Coffee With…Tom Coan and David Donahue

The power of good communication skills cuts across all disciplines and businesses, and it figured prominently in our coffee conversation at The Red Cat in Pepper Place.

Tom Coan is the owner of CASE Design/Remodeling, a full-service, design/build remodeling business that focuses on the residential client. Prior to his work in the remodeling business, Coan worked in human resources and management in the department store industry. “Outside of work, my life revolves around being a good partner to my wife and a good father (including dog dad), son, brother and friend,” Coan says.

David Donahue of Bressler Amery & Ross is an experienced litigator representing clients in individual matters and class actions filed all over the country.  Donahue has handled a wide variety of complex cases including product liability, commercial litigation, and state and local tax litigation while developing a specialty in insurance and financial services litigation.  He has an AV Rating with Martindale-Hubbell and has been listed as an Alabama Super Lawyer in insurance law since 2012. Outside of the office, David is active in his community and currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors of Red Mountain Theatre Company and The Literacy Council. He is an avid music and college sports fan and enjoys spending time with his wife, three children and two dogs.

Listening and communication are the toughest challenges Coan faces every day at work. “Everything we do is custom, so from the very beginning you have to really listen to the client and understand what they really want. I have to have people who are excellent communicators. Almost all of our clients stay in their home while our work is being done. It is an incredible personal experience because you are working in the master bath or the kitchen, family spaces that are very personal. You have to have a trust relationship to do a good job,” Coan says.

Coan feels that his most solid strength as a business person is his ability to hire good people. “When you are in a service business it comes down to the individual person providing that service. The specific people and how they treat the customer and how they apply their skill. My entire business rests on the quality of the people I have working for me,” he says.

Communication is key in David Donahue’s business as well. “The client and attorney have to communicate about what is going on and what the expectations are. You don’t want a surprise. Nobody likes that,” Donahue says.

The Birmingham office of Bressler, Amery & Ross opened about three years ago. Other offices are located in New York, New Jersey and Florida. The Birmingham office has a small-firm feel, but with access to the resources of a much larger entity. The firm is also nimble, Donahue says.

“Legal services have changed dramatically over the last 10 years. You have to change with the industry. Lawyers tend to be very structured, but you have to be open to new things. The challenge is to be mindful of the atmosphere for legal services out there, the trends. You don’t want to be the stodgy firm that refuses to change. We have an opportunity to offer a different structure with a lean staffing model. Clients are very open to that,” Donahue says.

“I think the recession focused a lot of companies on where they were spending money and how they could manage it better. That drove a lot of change in our industry,” he says.