It’s time for a celebration. Lawyers Roy Collins and McKinnley Morgan are celebrating a milestone— 20 years of practicing law together. The two partners at Morgan, Collins, Yeast & Salyer recently reminisced about their longstanding partnership that has provided Kentucky Courage to so many people struggling to overcome serious injuries.
Before Roy Joined McKinnley
Today, the law firm has eight offices in cities and towns across Kentucky. Back in the early days, McKinnley and his then-law partner, Rickey Bailey, practiced law in the eastern Kentucky counties of Clay and Leslie.
Roy entered the picture when he graduated from law school and took a job with a Laurel County insurance defense law firm. Roy was on the opposite side in several car wreck cases where McKinnley and Bailey represented the accident victims. Asked who won those cases, Roy replied: “It wasn’t a matter of winning. It was a matter of not losing as much as they wanted.” No matter which side won or lost, Roy made a strong, positive impression on McKinnley.
“My deal always was to try to grow a practice by learning who was on the other side of cases,” McKinnley said. “Roy was there working hard for less than I thought Rickey and I could afford to pay him. He was doing a good enough job that we decided to steal him.”
Roy Joins McKinnley’s Law Firm
Roy joined McKinnley’s law firm as an associate in April 2000. His role in the firm changed dramatically when fate intervened. Roy recalled, “I’d been there about three months when we got a telephone call, late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, that Rickey Bailey, McKinnley’s partner, had been killed in an ATV crash.” The tragic accident occurred on July 16, 2000.
“Three or four days later, McKinnley and I had dinner, walked down his driveway and shook hands on a deal,” Roy said. “And that has been our deal ever since.”
McKinnley now focuses on workers’ compensation and Social Security cases, while Roy handles personal injury matters. However, in the early days, the two handled cases together. Their first case together was a medical malpractice case – and a memorable one at that.
McKinnley and Roy’s First Case as Partners
The two lawyers went to visit a client who was injured during a gallbladder operation. “The lady was hallucinating,” said McKinnley. “She was seeing folks that weren’t there. “Her sister’s name was Elizabeth,” recalled McKinnley. “I asked her, ‘Have you seen Elizabeth recently?’ She said, ‘I sure have. The night before last. She was standing at the foot of my bed.’ Roy and McKinnley both knew that Elizabeth had been dead for 10-15 years.
“The woman had developed an infection that had caused her to hallucinate,” Roy said. “The infection was caused by a gallbladder operation where the surgeon nicked her bowel but failed to recognize it. She became septic and had all sorts of issues.” Roy and McKinnley took the woman’s case to trial and won a seven-figure verdict.
Thus began the legal bond that has lasted for 20 years — and counting. In today’s legal world, where lawyers often come and go, the length of time Roy and McKinnley have been together is nothing short of a true accomplishment. “I don’t know of another plaintiffs’ group that has made it for 20 years,” Roy said. “I don’t either,” McKinnley said.
How have they done it? The two partners say they have learned how to settle their own differences.
“When any situation arose that we needed to talk about, we could lock the door, cook dinner, resolve it and move on,” McKinnley said. “That’s happened several times. There’s nobody that will be a partner in business for 20 years and not have a disagreement.”
Roy also gives credit to the strength and tenure of the firm’s support team. “We’ve got some key staff that were here when I came,” Roy said. “We’ve got a core group of folks, and a couple of them have been here more than 25 years. They have helped us immensely. “We can’t be too bad of folks if we can keep people around for 25 years,” Roy added.
Roy and McKinnley said they sometimes differ on their legal philosophies. “In the workers’ comp arena, the rules are more relaxed and not as rigid as the civil world,” McKinnley said. “Roy thinks I let the defense get away with murder in many cases.” Said Roy, “I guess it’s not as much a legal philosophy as it is a business philosophy. We both agree that if you take care of the client, they’ll take care of you. If you take the time to talk to these folks and treat them like human beings – and not like a number – that will pay dividends greatly.”
Shared Goals and Success
The two lawyers say they share simple goals. “The first common goal we have is to try to get people as well as they can get medically,” McKinnley said. “Our second simple goal is to get as much damn money as we can for our clients.” Not surprisingly, the law firm has earned a stellar reputation. “We have represented four or five generations of families,” Roy said. “We’ve been with them so long that now they invite us to the family reunion.”
With success, the firm has expanded and added more attorneys and partners, allowing it to serve more clients. Asked what the gift is for the 20-year anniversary, McKinnley quipped: “It’s a bottle of Old Pogue.” Old Pogue is a premium brand of Kentucky bourbon whiskey.
Now that the lawyers have been together 20 years, what will the next 20 years look like?
“I’m going to be fishing,” McKinnley said.
“I hope to be right there with him fishing, too,” Roy said.