Swarfcast Ep. 9 – Russell Ethridge Small Business Lawyer

By Lloyd Graff

Scroll down to listen to the podcast with Russell Ethridge.

Today Brett Kavanaugh is being interrogated in hearings of the Senate Judiciary Committee as he attempts to thread the political needle to become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

In today’s podcast I interviewed Russell Ethridge, a solo practitioner lawyer in Detroit, who also listens to cases as a judge two days a month for the humongous sum of $15,000 a year. He believes the legal system must work for the guy accused of drunk driving for the second time and the secretary in the local real estate firm accused of embezzling $65,000.

Russ has been Graff-Pinkert’s lawyer for 25 years. I got to know him when he was spending a stint in Jamestown, New York, representing a French multi-national called Valeo. He sold Graff-Pinkert 13 Wickman multi-spindle screw machines for more money than I wanted to pay. Good negotiator.

Russell Ethridge

Ethridge has a knack for quickly assessing the nub of the issue in a potential legal hassle and pointing to a way out with the least aggravation possible. Many lawyers like to milk a case for the billable hours. Russ thinks the opposite way, always looking for the smartest, most efficient resolution of the problem.

Russ’s Dad was the Editor of the Detroit Free Press in its heyday in the late 1960s and ’70s. In Russ’s younger days he worked as a reporter for a tiny paper in West Virginia close to where his grandfather practiced law for 60 years.

Russ’s grandfather had a one man retail legal practice, which to some degree was a model for Russ. In the podcast Russ discusses the impact his grandfather’s funeral had on him when he observed the huge cross section of people who talked about how his grandfather had helped them over the years. Russell Ethridge—lawyer, judge, one man band—continues his legacy.

Question 1: Is our legal system rigged against the little guy?

Question 2: Would you prefer to pay a lawyer by the hour or by the job?

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5 thoughts on “Swarfcast Ep. 9 – Russell Ethridge Small Business Lawyer

  1. lou bertoletti

    So this man dies and gets up to the pearly gates. St Peter opens the book, gets to his name, and frowns. This says you lived to be 156 years old?

    Oh no, St Peter. I was a lawyer. Those were my billing hours.

  2. Machine Man

    By the Job…. I have seen too many families have their entire net worth extracted by lawyers through a simple divorce. The lawyers know when they have one person in the marriage that they can antagonize. Drag the the divorce out until everything is gone, their house, their vehicles, 401k, anything the lawyers can manipulate into cash to pay for the billable hours. Bickering over nothing. Miraculously when all the assets are gone they settle in no time. The lawyers walk away fat and happy leaving the now split family in financial ruins……If there was a set fee they would be processing divorces at a drive thru window.

  3. Dave

    My 10 year old son pushed my brother in law into a swim pool and he broke his ankle. My brother in law had been horse playing with about 6 kids around the pool. He was picked up by ambulance and taken to the hospital, where they could not work on him because he had been drinking. His next door neighbor was an attorney, and was all over that. Let’s sue the guy that built the pool for your injury, as he surely built the pool wrong. After a year of looking, the pool builder was no where to be found. So the attorney wanted to sue the property owner as he got hurt on their property and insurance would take care of it. My brother in law said no, that would be sueing my cousin, family. The attorney said ok, fine. My bill so far is $10,000, lot of money in 1983. So they sued our cousin. Got into court and the judge threw them out, as Indiana law had changed stating that if unruly guests get hurt on your property, they are on their own. The attorney was fined by the court, for not doing his homework, plus they racked up court costs and the defendant’s attorney fees. The bill is now bigger, and his attorney said well, wee gonna have to sue your sister and brother in law. Now the bill was $20K if he didn’t want to sue. I turned this over to my insurance company and they went to court and the insurance company rolled over and played dead in the court room. That judgement against me cost me more than if I’d paid it myself. It has haunted me since 1984. I almost lost my job with a defense contractor and was promised that I’d never get raises or promotions due to that judgement. Kept me from getting better employment. The best interest rate on a loan I could get even 10 years later was 11-3/4. Now it’s 6-3/4. Are our court systems / attorneys / insurance companies fair. Not in my eyes.

  4. Robert

    Russ is the kind of lawyer we need. A realistic humanist who regards situations with refreshing realism. The system is broken. We have seen roll ups in every industry to provide a competitive advantage, for someone, and the legal system is no different.

    Sharing some similarities with big box chain stores who have annihilated the family store, large law firms have increased pricing for an increasingly complex environment that requires a lawyer. It was the lawyers who created the accelerating spiral of new laws requiring teams of specialized lawyers to navigate through once much simpler laws.

    The criminal system and jury system is also broken. The more money you have, the more likely you can win by hiring specialized lawyers who know how to select the “right” jury and then spin the facts to the benefit of the deep pocket client. Today, a Jury of our peers is obsolete. We need trained jurists who know the law and how to see through the manipulations of savvy trial lawyers.


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