As part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Samuel H. Pond, Esq., a Founding and Managing Partner of Pond Lehocky Giordano, one of the largest workers’ compensation and disability law firms in Pennsylvania. A former president of the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association, Mr. Pond served for six years as treasurer of that organization’s Committee for a Better Tomorrow. He has previously served in leadership roles for numerous organizations, including the Chair of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Workers’ Compensation Section and a member of the Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. I know that you are a very busy person. Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you grew up?
Where I came from and how I was raised has defined my view of the world and has driven me to stand against injustice and fight for American workers. I grew up in Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood. You could say I’m about as Philadelphia as they come. I went to Drexel University for my undergraduate degree and Temple School of Law, where I teach currently. I worked at iconic Philadelphia companies, including Tastykake Baking, Schmitt’s Brewing, and The Philadelphia Inquirer. I also come from proud union roots. My first job was as a union laborer on a pipeline when I was 17 years old. Both of my parents suffered work injuries due to their jobs, but there was no investigation. After working for 35 years as a machinist at the Philadelphia Gas Works, my father was denied his pension. My mother developed cancer after working in a dry-cleaning factory and passed away. Our family did not receive any death benefits following my parents’ passing, and it was an injustice I felt compelled to right. It inspired me to become a trial lawyer and fight for hard-working Americans like my parents who deserve justice.
What were your early inspirations that set you off on your particular journey?
I knew early on that workers’ compensation would allow me to be constantly in depositions or court. I didn’t mind doing research or writing, but I’ve always known that being in the courtroom was where I was meant to be. Having spent a lot time boxing, I always analogized boxing in the ring to being in the courtroom against an opponent. Like a champion boxer fighting against his opponent, fighting against the injustices of the world is just something that comes natural to me.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I’ve been practicing law for so long, I’m not quite sure I can remember the funniest mistake. I can tell you that I have made mistakes in the business and practice of law; however, my and my Firm’s attitude is to accept them as blessings and learning experiences.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I always associate having a lot of my successes with my wife whom I met in first grade and has constantly supported me throughout my legal career. I also am thankful for the people around me who have believed in me, my career, and the profession. There are many in the Philadelphia trial lawyer industry whom I look up to and who have always been there to lend a helping hand. I am forever grateful for the help that I have received along my journey. It’s important to have people who advocate for you, support and mentor you early on in your career.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
I was so excited to practice law and represent clients that I didn’t look at things as challenges. Although, leaving my first firm was an extremely hard time because I had never been through any kind of divorce or separation from a person or an organization for which I cared that much. For me that was a very emotional and challenging 10 weeks. However, after leaving that old firm, I start my own law firm, Pond Lehocky Giordano, with my partners Jerry Lehocky and Thomas Giordano, Jr. Like myself, they are passionate about providing holistic care and legal help to injured and disabled Americans. We fight the insurance companies to get workers the benefits they deserve, and we won’t stop until all workers are protected and have equal and fair workplace rights.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Continuing through hard times is just a duty and responsibility each person has to themselves and the people around them. How I was raised also shaped my determination and dedication to get through hard times. I have developed a mindset of looking at challenges as opportunities. The experiences that have tempered me have given me greater mettle to address the challenges of life. The profession I have chosen is an extremely difficult profession. I often say how the profession of law is a jealous mistress, and you are either all in or you aren’t. Moreover, resilience is often underestimated. Thinking back to boxing, I learned that keeping your head down, working hard, being humble and respectful, putting the time and preparation in, and taking your licks happens and is a part of life, but what matters is getting back up and continuing to fight for what you believe in. I know that’s a metaphor, but it really does separate the weak from the resilient.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Philly is known for its grit. We even have Gritty the mascot. As a Philadelphian, I was born with grit in my blood. It’s what drives me and the attorneys at my Firm to stand up against the goliath insurance companies. We don’t back down from doing what’s right. My partners and I always say, “we will never stop fighting for our clients,” and it’s true. We will do whatever it takes to help hard-working Americans who have been injured while at work or suffering from disabilities. Our clients are people have also have grit, dedicating their lives to their careers. They deserve to have workplace rights. It’s at the mission of who we are. That’s why we are Official Partners with the Philadelphia Eagles, because like the Eagles, we don’t back down when times get hard. We thrive on grit and will come out stronger than ever.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What makes our company and our Firm stand out is basically our client service, our community efforts through our “Pond Lehocky Community” arm. We help injured and disabled clients who are at the lowest point in their lives. They have gone through financial hardship, they have lost their jobs, and they are dealing with mounting medical bills. We always say, if you help the client and put them first, everything else will fall in line. We meet our clients where they need to be met. If they can’t come to our office, we will go to them, or provide them with a rideshare so they are able to receive legal help. Our attorneys and staff have the heart and expertise needed to help suffering Americans. Our holistic approach to legal care doesn’t just end after our clients’ cases are settled. After our clients’ lives have been torn apart, we continue to go above and beyond to help them put their lives back together.
To give you an example of what we do for our community and clients that makes us stand out, my Firm recently donated tens of thousands of dollars to provide lunches to frontline workers during the pandemic. We personally delivered lunches to hospitals in the Greater Philadelphia area, which not only supports frontline workers, but it also helps support workers at local businesses and restaurants in the area who have been greatly impacted by the pandemic.
What I am also proud of, which makes our Firm stand out, is our culture. We are a team who genuinely cares about one another and has one another’s backs. Our attorneys and staff’s wellbeing is incredibly important because they are also fighting to provide our clients with the best legal care that separates us from any other law firm out there.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
If you don’t have a passion or like what you do, you are going to burn out quickly. It’s really difficult to fight that mindset, and it’s important to address the mentality and approach needed to thrive. You have a choice to look at something either negatively or positively. If you put things into perspective, it allows you to avoid burnout and enjoy what you are doing. Being passionate and loving what you’re doing helps you thrive and help others around you as well.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Our Firm is very charitable and does a lot of pro bono work. We are involved in the political arena when it comes to issues that protect the working, poor, and middle class. My partners and I feel that hard-working people, their rights and their legal matters are our obligation, which is why we’ve dedicated tens of thousands of hours and financial resources. We want leave the world a better place.
We are leading the forefront in the legal industry with our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee guiding our efforts to make internal and external change authentically and strategically. The committee lead a city wide Promote the Vote initiative during the election to empower not only our employees, but our clients, business partners, and community at large to vote. It did not matter who people voted for, but that they exercised their fundamental right as part of our democracy. I am proud of the work our firm is doing to better the community.
Wonderful. Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
“Five things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” makes me think about the movie “Master and Commander” and leadership. First and foremost, it is important to have clarity about your duty to lead your team. Whenever you are lost, make sure you remind yourself of your duty to the company and your team. Attempt to keep your ego out of the way when making decisions and watch out for decisions that are self- serving and not for purposes of your business. The five things that I wish someone had told me are:
- Your duty as a leader is your morale compass.
- Surround yourself with likeminded and also have strong moral compasses.
- Get people on your team that believe in your culture.
- Be generous as a leader with your time and money.
- Leadership requires hard decisions, but you have to balance that with empathy and understanding while putting yourself in others’ shoes.
Now that you have gained this experience and knowledge, has it affected or changed your personal leadership philosophy and style? How have these changes affected your company?
If you want to be the best, making hard decisions needs to be happen, and many times, those hard decisions are about people. In this very competitive space and time, as a leader you also have to embrace change. If you’re not willing to embrace change and evolve, you will be left behind.
This series is called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me”. This has the implicit assumption that had you known something, you might have acted differently. But from your current vantage point, do you feel that knowing alone would have been enough, or do you feel that ultimately you can only learn from experience? I think that learning from mistakes is the best way, perhaps the only way, to truly absorb and integrate abstract information. What do you think about this idea? Can you explain?
I’ve learned through experience from having grown up in a Philadelphia neighborhood. That being said, running a business is about believing in the business. It’s important to understand that when a challenge arises, you must attack it head on, and learn from it to apply towards the next one. When presented with the next challenge, you can then remind yourself that you’ve been through rough seas before, so now you have an idea of how to navigate it, keep your head up and don’t overreact. I also remind myself to do no harm when encountering a challenge and that having experience and courage has helped me navigate through rough seas.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
The movement that would bring the most amount of good to people is a movement that encourages people to love and believe in themselves. The world needs more movements that inspire people to believe in the greatness that lies within all of us. Most people don’t believe in belief. Many people, aside from religious folks, don’t have much faith anymore. It’s really about believing in your thoughts and what they can manifest. We all need to have someone who believes in us so that we can believe in ourselves. That type of energy will manifest itself to whatever you wish it to manifest to… whether good, bad or indifferent.
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