Attorney Jim Poe has a strong advantage when it comes to representing medical malpractice and other injury victims against insurance companies: before becoming a plaintiff’s lawyer, he worked for the other side.
“Having worked for insurance companies gives me a lot of insight into what’s important to them in their assessment of liability and damages,” he says. “If you’ve been protecting the henhouse, you know how to attack it.”
After obtaining his J.D. from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1974, Jim began his legal career by joining the defense firm of Swift, Currie, McGee & Hiers, where he practiced for eight years, making partner after five. He was then one of a group of eight Swift Currie partners that decided to form the law firm of Drew, Eckl & Farnham. At Drew, Eckl and Farnham, Jim continued to handle insurance defense cases, but also started to take on a number of larger plaintiff’s cases.
As time passed, Jim found that he much preferred representing injured plaintiffs. In 2003, he set up his own practice focusing on medical malpractice and other personal injury and wrongful death cases. His son, Matt, joined the practice in 2010.
Collegiate Debate Experience Helped Build Persuasion Skills
Most cases settle, but when Jim is in the courtroom he draws upon his years of experience and his skills as a debater. When he was an undergraduate at the University of Virginia in the late 1960s, he was on the school’s intercollegiate debate team. During his second year as a law student at the University of Georgia, Jim won both the Richard B. Russell Moot Court competition and the Southern Intercollegiate Moot Court Competition. During his third year, Jim was named to the School’s National Moot Court team, which won the regional competition and progressed to the national competition. Jim’s performance during these competitions earned him the highest individual awards in each of the Russell, Southern Intercollegiate, and 1973 Regional competitions.
“I’ve always enjoyed being on my feet and the challenge of persuasion,” he says.
But more important, he believes, is his knowledge of how the other side — the lawyers representing the insurance companies — evaluate cases and testimony. It’s an understanding that has proven invaluable in guiding him to identify which cases are winnable and which are not.
“There are many factors which can impact the defense assessment of liability and their evaluations of damages,” he says. “It is our role to recognize those factors and gather effective evidence that will convince jurors both that our client has been harmed, and that the defendants are responsible.”
In addition to negotiating many large settlements, Jim has won a number of sizable victories at trial, and has defended those verdicts as lead counsel in more than 40 appeals before the Georgia Court of Appeals, the Georgia Supreme Court and the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the 5th and 11th Circuits. He has held Martindale-Hubbell’s top AV lawyer rating for more than 25 years. He also been named to Super Lawyers for the past seven years.
Finding Joy in Variety of Client Cases
Jim Poe’s professional accomplishments have been rewarding, but the aspect of practicing law that he finds most fulfilling is the diversity of clients he helps and the challenges of their legal claims.
“I love the variety,” he says. “You meet an awful lot of fascinating and interesting people and you learn something new every day.”
When he’s not practicing law, Jim likes to unwind by getting his hands dirty in his garden — he grows a wide variety of fruit and vegetables — and he is also a beekeeper. He gives away most of the produce he raises and enjoys bottling up his bees’ honey and giving it to clients and colleagues as Christmas presents.
“There’s a certainty in gardening that doesn’t exist in law,” he says. “Seventy days after you plant the tomatoes, you know you’re going to get tomatoes. With litigation, there is no certainty. It’s nice to have some part of your life that’s certain and on a calendar, because most things don’t work that way. It’s my therapy patch.”