Trenton Garmon is the Principal Attorney at Garmon & Associates, an Alabama-based law firm. Garmon is a vastly experienced personal injury and civil rights attorney who has managed over 4,000 cases and has brought more than 100 cases through litigation and to a judicial decision. Trenton Garmon wrote his first court filing, a Response to Motion for Summary Judgment, at the age of 17.
He attended Troy University where he earned a Bachelor’s in Business and graduated with Honors. While a student there, he wrote a brief to the Court of Civil Appeals that successfully overturned a Circuit Court Judge’s ruling. He earned his law degree from the Birmingham School of Law and is admitted to the Alabama State Bar, the U.S. Federal Court Middle District, and the U.S. Federal Court Northern District. While in law school, Garmon served as Chaplain for the Christian Legal Society. Garmon received his Master’s in Theology from Regent University. During his time as a graduate student, Garmon translated two books of the Bible from Koine Greek. Garmon also served as Associate Pastor at Calvary Baptist Church, eventually serving as Associate Evangelist at Evangelism International.
Garmon has represented victims of medical malpractice, those whose civil rights have been violated, and other victims of injustice. An advocate for his clients, he’s sued universities, Fortune 500 companies, and powerful individuals. Garmon’s expertise as a lawyer has been sought by both international and national news outlets like MSNBC, CNN, Fox, and more. Trenton Garmon was born in Gadsden, Alabama, and takes pride in being a loving husband and father.
How did you get started in this business?
My dad was an attorney who represented the downtrodden, disenfranchised and other individuals against big businesses and government abuse. I grew up in a pretty big family with 4 children. Each of us had a “stay up night” where our parents would allow us to stay up after our normal 8 pm bedtime. Because of this, I grew up watching Matlock and Murder She Wrote with my parents. My dad would talk all through Matlock about the Law, and my mother would talk all through Murder She Wrote about her theories of how to solve the “who done it.” So I really became inspired at an early age about the law and serving others without even really knowing it. I started clerking for my dad in high school and the first case he assigned to me was for someone that I knew. So I wrote a brief for the Court of Civil Appeals which my dad made only a few revisions to. A Circuit Court Judge was overturned and it pretty much lit a fire within me. I have enjoyed the challenge of fighting against big corporations and big government abuses ever since.
How do you make money?
Civil litigation. We basically police corporate America and bring redress to government abuses of power. We represent the injured and those whose families lost a loved one. We also sue bad hospitals and when a surgeon makes a medical mistake that causes permanent damage.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
To show my father I could do it on my own, I actually started my own firm in a different city. It took about six months to a solid year to begin turning a real profit, given that many cases require a year or more of litigation. We are the ones who pay to fight the corporations and invest in the civil rights breaches of individuals. The fees that are paid do not come until the end of a case. There were months for the first few years where we were spending more on investing in our cases than we would make in revenue, given that the fees were delayed. After that, I assumed several of my father’s cases because he was retiring, and the rest is history.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
There are days I still doubt. Some of the cases we handle involve huge damages and very large opponents. Overall, the firm works, but there are times I think to myself, “Am I sure I want to go to battle with this multibillion-dollar company?” They have legions of lawyers. But the system works. The Courts apply, for the most part, equal protection of law and the scales are balanced. We only accept cases that we believe we are on the right side of the law, so eventually, even if appeal is required, it works. I also had the great opportunity of working for three other firms before returning to my father’s practice. I picked up several good models for firm management and getting the practical side done well. Because I truly believe in our cases and the principles of justice, we just press each case to the end. We handled doubts about the firm and cases by just going through the process. I believe strongly in best efforts and best practices, so we’re always fine-tuning our systems and actively learning. I think that’s how we’ve handled any doubts about the law as a business.
How did you get your first customer?
I started out taking any type of contract case that I could get having hung my own shingle. My dad was a lawyer with a bustling practice, but I wanted to “make it” on my own. So I went to all the local city courts and spoke with the Court Clerk. I would build a relationship with the Clerk and ask them to assign me cases where they believed I could help the person involved. These were what are called “indigent Defendants,” or people who were poor and accused of a crime.
I always had the rule of thumb that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and we tried the case of any client who maintained their innocence. I really “cut my teeth” trying cases in city courts, and that’s where I got my first real book of clients. Over the years, I built relationships with people, started marketing, and then eventually assumed many of my father’s clients and his firm’s systems. Over time, I began focusing on the cases I thought would make the biggest impact. I have always had a real passion for justice, equal protection under the law, and the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Injured people are not often happy, and those who are oppressed by big government have liberty infringements.
So eventually I shifted from doing contract work for the government to battling against the government. For my first actual civil rights case, there was a civil rights event that I attended as a participant. While there I met a pretty controversial activist. One of those people you know believes in the cause they are an activist for and who is willing to incur the consequences of civil disobedience. I provided him with my phone number and told him if they had any issues during their event, to let me know. They had traveled from California. While on a break during a CLE, I got a call from him and left the seminar immediately to file an emergency request for equitable relief with the Court. We prevailed and that’s how I got my first civil rights case.
With regards to injury clients, I had serviced hundreds on behalf of my father as a law clerk, so I was familiar with that area of law. Within a few weeks of beginning my practice I had injury clients, but it was not the focus of my practice until about five years in. I really related to the injury clients because of the chronic pain I suffer from following several injuries in the army and playing college football. These days we receive referrals from other attorneys as our primary source of new clients, and we have former clients and their relatives contact us.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
We do not do a lot of advertising. After having practiced for about three years, I began a billboard and television campaign, and it generated several new clients. Over the years we have built such strong relationships with other attorneys and former clients that most of our business is returning clients, former clients referring their friends and family, or other lawyers sending us cases that are not their specialty.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
Each case has tough decisions. Usually there is more than one civil claim or theory that you can go with as lead counsel, but there will always be one count and a case theory that develops with the case like the aging of a steak or wine. So tough decisions are made all along in the litigation. I find the toughest decision, however, to be turning down cases that seem “wrong” and legit on their face but that are just not winnable because of “bad law”. I am not saying the legislature is bad and I am not questioning the integrity of the Courts, but oftentimes there are unintended consequences from laws passed by the legislature or from findings that create case precedent. That means until you can find the right client and right fact pattern to challenge that “bad law,” there is a negative unintended consequence or “bad law” that becomes the law of the land in a particular area. Civil rights cases where qualified immunity is applied improperly and the case precedent that goes with that many times makes for tough decisions. Just because of the number of cases that there are and that I have assigned to myself within the firm, there are times I have to turn down a case that I believe in simply because I think a Judge will dismiss it based on “bad law.” But as difficult as it may be to turn down a case that seems unjust, it is just as exciting to find the right fit of a client and fact pattern to challenge “bad law,” and we have prevailed with my creative arguments, key expert witnesses, and prudent judges in ways that have made a real impact. We’re always positioning our files to be reviewed on appeal if the improper application of the law is made.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
Helping others is what I think makes one successful. Money follows justice, so the fees come and are a sign of success. But no one ever looked back at a lawyer’s life and said, “He sure made a difference by making all that money.” Lawyers are remembered for the impact they have on difficult areas of law and where social pressures are most intense. I have always maintained a private polygraph policy and only accepted cases that I believed in. So I think success is bound up in being the best efforts in the fight for natural law and justice to prevail.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
The most satisfying moment is hard to narrow down, but as satisfying as any of the cases we saw success in was a win on behalf of a falsely accused lady. She was a civil rights activist. The courtroom was packed with people from that community and media. I had asked a boy who was about 7 years old and had been sitting on the front row with his mother to pray for me before I did my closing argument. It was just kind of an “It can’t hurt” moment, and I thought, you never know how a verdict will go. I knew he didn’t understand the law and dynamics of the case, but I believed he would pray and I believed we were on the right side of the law. After the Judge returned a verdict in our favor, the Courtroom erupted in cheers. I turned to the boy and said, “It was your prayer.” He smiled, fully convinced it was. I walked out and didn’t do a single interview by choice. I had discussed the client talking with the media directly to vindicate herself and so that I was not in the way of her being restored in any manner. Driving back thinking about that boy and my client being vindicated is probably the most satisfying moment of my career.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
We are most excited about challenging large corporations for their dangerous products, forcing insurance companies to act in good faith towards the injured, and bringing a restoration to the dignities of individuals who have had their civil rights breached. I am not simply called to be a lawyer, being a lawyer drives me. I am passionate about justice, and so it seems the future will be serving others who need a strong advocate. I hope to continue to grow the Firm by training more associate attorneys and servicing clients in other states. I like pouring what my father and my mentors taught me into young lawyers who are teachable. So many young people come out of law school and have no idea how to really practice law, and surprisingly they simply do know the mechanics of litigating a case. So I am excited about continuing to service our clients directly, but also by raising up additional associates who have excellence as a standard, believe in natural law, and believe in due process.