m thankful for all the perspective that I have from the the meandering path that I took to get here. But I think all too often lawyers lose sight of their client and what their clients goals are, whether those goals are achievable, and whether it makes sense for them to be pursuing those goals. And having those discussions right that bedside manner. I think a lot of lawyers are wonderful technicians, wonderful lawyers in the courtroom sense. But if you’re not helping your client achieve their goal in a way that it’s beneficial to them, are you really serving their best interests. And that’s, you know, we in the legal profession, there’s a term or terminology, zealous advocacy, right, you as a lawyer are supposed to be a zealous advocate for your client. And what we’ve done here at our firm is we’ve taken that and kind of put our own spin on it. And one of our core values is zealous efficacy, right, because we’ve seen over these past, you know, many, many, many decades, plenty of lawyers who are zealous advocates, but it’s not necessarily in their clients best interest. So we really try to discern from day one with the clients, what their goals are, right, and help educate them on whether those goals are achievable what it will take to achieve those goals. And whether this is a pursuit worth pursuing. Because I’ve seen innumerable cases where somebody gets something they, the lawyer wants, or the lawyer thinks the client wants, and it’s not what the client wants, it’s not an interest, or they’ve spent far too much time or money to get that result. And that’s not, you know, that’s just not how we’re wired. Right. Those aren’t the people that make up our team here. And so, you know, we just have a different approach.
Mike Malatesta 21:45
So it’s so if I’m summarizing what you said, their advocacy is admirable, but, you know, results or efficacy is, that’s, that’s what we’re in the game for. Right? That’s what the client deserves. And, you know, it’s, I feel like, and I don’t know what your model is, you could say after this, but I feel like the this whole model that a lot of law firms, especially corporate law, has, you know, where it’s billable hour, a billable hour, a billable hour? It as a client, you can’t help but sometimes think about what you just said, the advocacy versus efficacy, you know, it’s like, okay, I’m, we could do this. So, you know, so let’s do it. And I’ll bring this partner and that partner and this partner in this, and everybody’s billing you by the hour for that, you know, all that time, and you just think to yourself, Well, geez, you know, is is the pet? Yeah, like you say, is the efficacy, the right thing? Or should we really have had a conversation about what do we want to achieve here? And what’s the likelihood that we’re going to achieve it? Yep. And then, you know, then create a path. Maybe, yeah, and
Scott Rahn 22:59
we, I mean, we have those discussions with potential clients, existing clients, I dare say, every week, right, where somebody will call, they have a case, they you explore it with them, you vet it, you talk through it, and you end up telling them, you know, look, you know, this isn’t something that I would pursue, and we as a firm, you know, generally speaking, if we have all the facts, right, and we look at the case, and we don’t think it makes sense for the client, we’re not going to take the case, right, we’re not, we rail against and rally against bad lawyer jokes every day here, you know, we don’t want to continue to, to promulgate those things. Right. So, you know, other and I’ll tell people, you know, look, another lawyer might take your case, right, they might take your, you know, 510 $25,000 retainer, right, and get to the same point where they’re then going to tell you, you don’t have a case, we’re not going to do that. Right. At the end of the day, we all just need to be able to look ourselves in the mirror. Right? Right. Sure. You know, we like to say that, you know, we sleep very soundly at night, because we know we’re doing our business, right? And we’re trying to do what’s best for the client, even. And maybe this is antithetical to some law firms business model, right, but maybe it doesn’t add to our bottom line, but it does, you know, it has allowed us to grow this reputation in our community, of being people who do the right thing. We do good work, we’re good lawyers, we get good results, right? We know what we’re doing. We’re not afraid to try a case. And you know, you’re gonna get you’re gonna get a fair shake with us because we’re going to treat you like we would want to be treated if we were the client.
Mike Malatesta 24:51
And as I was listening to you go through that I kept thinking to myself, when most people that are in need of goodwill representation are in an emotional state. That isn’t, that isn’t conducive to doing your best thinking on your own. You know, they’re, they’re pissed off, or they’re, well, a lot of times they’re pissed off. They’re hurt. Yeah. And so they come and it’s like, yeah, we, you know, sure, yeah, we can do this, let’s do it, you know, and at the time you just consider like, it reminds me of, it’s gonna be a dumb example. But there’s like these emergency response companies, right? And something goes bad at your factory, or something goes bad at your home. And you’re desperate, right? And these people show up, and they’re like, Yeah, I can help you and I go, doesn’t matter what it cost. I just have to have this done, you know, and you go, okay, and then you do all the work. And then at the end, they get the bill. And they’re like, Well, wait a second. I didn’t know that. You know, you said you said whatever it takes, yeah, but I didn’t think it was gonna be much money. And it’s sort of the same thing, right? You don’t know what you’re getting into. But you’re just so emotionally charged that you think you’re right, right. You think you’re right. And if someone says, Yeah, you are right, and let’s make this right, then. You’re like, that’s like walking into? Yeah, that’s, that’s, that’s, yeah.
Scott Rahn 26:16
Yeah. And that’s, that’s largely the the people that we’re working with here, right. I mean, they’re their families, in some way, shape, or form these cases all touch upon family and family legacy. Yeah. And so when they come to you, whether somebody is compromised, you know, a loved one’s still alive, but they’re, they’re in a compromised position, or if somebody’s past and you find out that something untoward has happened, they are emotional, right? They’re, they’re scared, right? Because either their loved ones compromised, or they’ve passed, right, they’re hurting, they’re confused, right? They don’t understand these processes, they don’t understand how to address it. And it’s very easy for someone to say, you know, we’re going to go and we’re going to get the bad guys, right. And without really digging into whether they can do what they say they’re going to be able to do. And, you know, the last place I want to be is that, you know, someplace in a case where we have to say, you know, what we thought we were gonna be able to do for you, we can now that that doesn’t even happen to us. Right? When facts turn out to be different than what somebody thought the experience was right? I experienced this. But you know, the documents don’t collaborate that, yeah, you do end up in those situations. But we work really hard to make sure we’re not in those situations. And you know, I, one of my favorite anecdotes goes back to when I was at my previous firm, big law, my partner and I are both big law refugees, as as we like to say, having spent time at international law firms, but I was there interviewing a new client for a case and I was sitting with my, at the time, I think she was a 25 year paralegal, you know, she had seen a lot of things that had worked for a lot of a lot of the well known firms in our space. And we got to the end of the meeting, and the client signed up with us, and we were going to help her, her mom’s dentist had essentially stolen her estate while her mom was compromised. And after the client left, my paralegal looked at me and she said, Why did you do that? And I said, do what she said, Why did you tell the client all the bad things about our case? Because every case has some problems? Right? No cases? 100% good facts. So I walked through some of the bad facts and some of the things that were potentially not going to be helpful to our case. And she said, Why did you do that? And she said, I’ve been doing this for 2025 years. And I’ve sat in on multitudes of these meetings. And no one ever tells the client the bad things, they just tell the client, we’re gonna go and we’re going to kick a and take names, and we’re gonna go get them. And I said, we don’t do things that way. Right? You know, the client deserves to know what their case is and what their case isn’t. And if things are going to be hard or more expensive or take longer, they deserve to know that so they can make a well informed decision about what they want to do with their case, right near example, surf Pro is the company that comes to mind right, whenever there’s a there’s a flood or a disaster, right? They’re gonna come in with their big one, right? Yeah, yeah, they’re gonna come in with their giant vacuums, and they’re going to stop it all up, right and make your house almost as good as new. So, you know, in those situations where they’re just going to come in, and they’re going to save, you know, they’re going to spend days weeks whatever cleaning up your, your mess, right? If what they’re saving is worth $10,000 And they give you a $250,000 bill, you probably would have made a different decision. Exactly right. So you know, but it’s you know, it’s, it’s hard, it’s harder in this space, because you don’t always necessarily know where the cases are going to go. Right, you don’t know that bad facts are going to come out of, you know, a witness, you try to anticipate all of those things. But you know, none of us has a crystal ball. So you don’t know that the you know, your key witness is going to say, something, you know, they shouldn’t say, and this is why most cases, settle, because nobody has a crystal ball, you don’t know what the witnesses are actually going to say. You don’t know how the judge is going to perceive, you know, the the evidence, and one of the one of the retired probate judges that we like, you know, always tells the story about when, you know, as a judge, he related it to his visits to the dentist, and he said, You know, when he would go to the dentist, he would sit in the waiting room. And when he would go for some reason, General Hospital was always on. And the first couple of times he went, he really didn’t know what was going on, you know, in the episodes, but the more he went to the dentist, the more he was able to piece together little parts of the plot, right little parts of the story. And over time, he could kind of figure it out. But, you know, he didn’t really know what was going on. He said, that’s what it’s like to be a judge. Each side gives little pieces, little facts, and you kind of got to weave it all together. Right? And it may it’s not going to be the story they told you and it’s not going to be the story they told you it’s going to be somewhere in the middle. So it’s it’s
Mike Malatesta 31:38
interesting, that reminds me of that saying that people are really unreliable eyewitnesses. Yes. And not just of external things. They can be unreliable eye witnesses have their own experiences, right? Because brains pretty powerful. And it’ll remember what you want it to remember a lot of times, right?
Scott Rahn 32:02
There’s there was a consultant that we work with who says, you know that the eyes only see what the mind tells it to see.
Mike Malatesta 32:10
Yeah. So you so when you went to law school, did you know when was it that you decided or chose to to practice the kind of law that you do this sort of, you know, family messed up family. Last? Sorry, I keep coming back to that. But trust litigation, probate, you know, abuse, conservative, all dysfunction, so let’s put it that way.
Scott Rahn 32:39
Yeah, I’m gonna jump up here, like something over this light, just Okay. Sure. I’m sorry. I hadn’t mapped out the time of day that was going to
Mike Malatesta 33:02
believe me, I’ve learned that over time doing my podcast that you know, it’s just like, shoot, that’s not going to work at this time of the day.
Scott Rahn 33:11
So jumping back into your question. It was early on in my career, I was a second year associate at a great regional firm here in Los Angeles. And we did a lot of work for financial institutions. And one of our financial institution clients got dragged into a probate case. And my we didn’t do probate. So my, my mentor partner brought the case to me and said, It’s probate. It’s weird. You’re smart. You’ll figure it out. Good luck. And just let me run with it. And
Mike Malatesta 33:52
Scott, let me just interrupt you for a second probate means what for people who don’t know what probate means? Yeah.
Scott Rahn 33:57
Great. Great question. So probate essentially is the court that deals with elderly people’s claims for elder abuse, financial elder abuse, and deals with inheritance disputes. So Wills, trusts, contests, issues around an executor or trustee, breaching the duties that they owe to the beneficiaries and heirs. Those all get process through the probate DEPARTMENT OF THE CIVIL courthouse.
Mike Malatesta 34:29
So so I can go it can go anywhere, anywhere from you didn’t have a will to you know, the your grandparent grandmother signed a different will, you know, two weeks before she died. Yeah, okay. Got it.
Scott Rahn 34:45
Exactly. So and I was just I was taken by probate and the community that is the probate group of lawyers and professionals that service This sector a, you know, walked into court and everybody seemed to know each other. Everybody was very, very gentlemanly and lady like, as opposed to some other practice areas that can be pretty vicious. And what I found through that experience with that case was that it was a place where my values aligned with the community as far as being able to help people in a practice that was geared toward, frankly, honoring the legacies of our families. And it was really something that spoke to me. And over the course of the next many years, I just continue to steer my ship in that direction.
Mike Malatesta 35:58
And breaking away, starting your own firm, so you’re a lawyer, and you become an entrepreneur, what, what happens in your life that causes you to make that shift?
Scott Rahn 36:11
an out of body experience? In some ways. Yeah, so I was a partner at a multinational law firm, and we had had our partners retreat. And they had brought out, you know, one of the big bank consultants to do the big lights and loud music presentation about where the firm was heading. And the the takeaway for me was that the firm really was going to be chasing whales, you know, by whales, I mean, fortune 100, fortune 500. Companies, as opposed to a lot of the individual clients that make up the bread and butter of the trust in the state’s world. And I apologize, there’s something outside, I don’t know, if that’s bothering, I don’t hear it. Okay, it’s a helicopter. So looking at where the firm was headed, it was clear to me that my client base wasn’t something that the firm was going to be investing in pursuing. And so I started to look around in the community, at what other opportunities there might be for me to continue to build this practice. And I went to lunch with some friends from a a competitor firm. And one of the partners was trying to sell me on leaving big law and joining they’re smaller, firm. And she asked me the very poignant question of you know, where do you see yourself in five or 10 years? Do you see yourself at this big monolithic firm? Or would you? Would you want to be at a firm like ours? Or what would you want to do? And I just blurted out, running my own firm. And in that moment, you know, it was a body to a certain degree, because I stopped listening to the conversation and heard myself say that and thought that that is the answer, because I’d been looking for some time at what I what my next step was going to be. And it just became apparent in that conversation that that’s where, where I wanted to go, because, you know, at that point, my career, I was 15 years out practice, I had learned how to do a lot of things the right way, had a lot of trials and arbitrations and things under my belt already had a good reputation in the community. And I’d also learned how to not do things the wrong way, right, you know, some of the some of the bad lawyer jokes that I mentioned, and how to stay away from practicing that way. So I felt comfortable with my skill set, I felt comfortable with having a value proposition for the market, and being able to take care of people the way that I like to take care of people. And so I launched out, and it was not a riskless decision. I had three young kids at the time. A wife, my, we had lost my dad and my mom was living with us. So I was supporting a lot of a lot of people. And, you know, it was a decision that turned out to be, you know, the right one. Because I believe very strongly in what we’re doing and how we do it and how we take care of people, including the people at our firm. I think that you know, it was just boss’s day a couple of weeks ago, and you know, we had one of the team members, you know, got some a bunch of quotes and inputs for cards for you know, the leadership team and the things that people say about, you know, how we do things and what a joy it is to work with us. And you know how they love coming into work every day. You know, it’s I don’t think it’s common for a law firm to have, you know, that have created that kind of environment and really special and really, you know, a tip of the cap to how hard we try to really just take care of people. Because if you take care of people, and I really believe this, if you take care of people, everything else takes care of itself.
Mike Malatesta 40:33
That’s got to be super gratifying. Congratulations.
Scott Rahn 40:38
Thank you. Sorry about that.
Mike Malatesta 40:39
But it’s okay. When you say I have a couple of questions for you, when you had this out of body experience at this lunch, you said, you’ve been thinking about it, when you when you chose to really, you know, buckle down make the move? Was How is you know, you’re married? You got three young kids? How was the discussion about this with your wife? How did you know because that’s a that’s a it’s not just you, right? It’s a big? It’s a big thing. And I’m just curious how we did that make it easier, tougher? Well,
Scott Rahn 41:16
the to make a long story short, I’m divorced. Okay. But I don’t think that was the driving force in any way, shape, or form. There were other other elements at play. But there was support for it. I mean, obviously, you know, just like we do with our team. Now, you know, any relationship is based on communication, right? In, you know, a marriage is a partnership, just like a law firm partnership, or any other partnerships. So, you know, there was a lot of discussion leading up to the decision to launch out and do this. And, you know, I had the support of, of my now x and, you know, my mom, and the kids didn’t know well enough, they were excited about it. Sure, it was, but it’s, you know, it’s a decision that needs to be taken, you know, in consultation with the people that you care about.
Mike Malatesta 42:11
And that’s it. So, you know, for the people are listening, that’s like, there’s a obviously, I have no idea what’s going on in Scotts head at this time. But there’s an there’s, you all feel this, this is like a really big gravitational force when, especially when you have something that seems to be working really well, to stay put, even though you might have these aspirations about, you know, going out on your own or becoming an entrepreneur owning your own business, it’s, you know, three kids, family, mom at home, big job, I’m sure, you know, a lot of cachet around the name of the firm you’re working with and your own contribution to the firm. And it’s that’s like a not an easy thing. So you must have really been convinced that you’re not the need that you were built to serve? Was this as opposed to staying put that fair to say?
Scott Rahn 43:19
Yeah, I mean, I think going back to my meandering path, Mike is, you know, this notion that you bet on yourself. Right? That you have to believe in yourself and what you’re able to do, right, and what you know, what you need to do, to be to be successful, in your own mind, right to accomplish the things that you want to accomplish and to do things the way that you think they should be done.
Mike Malatesta 43:49
And, and getting back to what you said about the firm wanting to focus on where else can you I’m just curious about an example of what a whale would be sure. In this, you know, in your in the areas you practice?
Scott Rahn 44:02
Yeah, I’m gonna fix this later get a ball Okay. Sure. Hopefully takes care of it. Sorry about that. No worries. So, you know, in, in this area, you know, most of the bigger financial institutions and their trust companies would be a perfect example. And we, frankly, we represent a large number of them, right. We work with them in their fiduciary capacity as trustee or executor of large, you know, nine figure eight figure larger estates. But the reality is, is in this space, there’s only so many of those companies, right? There are only so many press companies that are doing this work. And the vast majority of this work is driven by families, rather, family, family friends, who are serving as fiduciary who are making the decisions around what’s going to happen with the administration of the trust estate or the probate estate, what’s going to happen if there’s a conservatorship, or if they’re Power of Attorney for a family member. So oftentimes, at larger institutions, those relationships with those individuals can cause conflicts that may result in a firm not being able to take on work for a larger company. So, you know, it’s really, you know, a lot of the individual work ends up trickling down to smaller firms like mine, where we’re able to take those clients on, because our business model, frankly, is built and directed at being able to service those families.
Mike Malatesta 45:48
And, you know, we went through a couple of examples near the beginning of the types of cases and outcomes that you’ve, you’ve managed, and it made me wonder, now, how much how frequently do you feel like a therapist in addition to, you know, an attorney, because I, you know, you just that people are just so vulnerable when they come to you, right? When they need your help, they’re vulnerable. So just curious how you feel about that me, maybe I’m wrong, maybe it’s not like that at all, I don’t know,
Scott Rahn 46:32
every day. Don’t freak out. And yeah, and it really is, it’s an important part of what we do, is being able to listen to people, right. Because if you’re not listening, if you’re not able to lead with empathy, which is our first core value here at the firm, if you’re not able to lead with empathy, you’re not going to hear what people really have to say, you know, a good friend, who’s now a retired lawyer and a mediator, he likes to tell this anecdote about how when he was a younger lawyer, you know, he used to sit and go through his list of questions anytime he was in taking a new client. And the client would come in wanting to tell their story. And he would just say, you know, look, I’m gonna ask you all these questions. And if there’s anything else, you need to tell me at the end, telling me, but this is what I need to know. And he would go through that. And then he, he came to realize over a period of time, that every once in a while he would run into an issue with a client where, you know, he would say, Why didn’t you tell me that? And they would say, Well, you didn’t ask, right, because it wasn’t on his list of questions. And he quickly learned after those experiences, that you have to let people tell you, right, what happened? Because your questions, they may not hear them in the way that triggers that response. So for us being able to hear people, right and having people on this team, who, to a person cares what people have to say, right? Not only for the fact gathering, but because the client needs to feel heard. Right. And I think the single biggest compliment that we get often is, after that first sit down, sometimes after the first phone call, and the client says, I feel so relieved, and you see the color back to the end of their face, you see their shoulders drop, and they know that you’ve got them, right, somebody’s got them, somebody’s going to help them. Right. And there’s a path for whatever this dysfunction is that they’re going through. There’s an end in sight, right? And someone’s going to help them get there. And that is incredibly rewarding. That is
Mike Malatesta 48:51
a very interesting anecdote you shared about the list, the guy with the list, you know, because in that, it made me think like, I, I’ve got, I have this all figured out, I know what I need to know. So you just, it’s like being in school. You know, here’s what I’m teaching. You take it and then it’s like, yeah, yeah, people don’t like that at all people.
Scott Rahn 49:15
That’s not how that’s not how we function. Yeah, right. Yeah, we don’t operate on a q&a basis. It’s conversational, and it has, you can still get to your list if there are things that are missed, but you have to let the conversation flow the way that it should naturally.
Mike Malatesta 49:33
I always think lists of questions are best when no one knows that you’re working off of a list. Yes. Right. It’s just like you say, We’re just having a conversation, you get to everything that you want to ask, but you, you it’s not like 12345 Yeah, that’s it. So the things that I went over, and we’ve talked a little bit about are you know when things go bad, so what about And when people go bad, but what’s it? How frequently? And I guess I’m trying to get to, you know, for the audience, like, what are the mistakes that you see people make, but they’re planning? And how frequently is it a mistake that was made with the planning? Whether it’s an estate or you know, whatever will whatever that leads to the problem, Scott, as opposed to in your, in your practice, as opposed to everything was tied, they just got wrapped up with a bad person.
Scott Rahn 50:32
The vast majority of the cases out of the ladder is That’s right. Okay, it’s relatively infrequent that there is an issue with the estate planning, because the documents weren’t done right, or somebody didn’t sign or they were supposed to or sign the right document, or the plan wasn’t executed the way that it was intended. It’s generally that there is some sort of intervening factor, whether it’s undue influence, capacity, fraud, elder abuse, you know, it’s generally those issues that lead to these kinds of cases.
Mike Malatesta 51:14
In so in that case, why would someone come to you as opposed to going to, like a criminal attorney or to the authorities or, or whatever, because it’d be nice, some of these people are committing crimes, it sounds like to me, I mean, fraud is a crime. Right? It is.
Scott Rahn 51:33
I mean, there’s Yeah, the reality is, is, this is the only type of work that we do. So dealing with inheritance disputes, elder abuse, and the issues that, you know, are part and parcel of these cases, it’s all we do all day, every day. So we know these cases inside and out. And we can very quickly, efficiently cost effectively analyze situations. And conversely, you know, our district’s attorney, the elder abuse services that are available Adult Protective Services, they’re frankly just overwhelmed, understaffed, under resourced. And more often than not, if you go to the police, because your elder is being abused or being taken advantage of, more often than not, you’re going to be told that it’s a civil matter. It’s a civil dispute. And, you know, go hire a lawyer. So the reality is, is the the resources that are available, the people, the public resources, that are available, that people generally are not going to get you to the place where you want to be. So we are the resource when it comes to, you know, straightening these things out.
Mike Malatesta 52:54
Okay. Even in fraud, even if they steal, I just wonder about, well, how many kids do sometimes after you’re done with them, do they? You know, this, they face other consequences? I mean, you can get a judgment against them. But yeah, yeah,
Scott Rahn 53:11
I mean, we’ve we’ve been party to cases where people have lost their professional licenses for stealing from old people. And we work with a retired district attorney who is the head of the elder abuse division of his office when he was still practicing. And we consult with him on cases where we think it should be referred to a district attorney. But most of the time, in those cases, were pursuing the evidence as part of our case, so that we can put a package together for the district attorney to consider whether they want to prosecute or not, so okay, we’re doing the legwork. Because unless you’re going to present that case, to the district attorney, they may not have the resources to do it themselves. So we can do it on the private side, in consultation with the district attorney and put it in a place where they can perhaps do something more than what what we can do.
Mike Malatesta 54:11
So if, you know save, this hasn’t happened to someone that haven’t had this type of thing, but they you know, they got their estate, whatever, you know, drawn up, it’s in place, it’s solid, right? These are all sort of everything we’ve talked about is sort of a you know, meeting the wrong person at the wrong time. Set a meeting the right person at the right at the right time. How do you advise people or how would you advise your How would you advise me like with my, you know, how not to get put myself in a situation where I get taken advantage of the need, you know, someone, someone like you to tell, unwind me or fix it. Now,
Scott Rahn 54:51
you know, keep open lines of communication with the people that you care about and care about you. Right and goes back to that whole idea of of community, you know, the easiest way to protect yourself is to surround yourself with people who are going to help protect you. You know, they’re going to, they’re going to question, you know, why is Mike suddenly running around with, you know, his H fat guy? Like, why is, you know, why is his you know, new friend, you know, going to the ATM every day? Right? Those kinds of things, the people who are gonna question who the other people in your life are. And you know, we always say, you know, stay with regards to our loved ones, our elder loved ones particularly, you know, stay involved, stay vigilant, right, stay engaged, because it’s usually the elders who don’t have family, right, or whose family has abandoned them who become subject to this kind of fraud. And they’re the ones who are victimized because they’re easy targets, because who’s watching?
Mike Malatesta 55:57
Yeah. Yeah, Mom, it’s not a good idea to go to the dentist every week to get your teeth cleaned. There’s something going on there. Something’s wrong. Yes, yes. Well, I think the work you do is fascinating. I’m a little disturbed, that it’s needed as much as it as it is, because it does, doesn’t speak well to humanity.
Scott Rahn 56:22
is these are stories as old as man. Yeah, you’re right. They’re biblical. And with the aging demographic with, you know, the boomers maturing, you know, there’s only going to be more of it. So, you know, we continue to position ourselves in the market to be available to as many people as we can possibly help. And it’s difficult because finding people who do things, the way that we do them and take care of people, the way we take care of people is hard. But it’s something we feel very strongly about, and we want to be there. You know, we want to be able to support, you know, our communities and anywhere that we can be of assistance and add value to people’s lives. You want to be able to do that.
Mike Malatesta 57:09
You’ve mentioned your core values a couple of times, Scott, and I’m curious when people come to interview for the firm, because I’m sure it’s competitive, like everything, what, what is, what is the value proposition that you put in front of people, that’s different than saying even another firm that does what you do or another opportunity that they might have somewhere else? Yeah,
Scott Rahn 57:35
great question. I just want to say this, I think what we’ve built is special. And I think the people who are part of our family think it’s special. And it’s special, because we take care of each other. You know, lawyering is hard. Working in a law firm is hard. You’re dealing with, you know, emotional issues, emotional clients, you know, judges who make decisions, you may not agree with opposing counsel who can be difficult, their clients who can be even more difficult. And, you know, we have done a lot of things here to let people know that this is a safe place, right? RMO is a safe place. You know, we don’t have any yellers or screamers, or people who are going to undermine you or make your day more difficult. You know, we’re all here, you know, stronger together is one of our other core values. And it’s really, we define it as we’re here to elevate and celebrate each other. You know, because I’ve worked in places and a lot of us have where, you know, people don’t look at it that way. They’re looking at it, like, you know, how do I get mine? And how, if that means you don’t get yours? Wow, that’s too bad. You know, we rise and fall as a team here. And, you know, I think we’ve, you know, I think the people that we allow, you know, into the fold, share those values, and we do a really intentional job of making sure those are the people that, you know, come in through the doors, and that we’re all doing our part to help elevate and celebrate each other.
Mike Malatesta 59:20
And I believe that too. I mean, just listening to you for the last hour. I mean, it’s, you walk the walk, man, you. This is purpose built. lawyering, this is really purpose-built learning. Watson. So you have these you have locations throughout California. You’re in Kansas City, Miami, Houston. Are those the only states that you practicing? Or could you practice everywhere? While I’m trying to direct people the right way here?
Scott Rahn 59:54
Yeah. So those are the only states that we’re currently licensed in, you know where continuing to look where are in the market for good people who share our values and do things the way we do things and take care of people the way we take care of them. And for those markets that we’re not in yet, we’re always happy to take the call and try to help people find someone who can help them. It’s not you know, it even for the areas where we don’t have an office yet, you know, we still generally know who the good people are, and we like to pay it forward. So we’ll take the time to find out what your case is about and try to connect you with somebody who can help you so you know, whether we’re in your neighborhood or not, feel free to reach out and we’re happy to try to help you.
Mike Malatesta 1:00:40
Okay, so if you’re in California, Florida, Kansas, Houston, Texas, it those are the four right now. And Missouri, Missouri. So not Kansas, but Missouri, Kansas City, Kansas, Kansas and Missouri. I always get confused because Kansas, Kansas
Scott Rahn 1:01:00
border and licensing both.
Mike Malatesta 1:01:03
Okay. So if you’re in one of those states, and you have this family situation, context, Scott, contact his team at RMO lawyers.com. And even if you’re not, he just opened the door. He said, If you’ve got something, and he or someone at his firm could be helpful, steer you in the right direction, give you a path until they can represent you and your state. That’s like, I would reach out I would, I would do that. Right? Because this guy and his team obviously know what they’re doing. Scott, is there anything else you want to leave us with before we end the podcast today?
Scott Rahn 1:01:46
No, I just really appreciate the opportunity, Mike to come on and talk about the good stuff that we’re doing. It’s important. And, you know, I just I’m thankful. So thank you
Mike Malatesta 1:01:59
know, my pleasure, Scott, thank you so much for joining me and it’s been a great hour and now you’re off to get five kids doing all kinds of different things. So, enjoy the rest of your day and we’ll talk soon. Thanks, bye.