Don Fritsch, president of First Legal, a litigation support company that relocated its corporate offices to Henderson from Southern California about two years ago. “We have maintained a (local) operational office since 2007 but this move allowed us to provide our team members with an improved work environment,” Fritsch said. “It also afforded the opportunity for some of our people to relocate to this magnificent state from abroad.”
Tell us your background.
When my father retired from the Marine Corps after serving 22 years as a fighter pilot and combat veteran in WWII and Korea, he became a McDonald’s owner/operator franchisee. From 7 years of age until I was 17, I worked at my father’s franchise stores after school and through the summers. Over that time, I developed my fundamental business management skills. After I graduated from high school, I explored a few other jobs outside of McDonald’s and, at 19, I entered the private investigation profession and made it my career. I am a licensed private investigator in Nevada, Arizona and California.
I also serve on the board of directors for the Las Vegas chapter of the March of Dimes, working to raise revenue to fund educational programs and provide medical care for families and their prematurely born babies.
Additionally, I serve as second vice of the Sons of the American Legion, Post 149, a nonprofit veterans organization whose purpose is to preserve American traditions and values, improve the quality of life for our nation’s children, care for veterans and their families, and teach the fundamentals of good citizenship.
How many are on your team and what services do you offer?
Nearly 60 team members from each of our divisions represent our First Legal Henderson office. That number is expanding to fulfill the needs of our client base.
We are over 600 team members strong throughout our other 19 offices in both California and Arizona. Additionally, we maintain vetted preferred business partners whose offices span across 10 additional states in key jurisdictions. We also have vetted business partners in Canada, Mexico, South America, United Kingdom, Asia and the Middle East.
What is your philosophy when it comes to representing clients?
Listen and communicate, analyze and communicate, strategize and communicate, formulate and communicate, agree and communicate, execute and communicate.
Notice the core theme? Communicate. First and foremost, you have to consistently communicate with each other. It takes a team to be successful. You have to listen to your client’s needs. You have to analyze that which a client presents to you. You have to strategize with your client to effectively contemplate every aspect of the issue at hand. You have to formulate the operational plan and agree on pertinent tasks. Then you have to diligently and methodically execute on the plan; communicating with your client throughout the process.
What sets First Legal apart from its competitors?
It’s a combination of distinguishing features. The manner in which we pursue the betterment of our people is a top differentiator between First Legal and those who compete in our market space. We invest heavily in our people to enrich their lives. The net result is a deeply committed team of people who strive to build each other up and position each other to win, consistently, on each and every assignment and task. All of the other combined internal features we have in place ultimately become supportive tools that provide added advantages for our people to achieve optimal success rates for our clients and themselves.
Can you give us an example of a complex case/investigation you’ve worked on? What steps were taken to assist the client, and what was the end result?
We’ve certainly accumulated our share over the years and I’m always happy to talk about some of our PI capers that reside in the public domain to the extent we can. The vast majority of our cases are civil matters wherein we are retained by either plaintiff or defense counsel. I believe working both sides of civil matters gives us a wider perspective on issues and affords us to be much more objective in our investigative approach.
One of the more prominent defense assignments that comes to mind involved a professional sports organization, the organization’s owner, the sports facility, a couple of men with criminal pasts and a victim of those men. There were quite a few other named parties but for the purpose of this conversation, we’ll center it on these.
At the conclusion of a noteworthy game and after exiting the stadium, the victim and criminals crossed paths while walking to their destinations through one of the facility’s parking lots. As the victim and criminals continued along their journey, the victim engaged in word sparring with the criminals, who were fans of the team opposing the one for whom he rooted. The verbal sparring got out of hand and the criminals committed a horrible assault on the victim which left him severely disabled for life. It was one of those senseless acts of violence that simply should have never occurred.
The victim was a man in his early 40s who had a respectable job, ex-wife and children. The plaintiff’s causes of action centered on theories of premises liability, worker/workplace negligence, inadequate or negligent security and so on, with claimed damages of approximately $75 million.
Clearly, the criminals had little to no means of providing financial compensation but the other named defendants presumably did. After the lawsuit was filed, we were retained by defense counsel to investigate the facts surrounding numerous allegations of conduct by the primary parties for the purpose of drawing conclusions about the veracity of the plaintiff’s claims.
We spent months contacting known witnesses and canvassing for other witnesses who hadn’t initially come forth. We traveled far and wide locating and interviewing witnesses. At the conclusion of our investigation, we had uncovered and presented witnesses whose testimony, when coupled with the testimony of expert witnesses and other relevant evidence, ultimately resulted in a plaintiff verdict being awarded against the sports organization represented by our client, but it was reduced by the jury from the $75 million initially sought down to just under $14 million.
Do you prefer working in the field or delegating from behind a desk?
There’s a big difference between working assignments and running the business. At some point you have to decide which one you’re going to do. My focus today is on running and growing the business. I certainly enjoyed the 20-some years I spent working assignments in the field. Likewise, over the past 15 years, I have enjoyed strengthening my leadership skills working with all of our teams — executive, management, customer service, marketing, sales, operations, IT and development, accounting and so on.
Describe your management style.
Multifaceted, focused and team results-oriented. I’m focused on creating environments in which our people are educated and empowered to succeed. Success breeds success. We stand, fall, pick each other up and keeping moving forward along the journey as a team every step of the way. Everybody wins.
What is the best professional advice you’ve received?
Make time for your family. Genuinely care about others’ well-being. Build successful teams. Act with integrity and honor always. Own your mistakes and fix them. Always do what is right for your people and your clients above everything else. Be steadfast in your leadership. Always remain humble and kind.
If you could change one thing about Southern Nevada, what would it be?
Las Vegas offers an incredible environment to live and raise a family. Our town provides for a great lifestyle at a reasonable cost. There isn’t much I would change other than the continual pursuit of expanding social and community services to help those who need a helping hand up, but that applies to anywhere in this world.
What’s at the top of your bucket list?
To observe the aurora borealis first hand.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
What is something that people might not know about you?
I’m a silver and gold smith, lapidary and art jewelry designer. Of course, it has been several years since I put hammer or flame to metal, but I made a sterling silver pendant with 14k accents surrounding a Chrysocolla cabochon this past weekend that, surprisingly, turned out nice.
Anything else you want to tell us?
Hug your family every chance you get. Support your work teams. Do something kind daily for others and engage in your community.