For 25 years, a physician in Lancaster built up a successful oncology practice, supporting his wife and four children. When he died unexpectedly, his business partner told his widow that the practice had been appraised with basically no value. She protested but was shut out of any business dealings.
The Pasadena, Calif.-based firm of Johnson & Rawi, PC was brought in and, digging into the details and working through the appropriate channels, they were able to get the business properly reappraised.
The result: Johnson & Rawi filed a lawsuit and got nearly $3 million for the physician’s wife and family.
“She was being taken advantage of and we shifted the power back to her,” Senior Partner Jeff Johnson told California Business Journal.
This moment typifies why Johnson and partner Rawi finds joy and meaning in their profession.
“We don’t just take being a lawyer seriously,” he says. “We relish it.”
With 34 years of experience, Johnson has grown his private legal practice into one that packs the punch of a big law firm but is small enough to provide affordable and personalized expert attention. Five years ago, Johnson brought on board attorney David Rawi, who was named partner last year.
Today, Johnson & Rawi handles a variety of clients, but specializes in serving those in the health care industry.
The firm also assists with structuring corporate entities, and working through employee and management service issues especially when a new business – like a medical practice – is being formed.
Part of Johnson & Rawi’s success is their shared background – and similar views of the profession.
[su_quote]“David and I are refugees from large law firms,” says Johnson, explaining that while at these big firms, both men handled major litigation and transactions with high-profile international clients. “We’ve been taught by some of the best,” he says of these invaluable past experiences. Their clients today can expect “a level of sophistication that they could not otherwise afford if they hired one of the big law firms.”[/su_quote]
After graduating from the Indiana University School of Law, Johnson was recruited by the prestigious Los Angeles firm of Latham & Watkins; he later joined Cadwalader, Wichersham & Taft, and was a shareholder at Heller Ehrman, where he continued to build his career and litigation expertise. Johnson took the dive to go out on his own 22 years ago — first to focus on environmental health and safety until he found a sweet spot in serving those in the health care industry.
In 2016, Johnson was introduced to Rawi and was impressed by the young attorney who was an experienced trial litigator at the Los Angeles office of the multinational law firm Dentons. “Things just clicked between us,” says Rawi, a graduate from Michigan State University College of Law with a concentration in healthcare.
“Health care is in my family,” explains Rawi, whose father was a surgeon in Kabul and, when he moved his family to the U.S. in 1979, continued to practice until his recent retirement. Early in his career, Rawi clerked for the California Medical Association.
The partners’ personal backgrounds provided them with reasons to use their talents to serve. Johnson grew up in Indiana; his working-class father left school in eighth grade and his mother dropped out of high school her sophomore year. Johnson’s successes in high school debate got him a full-ride scholarship to college that set the stage for his law career.
Likewise, Rawi saw the law as a way to understand his rights and his community. “It was also a profession that my parents approved of,” he says with a laugh. “But I really enjoy learning about someone else’s business and finding practical solutions to their problems. Letting them move forward from those problems is very rewarding.”
Breaking down complexities, navigating emotions
Johnson & Rawi recently relocated into a larger office space that reflects its growing client base. Last year, they won a $2.2 million decision for a client in a suit that was named one of the Top 100 Verdicts in California in 2021 by “Best of the Bar.”
For Johnson and Rawi, representing clients requires wearing two hats.
“Out in public, we are zealous advocates on behalf of our clients,” says Rawi. “But behind closed doors, we become the risk assessors. We tell you the good, the bad and the ugly. We do that to ensure the client can make the best-informed choice on which way to proceed.”
Clients, even CEOs, have so many preconceived and romanticized ideas on how the legal system works. “Most people are not sophisticated consumers of legal advice,” explains Johnson. “Their only view of justice comes from what they have watched on television or seen in the movies. A lot of our work is educating them.”
These days, new clients reflect how the pandemic has shifted the landscape. “Everyone sees their problem more emotionally these days,” notices Rawi. “There’s a lot of pent-up anxiety.”
With many elective surgeries put on hold, that loss of income was devastating. Staff shortages fueled patient frustration and exhausted physicians. Plus, with little oversight or enforcement, some entities took advantage of the system and their staff. “We are going to see more whistle-blower and fraud cases in the future,” predicts Rawi.
Even with the challenges ahead, Johnson and Rawi are excited for the future, especially Johnson, whose son Cyrus joined the firm this year. “I’m looking forward to pass on our firm’s philosophy to him and everyone we work with,” he says.
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