Job One

For Alan Nash, customer service can mean inspecting a crime scene—or teaching clients mixology

Published in 2018 Florida Super Lawyers — June 2018

Alan Nash was sitting at his desk a few years ago when a call came in: A college student had been shot at an apartment complex in a rough neighborhood in Broward County. He rushed to the scene to investigate.

Nash isn’t a cop. He’s a partner at Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin in Fort Lauderdale, where he defends claims of negligent security and represents cities and law enforcers in civil rights cases alleging such things as excessive force. Checking out a scene that might turn into a claim against one of his clients is just part of the job. 

First, Nash rushed home and changed out of his suit, into jeans and a T-shirt. He also borrowed a neighbor’s car—one that was older and less noticeable than the Infiniti G37 he was driving at the time.

“You can’t stand out,” he says. “You have to blend in so you can talk to people. You have to investigate almost like you are the police.”

He and his investigator have an aptitude for interviewing witnesses, but they still encounter people who refuse to talk. Over the years, they’ve been pelted with garbage and bottles of urine.

Doesn’t matter what the situation is, Nash says: “You have to get in the middle of it, and you can’t be scared. … I have to help reduce exposure for my client.” He tries to find out if there were factors at play not related to premises security, such as ongoing disputes between the parties involved, or use of illegal drugs.  

The bulk of his practice involves insurance law, mostly for apartment and condo complexes. As with the shooting in Broward, the cases frequently involve claims that negligent security led to serious injury or death.

All he can say of the Broward shooting is that “the case has been settled to the satisfaction of all concerned.” 

Not all of his client services involve so much drama. Sometimes they’re even fun.

Take the time he threw a cocktail-mixing class.

“I developed a personal friendship with one of our clients and I wanted to do something more than the standard lunch or dinner,” he says. “I thought of an event that my friends would find entertaining, and the mixology course was born.”

He hired professional bartenders to teach the 10 or so attendees how to make martinis, Old-Fashioneds and other libations. Each person had a station and got to drink what they created.

“My events are not aimed to develop business,” he says. “I host events to develop long-term relationships.”

Nash learned the importance of customer service during a stint after college at Hewlett Packard, where he talked to potential buyers, found out what they needed and solved problems for them. Turned out, he’s a natural salesman. 

“Lawyers forget law is a business and business is a service,” he says. “That’s entirely how you get results.

“I understand people and how to influence people. People want to talk to you when you’re interested in them.”

It’s not much of a surprise, then, that Nash graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in public relations, then worked with a Miami-based PR firm. Two Fortune 100 companies later recruited him to manage marketing programs targeted at South Florida. 

At Florida State’s College of Law, he became fascinated with his first class in insurance law. “I found I was really good at it,” he says. 

Out of law school, though, he was hired by Purdy, Jolly, Giuffreda & Barranco, where he focused on police and municipal defense. 

His interest in police law was inspired partly by his grandfather, Lt. Jesse L. Nash, one of Miami’s first African-American police lieutenants and a local pioneer in civil rights. Miami was smaller, less diverse and more insular in the 1960s. Back then, black officers weren’t even allowed to arrest white suspects.

“My grandfather was one of the people who changed that,” Nash says.

In 2016, Nash was elected partner — making him the first African-American partner in his firm’s Fort Lauderdale office. He served as a member of the T.J. Reddick Bar Association and Emerge Broward, both of which promote diversity in the South Florida legal community. And that, he says, is better for the client.

“Different viewpoints,” he observes, “can give better results.”

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