While I won't even presume to let on that I knew Richard Halpern, anyone who spent any time in the structured settlement profession over the last 25 years knew of or at some point competed against The Halpern Group on some case or another.
Richard G. Halpern, the founder and name sake of The Halpern Group, passed away yesterday at the age of 64, ending one of the more notable careers in the settlement profession and certainly in the ranks of plaintiff advocates and advisors.
I first met Rich in 1984 as a seminar for the Mass Academy of Trial Attorney's where he and I jointly presented on the issue of plaintiff rights in structured settlement negotiations. It was a rare, and largely unpopular concept back then and at the time he and I were one of a very small group of professionals who largely or exclusively worked on plaintiff cases. At that time in our careers and the profession it was becoming tougher and tougher to retain annuity markets if you were a plaintiff, a move that I am sure spurred him on to create his trust products and tools that became the cornerstone of his business and success.
While Richard was certainly a love him or hate him guy from all accounts, the fact is he had the guts and ability to create products that competed directly with the defense brokers and establishment that drove him and other plaintiff experts into the sale and marketing of products that either competed directly with or complimented structured settlement annuities in the clients plan.
In the last couple of years he made an effort to surround himself with and staff his firm with talented people from the trust and structured settlement professions to deepen the management expertise of his firm. While I suspect the firm will certainly move ahead given the staff and product line up it has, you can't help but feel that any firm where the founder was so integral to the success, relationships and growth of the business can't help but feel it in several areas. The Halpern Group was and is one of the largest contributors to groups such as Public Justice, Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, NY and NJ trial lawyers, etc. I have to wonder if that same aggressive donation and marketing effort will continue as it has in the past now that the driving force in the business is gone.
Pro or con, Richard Halpern made a substantial impact on the structured settlement profession and settlement planning and he stood out in a profession that is often notable for it's desire to stay under the radar and invisible.