Alumni Spotlight: Jon Teller '11
Alumni Spotlight: Jonathan C. Teller, ’11
Jon C. Teller, Esq., is a partner and an award-winning senior trial attorney at Wilshire Law Firm in Los Angeles, California. After earning his undergraduate degree in Canada, he decided to head to New York to attend law school at Touro. After graduation he settled in California with the love of his life where he began a family and a career. He is now known for going toe-to-toe with some of the largest corporations and insurance companies in the world and has a proven track record of obtaining verdicts of millions of dollars for his clients. Jon attributes his success to his desire to support and advocate for those in need as well as his determination and drive to succeed on behalf of his clients.
Tell us about your career path? How did you get from Touro Law to Partner and Trial Attorney at Wilshire Law Firm in California?
My journey to Los Angeles began due to a lovely lady, who is now my wife of 13 years and mother to our three adorable kids. I started off by obtaining a job at a defense litigation firm. I worked on the defense side for approximately 5 years, honing my skills and learning how insurance companies and the defense side works. I was fortunate to get a ton of experience working on high-valued cases preparing them to proceed through trial. Through networking with colleagues on both sides of the aisle, I was then lucky enough to get recruited to a plaintiff firm, which is historically harder since plaintiff firms do not hire as many attorneys as defense firms. From there my career took off. After trying my first case on a $50,000 offer and turning it into a $3.65 million verdict, I learned I had a passion for helping people seek justice by standing up and representing the people who don’t have a voice. I have been very fortunate that people in need have trusted me with their complex legal claims and injuries. With a little grit, hard work, an incredible team behind me, and determination I have been able to obtain over $200,000,000 in settlements and verdicts in the past 5 years, including a $28 million settlement on a case in 2019 and then a $35 million verdict in 2022 (that recently became over a $50 million judgment after post-trial motions.)
You were recently nominated for the CAALA Trial Attorney of the Year! Tell us what kind of effort goes into being a well-known trial attorney?
I truly believe in out-preparing your opponent. I read every document personally on a case, sometimes twice. I try my best to make sure the trial is engaging and enjoyable for the audience - the jury. The trial becomes a movie production - my client’s personal documentary. I am the director. It has to be very engaging. You want the audience to want you to win - like a superhero movie or a basketball finals championship where the fans are on the edge of their seats cheering. We use detailed animations to recreate vehicle collisions. We create visual slides to help explain complex medical terminology. I spend a great deal of time learning the medicine and science. I make sure I can speak competently to doctors about complex injuries to avoid a defense doctor witness from walking all over me at trial. It takes a tremendous amount of time and will to learn the materials correctly. Malcolm Gladwell, best-selling author and nationally acclaimed journalist, says it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in the field. It makes sense. I am always reading and watching my fellow trial attorney colleagues to keep up with the best strategies to represent my clients as best as I can. Finally, a lot of sleepless nights, tons of Starbucks and a very patient and kind wife who allows me to be away from home to focus on seeking justice at trial for my clients.
What was your path to law school like? Did you always want to attend law school? Did you go in thinking you wanted to be a trial attorney?
I have always been very competitive - whether it is playing sports, video games, or board games - and I have always loved a good debate. The first class I truly ever enjoyed in high school was a law class. That led me to majoring in criminology in college where I took several legal classes. I was inspired to attend law school to continue learning the law – the subject I was passionate about. In law school I knew that the law was the right path for me. I enjoyed the classes and I didn’t mind the hard work. I knew that I would have a fulfilling career that I enjoyed in this field – even if I didn’t know exactly which area of the law I would practice after graduation. I did not realize though how much I enjoyed personal injury law and trials until appearing in my first trial. I had just started working on the defense side (I really just watched the trial on the first go around.) I absolutely loved it. I couldn’t stop talking about the trial with my colleagues, friends, and family. When you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.
Who was your favorite professor at Touro Law?
One professor I will never forget is Richard Klein. He was always so captivating. He was my first-year criminal law professor – it may have actually been my first law school class. I never had a professor like him before – he really kept everyone’s full attention. I was fortunate enough to have him as a professor again later in law school for another class.
Were you involved in any activities/clubs while at Touro Law?
I played on the Touro Law basketball team. I made some great friends through that, some of whom I still keep in touch with today. I was also fortunate to be a part of a really friendly group of students. There was always a hang-out session at the local restaurants, bars, or the Touro Law library.
What advice would you give to a Touro Law student today?
Get in touch with alumni as soon as possible. Network, network, network. And, get an externship as often as you can whether it be for credit, for money, or for free. Just get out there and see the different options in the workplace. Law school prepares you tremendously, no doubt, but there is nothing like real-world experience. Plus, it may set you up for a job after law school.
You recently settled some big cases. Can you tell us why big cases matter?
Settling big cases is important to me because it’s meaningful to my clients and may have broader implications to change policies in companies to make the world safer in the future. Not long ago I reached a $28.5 million landmark settlement following a trial decision that has the potential to affect school-aged students throughout the state of California and beyond. While the settlement money was important to compensate our client for the damages suffered, the settlement was coupled with an agreement for the Defendant School District to change its policies to protect children from being in a similar situation again in the future and publicize those school district policy changes so other schools statewide, and possibly nationally, can implement them to make things safer for children. In the last 6 months I have obtained a $50+ million judgment for a client and a $3 million mid-trial settlement on a case where the offer was a mere $25,000 going into trial. I work really hard for my clients because they deserve every minute I can give them to ensure they get the verdicts and results they deserve at the end of a trial. I try my best to uphold my responsibility to do everything I can to represent my clients to the very best of my ability. I spend a great deal of time with my clients and their families outside of the courtroom to learn about their lives. I care about my clients and work hard to seek justice on their behalf.
Can you tell us a little but about your personal life - do you have any children, and what do you like to do in your leisure time?
I have 3 children, 10, 8 and 2. As a family, we love playing basketball outside, and playing board games on the weekends. My kids just got into Monopoly, so that’s a good 2-3 hours every Saturday of quality family time!
As a Canadian native, what drew you to come to law school on Long Island?
I was looking for a more Jewish experience than I had for my undergraduate studies and was told going to New York would be a great opportunity. Touro Law’s Jewish affiliation was a perfect match for my interests and provided me with the foundation I needed to launch my career.