For someone who has always been equally interested in business and the law, it makes sense that Raj Mahadass hung his own shingle after just five years of practice. Nimble and adaptive, him and his partners Tej Paranjpe and Ben Ruemke have built a full-service plaintiffs' firm, Paranjpe Mahadass Ruemke LLP, or PMR Law, which services the greater Houston area.
Mahadass specializes in class action, personal injury and commercial/civil litigation. He is dedicated to advocating for people who need someone on their side when they’ve been seriously hurt, physically or financially. In an ever-evolving landscape, the razor-sharp litigator maintains that “helping people feels good. It’s really that simple.”
Mahadass has been helping people for the past 15 years and in so doing, has built a solid and substantial practice. Before establishing PMR Law, Mahadass was an Assistant District Attorney for high-volume Harris County, where he developed an extraordinary work ethic dealing with over 60 cases per day. He’s currently representing victims of radiation exposure, employment discrimination, automobile accidents and more.
A member of the 2020 Lawdragon 500 Leading Plaintiff Consumer Lawyers in America, Mahadass is passionate about litigation and standing up to support those in dire need – and he knows that success is a team sport.
Lawdragon: Your firm focuses on plaintiff work, correct?
Raj Mahadass: Yes, and the bulk of our practice is personal injury litigation. That’s anything from car accidents, explosions – anytime someone is seriously hurt. We also take on Jones Act and maritime cases and some commercial litigation work in terms of business-on-business disputes or individual-on-business disputes. Currently, we’re also working on a few class action cases.
LD: What drew you to personal injury work? Has that always been your focus?
RM: It’s evolved over time, but over the past few years, we’ve really focused on plaintiff work, representing those who have been either physically injured, or suffered a severe financial hardship due to an accident. Helping people feels good. It’s really that simple.
When we were starting out, everything we did was much more traditional, or maybe more closely aligned with a regular person’s idea of how a law firm works. We’d do a lot of different things, including some hourly cases. Eventually, we wanted to focus in, to help people who needed someone on their side.
LD: And you say the firm’s been doing more class actions lately?
RM: Yes, we have. We recently worked on a case that involved a group of people that had been exposed to radiation. That involved a lot of personal injury work we do on an individual basis, but scaled up for a larger group of people, so that was really interesting.
LD: Is there one type of case you focus on more than others?
RM: Well, within personal injury, not so much. Right now, we have people here whose specialties lie in car accidents, premises liability, slip and fall accidents, all of those things. So it’s a pretty good mix.
LD: When did first you decide you wanted to be a lawyer?
RM: I started thinking about a career in law when I was a teenager. I was interested in both the business side as well as the law. Overall, as the firm has grown, a lot of my work has shifted to the management side of things. But a lot of my interest in it came, initially, from seeing lawyers on TV, and then later as some of my older cousins, who I very much looked up to generally, became lawyers themselves.
LD: When you made that decision, was this the type of law that you wanted to practice?
RM: When I first started, I wasn’t necessarily sure what kind of law I wanted to practice. I was kind of looking at both the transactional side and the litigation side. Most of my experiences, in terms of internships and clerkships in law school were with judges. And then my first couple of positions after law school were working with Harris County, either with judges or the Harris County District Attorney’s office, and that’s when more of my passion for litigation, or for the arguing side of things, came out.
LD: You must have learned a lot early on working with so many judges. Any key lessons from that time that you’ve brought with you through the rest of your career?
RM: There have been a few. One was a civil court judge I clerked for back in law school. He emphasized the importance of knowing a case inside and out, but also of not being unnecessarily aggressive. That there wasn’t really an advantage to being difficult to the attorneys on the other side, court staff, and the like.
LD: What advice do you have for current law school students?
RM: There are so many different areas of the law, so many different ways you can find to help people. I would recommend trying to get experience in as many of these areas as you can. Or at least a few different areas so you really have a better idea of where you want to end up. The other piece of advice is to get out there and to meet people. Learn about them. This is going to help when it comes to building up your book of business, but it’s also going to help in getting to know the people you’ll be working for. Who they are and what you can do to help them.
LD: Good advice. What’s your personal approach or style as a litigator, would you say?
RM: I think I try to be a team player. Someone who recognizes that each side has its own goals, but knows we don’t have to be needlessly combative with each other. We can still be professional. We can advocate for our issues and not take personal offense as that process plays out. Or, you know, say things that might cause the other side to be personally offended. So overall, trying to make the process as smooth and professional as possible, while trying to get the most for our client.
LD: How about your role as managing partner at the firm? It sounds like you’re equally interested in business and law. Do you enjoy being an MP? What challenges does that hold?
RM: I certainly enjoy both. In regards to our team of associate attorneys and paralegals, one challenge my business partners Tej Paranjpe, Ben Ruemke and I face is always making sure our team is working together to have things move smoothly and efficiently, for the best interests of our clients, whether it is a case that we think is on its way to being resolved at mediation soon or two years down the road at trial. Part of that is making sure we are attentive to areas or procedures that our people think can be improved on, and always believing sincerely in the idea that all businesses, including our own, can do better. We are constantly looking for ways to make our business better and provide our team with the most modern tools to be as successful as possible in every aspect of their day-to-day work. Of course, that in turn affects each of our clients’ cases, hopefully in a very positive manner.
LD: What would you say is unique about PMR Law as a place to practice? How does it stand out to potential recruits?
RM: The longer we’ve been doing this, our message has changed. Or rather, it’s expanded. When we were younger, it was more about that we were hungry. We would treat every case like it was the only one we were working on. Those things are just as true today as they were back then. But this far into our careers, we have a history that we can point to. I’ve been practicing law for about 15 years. We’ve had this firm for about ten. So now we can say, “Look at the cases we have resolved. Look at the growth we have had in terms of our physical office space and our team size. If you work for us, you’ll get a team that has experience and success, but isn’t afraid to take on new, bigger, or different challenges as well. And you as a team member will have a direct hand in your cases and at the same time have a team and team atmosphere to assist you along the way.” So, those we work with know we’re hungry, they know we work hard, and they know we have the record to back it up.
LD: It sounds like a good place for hungry young lawyers ready to put the work in.
RM: We definitely work hard, but we make sure we celebrate our successes, too, you know? Beyond that, we treat everyone here like adults. We try not to micromanage every step of your day. We’re more concerned with results than trying to control people. And we try to have as open a door as possible. We’re available to answer questions and help whenever you’re stuck. And, as a team, whenever you’re bogged down, others will step in to help out.
LD: What do you do for fun when you’re outside the office?
RM: Well, these days, as we ride out this pandemic, I’m not spending too much time out and about. But typically, I enjoy trying new restaurants, going to the movies. Sporting events. Traveling. All those things.
LD: Are you active in any community work in your area?
RM: I’m involved in the Houston Trial Lawyers Association, and part of that involves giving back to the community in various ways. I’ve also participated, in the past, with LegalLine, which is a free service provided by the Houston Bar Association that answers questions from those in the community in need of legal advice.
LD: Do you have a favorite movie about the justice system?
RM: Honestly, I try not to watch movies or shows about the legal profession anymore.
LD: How come?
RM: I guess spending so much time working in the legal field, I enjoy doing other unrelated things in my spare time. In terms of movies, I still prefer drama, non-fiction type movies over comedies or science-fiction, so I guess I still do enjoy some aspects of the pressure filled real life aspects of the legal profession on the big (or small) screen.
LD: If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be doing now?
RM: I was a business major in college, so I think, if I hadn’t gone to law school, I might be doing something with finance.