Work injuries can tear lives to shreds and devastate families. The founding partners of Pond Lehocky Stern Giordano understand that because they have seen it firsthand. The mantra of the firm is “Our clients come first, always.” The firm’s mission is to never stop fighting for them. Those aren’t just words, but an attitude engrained in the fiber of the firm and grounded in the backgrounds of its founding partners.
All of them have a deep connection to the people they represent. They all come from similar upbringings to their clients and are driven to fight for justice for them.
Clients are family
Managing partner Sam Pond grew up in Torresdale. His father worked as a union machinist for 35 years at the Philadelphia Gas Works and his mother worked in a factory in North Philadelphia.
Before becoming an attorney, Pond labored at several iconic Philadelphia institutions—manning the presses at the Philadelphia Inquirer, working on the production line at Schmidt’s brewery and doing quality control at the Tasty Baking Co., home of Tastykakes. Toiling at such jobs gave him a sense of what it is like to work have for a living.
“Our client base is really the folks I grew up with—they are family,” Pond says.
When he was in law school, tragedy struck. Both of his parents died within five months of each other, leaving the family to not only deal with grief but also the burdens of dealing with the legal issues involved. His mother suffered a broken hip that was most likely work-related. She did not know about workers’ compensation and never collected any benefits. She died within a year of her injury.
Pond’s father died just as he was trying to designate his union pension to his children. That designation was denied, and Pond got an early taste for legal work trying to secure that pension.
“That was really my first case. We fought that; we won,” Pond says.
When asked why his firm does the work it does, he responds, “We do it because people need a champion and the only place they have a real fair shot is a courtroom, with a lawyer. We basically act as a governance body to protect injured workers because no one else does that, not even the government.”
Fighting for people like those he grew up with is what drives him.
“You’re representing a human being, not an entity; it’s someone that is really relying upon you. It’s almost life and death,” he says.
His background and experience have given him deep understanding of what injured workers and their families face when dealing with an on-the-job accident or illness.
“People get really broken. They don’t really know their rights and they don’t know what benefits they may be entitled to,” Pond says. “We end up bringing in some counseling beyond the law and we lay out a strategy right away.”
Making a difference in someone’s life
Jerry Lehocky is the son of a union plumber. When Lehocky was 12, his father was diagnosed with Lupus, a debilitating autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune system to attack healthy blood cells. The treatment for that disease caused a series of circulatory issues that further compromised his health.
The elder Lehocky’s union membership gave him an opportunity to get health benefits that he otherwise wouldn’t have had. Jerry saw firsthand how having those benefits saved his father’s life for a long time. He also experienced the profound impact a disabling condition can have on a worker’s family. He still recalls having to take two first-year law final exams in the waiting room of a hospital intensive care unit.
Lehocky says that despite the illness, his father ensured that his family never suffered. He learned from how his father handled the situation and tries to emulate that for his clients.
“We never really felt the fear. He was great at keeping that from us, but I’m sure it was there,” Lehocky says. “That’s the kind of confidence I want to instill in my clients. I’m going to keep their lives the way they were, and I’m going to get them back to where they were, so they can fulfill whatever goals they had for themselves and their family.”
Lehocky’s experience with his father’s illness has made him uniquely qualified to fight for those injured at work. He understands the negative impact an on-the-job injury can have on your life. The anxiety and trauma caused by the loss of a breadwinner’s paycheck leave families lost, seeking answers.
“It’s all about making them feel better, making them feel they aren’t alone,” Lehocky says.
“There are very few jobs in this world where you get to do something that you love, and you get to help someone in the process,” Jerry says. “You get to protect them and change their lives by doing what you love to do.”
“I do what I do because I love it and I have an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life,” he adds.
A life around the law
David Stern has been around the law his whole life—his father was a federal judge. Growing up around the legal profession caused him to develop a keen sense of justice.
After graduating from law school, he took a job defending insurance companies and employers in worker’s compensation cases. However, he found he lacked passion for the work and that sense of justice instilled in him during childhood nagged at him.
“There were cases where I was called upon to defend an employer, an insurance company, where I didn’t believe in what I was doing,” he says. “I thought the injured worker was getting the short end of the stick. I realized I really needed to be on the other side.”
A Division I collegiate athlete who worked his way into the starting rotation as a pitcher at the University of Delaware, Dave brings his competitiveness and passion to the courtroom on behalf of clients.
“What motivates me today is my clients and their families. I like to look at a client holistically, not just in terms of a workers’ compensation case. I look at their case from a number of angles: what’s best for the whole family financially, what’s best for the next steps in their lives.”
Empathy and compassion
Tom Giordano Jr. also grew up around the law— his mother is a legal secretary at a large firm in Philadelphia. Thus, he quite has been around law firms since before he was born.
After graduating from law school, Tom also worked at a firm that represented employers and insurance companies in workers’ compensation cases. He lacked enthusiasm for the work and soon left defense work.
Giordano’s grandfather was a founding member of the millwright’s union in Philadelphia. He grew up with a middle-class background and still felt a connection to those who work for a living. Thus, he felt he should be working for workers.
“I think my passion was more for helping people more like me, like my family, ” he says.
He identified with his clients and soon developed a deep understanding of their situations.
“You can’t be a Social Security disability attorney and not be empathetic and compassionate about what that person is going through,” he says.
“When we get a phone call, we’re getting that person at their worst. They’re in pain, most likely. They are unable to pay their bills. They may have a family and they’re stressed out.” Giordano says. “We have a real opportunity to change their lives.”
Pond Lehocky’s partners each know that representing injured and disabled workers is more than just providing legal service. It means listening with compassion, understanding the client’s plight and how it affects the whole family and offering comprehensive, holistic solutions.
It also means having the desire to fight for clients each and every day. Sam Pond summed up the passion Pond Lehocky has for its clients.
“We love what we do, all of us here and we’re very grateful to have the opportunity to represent our clients.”