|Christopher Lear, Warrior-Poet, Is Promoted To Managing Attorney At Floyd, Skeren & Kelly In Orange, California|
By Lonce LaMon - November 3, 2009
Christopher Lear, a Southern California Workers’ Compensation Defense Attorney, has been promoted from Senior Trial Attorney to Managing Attorney of the Orange, California, office of the law firm of Floyd, Skeren & Kelly.
Chris Lear joined Floyd, Skeren & Kelly in 2003, after five years as a Work Comp Defense Attorney with State Compensation Insurance Fund. Prior to State Comp, he worked mostly in civil law for five years handling everything from bankruptcy, to immigration, to family law and much else that was thrown at him. He even did criminal law. This willingness to try any kind of law was his means of finding what he really wanted to do as a specialty. Thus, today Workers’ Comp Defense is his chosen field of practice.
“I am always careful when people ask me what kind of lawyer I am,” Chris says. “I always tell them I’m a workers’ comp defense attorney. I do not want anyone to think I’m an applicants’ attorney.”
Chris explains that he likes working with the adjusters, risk managers, and employers because he feels that he’s working on the correct side. He feels he’s on the side that is seeking justice in the system.
“My job is to be the guy standing at the valve letting out just as much justice or benefits as is necessary. What is required.”
With applicants’ attorneys, Chris feels, it’s not about getting their clients exactly what they’re entitled to, but getting their clients anything they can possibly get.
“For me, I couldn’t do that. For I’m not driven by a desire to be greedy. I go home very comfortable every day with the thought I’m working on the right side.”
Chris got his Juris Doctorate in 1993 from Western State University, but ten years prior he joined the U.S. Army and became a radar technician. He served in active duty for four years until he switched to the Reserves in 1987. And since then, he has never left the army and remains in the Reserves to this day. At this time he is a Sargeant-Major.
But on one fateful day in 2006, he was called by Fort Bragg in North Carolina to serve active duty in the war in Iraq. He left in February of 2006, and within a couple of months he was in Fallujah. He spent most of his tour in Fallujah but also traveled to Ramadi and Bagdad. He spent 12 months in Iraq with his “boots on ground” as the army expression goes.
This writer asked Chris many of the naïve questions that non-military people often ask soldiers. Chris did a lot of laughing at my questions, and I was not offended.
Lonce: Did you think about death?
Chris: (Laughs) Every day.
Lonce: Were you scared?
Chris: (Laughs) Of course I was scared. But nobody talks about being scared. That doesn’t get discussed. But if you’re not scared there’s something wrong with you.
Lonce: Why do you think we went to Iraq?
Chris: (Laughs) I think it was a foregone conclusion that once Bush got elected that we were going to Iraq. The military industrial complex insisted on it. I think his party insisted on it. And I think he had a desire to go and kick Saddam Hussein out of power.
Lonce: Do you think we should have gone to Iraq?
Chris: (Laughs) We probably should have never gone to Iraq. We didn’t have justification to go there. There are 12, 13 other places that are just as worthy. Afganistan is probably something we should have focused on.
Lonce: So what do you think now of your experience in Iraq, looking back?
Chris: (Not laughing) It was the worst year of my life. I saw people being shot, burned to death.
Lonce: What did John Floyd and/or the Partners of FSK say when you told them you were called to active duty in Iraq?
Chris: (Not laughing but dead serious): “I am absolutely honored to know you and we are absolutely in support of what you are doing. Your job will be here when you get back. We are here to support you.”
As an army officer mostly in Fallujah, Iraq, Chris was assigned to Civil Affairs. That meant he could interact with a local tribal chief, a local engineer for a building project, could handle refugees, civilians on the battle field, and also protect temples, mosques, and work with law enforcement, or banking.
What Chris observed, most poignantly, was that people in Iraq are like people everywhere else he has traveled in the world; they have little interest in politics. “No matter where you go in the world, most people are not politically aligned. They don’t care about politics. For the most part, all they really want is to have some sense of peace, and to have a better life for their children than they have had for themselves.”
So, Chris explains that the insurgents who are making explosive devices and blowing things up in Fallujah, are not usually in any way aligned with some political agenda. Since there is about a 90% unemployment rate in Iraq, the bosses leading the terrorism go and offer money to unemployed people, many who have not had work for three or four years. They offer them more money in a month than they have earned in five years to make an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) and go blow something up. So, these individuals make the explosives and do the deed just to feed their families. But, they have no political agenda of their own. This is difficult for Americans to understand.
And what is more than difficult for Americans to understand, is that Iraq is still a Tribal system. The bridges and buildings that are being blown up are not being blown up by the orders of some ousted or illegitimate government. They are being blown up by the orders of Tribal bosses.
Chris explains this by saying, “You can’t go over there and expect them to have a carbon copy of America, ever. Because people over there do not consider themselves Iraqis first. First it’s the family they belong to; then it’s the tribe they belong to, then it’s Shiite or Sunni, or Kurdish. And then they only consider themselves Iraqis when they play a Soccer game or something like that.
“They obviously understood that Saddam Hussein ran the country… but he ran the country like having Tony Soprano running it. It’s all organized crime. It’s blatant.”
Chris as an army Sargeant-Major was attached to a group of Marines in Fallujah. But for years they had been trying to stop insurgents in the area from attacking. Nobody could stop the explosions. But they finally discovered that when they talked to the tribal boss of the region and paid him $50,000, and asked him to stop the explosions and the fire fights, no more bombs went off and no further destruction to bridges or power lines happened after their pay-off. That boss had been the one in charge. So after their pay-off nothing more happened. Chris and the Marines were amazed. But that was the ticket.
Imagine the surreal experience of walking along the street while mortars are flying in the air and landing and exploding everywhere close to your steps. And imagine the Major walking with you doesn’t even skip a beat in conversation or flinch a nerve while mozying along. He just keeps talking to you like nothing’s even happening.
So, Chris was thinking and expressed during this experience, ahhhh, shouldn’t we run across the road 50 yards or maybe more and jump into that concrete shelter? Thus, the Major answered very matter of factly that if Chris wanted to run across the expanse and jump into that shelter and run the risk of being hit by a mortar as he ran, he could go right ahead. But, you could get hit while running so why not just remain where you are? Good point, Chris thought. Damn.
And people did get hit. “We lost a guy not too far from where I worked. And it (the mortar) blew him to pieces. It’s random. At any given moment you could get your leg shot off, get your torso snapped in half, or get your head blown off or whatever. And there’s that pit of your stomach hollow feeling that you feel about it. That’s what you feel like when you’re outside of the wire. Just hoping that it doesn’t happen, and if it does happen and it’s your time to go, that it happens quickly and painlessly.
“So, what about Workers’ Comp?”
Yes! What about Workers’ Comp?! Swift change of subject here. I hear the proverbial clearing of the throat. How about some gallows humor?
Chris is going to retire from the army in either six months or in one year. And for now he is so very glad to be in his new position of Managing Attorney of the Orange office of Floyd, Skeren & Kelly. He hopes to further work his way up, and that his climb will lead eventually to Partner.
“I’m hoping,” Chris says. “That’s my next step. As long as I don’t step on any land mines.”
Readers may write to writer Lonce LaMon at firstname.lastname@example.org.