By Daniel Coats, California Business Journal
For Douglas Borthwick Esq., owner and president of the Law Offices of Douglas Borthwick, a passion for the legal profession can be summed up in two words: helping others.
For more than a quarter century, the Midwest transplant has provided business, family, wage, personal injury, civil and insurance legal services to the California community.
Holding an AV Preeminent rating from the esteemed legal rating service Martindale-Hubbell, Borthwick and his firm have earned the highest possible ranking for ethical standards and legal capability.
However, law was not always Borthwick’s aim. As a young man at Ohio’s Muskingum University, he first wanted to be a Presbyterian minister and chose between pursuing law or divinity as his career path. He’s been quoted as saying that he is a lawyer and a minister. Barely five years into the legal profession, the Capital University Law School alumnus recalls the moment that stands out as the high point of his career and his motivation to devote himself to the field.
“I was walking out of my law firm and there was a homeless man who approached me and told me that no one would talk to him or help him. He was disabled and lost his pension, lost contact with his family, was a diabetic, and had various mental and physical health issues,” Borthwick says. “I did my first disability hearing for this man and at the end the judge told me that he would issue a ruling to grant the disability. I got his teamster’s pension back and he became self-sufficient with his own apartment. He would later talk with me at least once each month and tell me that I had saved his life and that no one had ever treated him so well, like gold. I helped someone who had nowhere to turn.”
Whether serving major corporations or low-income clients, Borthwick maintains a commitment to ethics and industry best practices. His business clients have included transportation-related firms, such as trucking companies and auto dealerships, for whom he has provided legal counsel on corporate boards. He was a member of the esteemed firm that advised Knott’s Berry Farm as it transitioned from a family-owned firm to a major corporation in the 1990s.
Borthwick spent his first 13 years at an AV rated insurance defense and general liability firm and practiced under the guidance of an American Board of Trail Advocates (ABOTA) certified trial lawyer. He then transitioned to an AV rated medical malpractice defense firm for two years and practiced under the guidance of another ABOTA certified trial lawyer. He subsequently built his own law practice.
Family law cases, particularly involving children, are among the most emotionally charged that Borthwick sees. “People come with heartbreaking stories about not seeing their kids or children not being taken care of properly,” he says. “The parent gets divorced and they now get to see the kids two weekends per month, for instance.”
Personal injury cases are among Borthwick’s specialties, though he notes that there are misconceptions regarding what his representation can do for clients. “Just because someone did you wrong does not mean that you are entitled to money,” he says. “I try to only take cases where there are clear liabilities and damages. You have to truly be injured.”
Borthwick’s demeanor is a far cry from the hard-nosed aggressive litigator that may come to mind when an attorney is mentioned. “I generally try to resolve cases,” he says. “The goal is to see if a case can be worked out without going to trial. Mediation is central to what I do to avoid drawn-out lawsuits. However, trial is part of the litigation process and I manage my cases as if I were preparing for an eventual trial.
The human side is particularly important in law. “A lot of being a lawyer is dealing with different personalities and understanding the issues that people are dealing with,” Borthwick says. “Some have said that I am too caring and too compassionate, but that is what people like about me. This trait may be a bit difficult in litigation, but it helps me as an arbitrator. But don’t be fooled, I can quickly switch hats and be mean and defiant when needed. It’s all about using the approach that will get your client the best possible result.”
Looking back on the changes that have transformed the legal profession during his career, Borthwick notes a cycle in insurance company practices in legal cases. “Over the past 20 years, there have been times in which the companies settle many cases, and other times in which they, across the board, do not settle,” he says. “To adapt, we simply do whatever it takes to get a favorable resolution and/or result whichever way the pendulum is swinging.”
In addition to leading his own practice, Borthwick has represented clients through OC Legal Help Inc., a Santa Ana-based third-party workplace arbitration service. “This serves people who can’t afford – either financially or emotionally – to go before a judge. We lower the fee and provide a venue for people to work things out. In these cases, both parties are committed to achieving a resolution,” he says.
Borthwick draws inspiration from leading visionaries and icons of the past century, including Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. “They all dedicated their lives to serving others and impacted the world through leading by example and being selfless,” he says.
Douglas Borthwick, Esq.
1800 N. Broadway., Ste. 200, Santa Ana, CA 92706