Jim Bordas has a simple philosophy.
"If you do the right thing, a lot of good things happen," Bordas said. "That's what's happened to me and our family and our law firm."
Bordas & Bordas PLLC boasts some of the largest verdicts in every field of law in the state of West Virginia, but boasting isn't really Jim Bordas' style.
He grew up in Charleston, the oldest of nine children. He said he lived in some "rough" neighborhoods where he saw a lot of bad things happen to people who didn't have voices to fight back.
He went to West Virginia State University and graduated from West Virginia University College of Law in 1972. Then he married Linda, and the couple moved to Wheeling where Linda worked as a pharmacist at Ohio Valley Medical Center.
Bordas worked with the law firm Riley & Yahn, and after just two years there, he was selected a partner. The firm changed its name to Riley, Yahn, Bordas & Cooey.
While he was there, Bordas worked most of the major felony cases and also worked as a part-time assistant prosecuting attorney in Ohio County.
He said he wasn't sure at the time if his family would stay in Wheeling, but things kept working out. Bordas then started his own firm in 1978. He said he was one of the first people who didn't grow up in the Wheeling area to start his own firm there — a daunting prospect.
"I was pretty aggressive," he said. "I started getting big results pretty quick, and word spread."
Bordas said even in those early days, he took cases that he knew needed to be taken because he saw people being "run over" by large corporations and he knew no one else would take those cases.
"Some of the biggest verdicts, though, were counter-claims — cases that started out as cause cases," Bordas explained.
He learned quickly.
"When I started, I had tried a number of cases, so people were starting to come to me to represent them," he said. "That's the first thing that was a surprise — people actually want you, and that's quite an honor.
"The biggest surprise to me was how intimidated the other lawyers and law firms seemed to feel with this one lawyer opening an office.
"I was coming in on their turf, and they felt pretty threatened, and as it turns out, they were right."
Bordas said he was blessed from the get-go, because he worked steadily at Kroger throughout law school, so he didn't have much student loan debt and Linda's job helped support their small family.
"I became an instant expert in lender liability, even though I wasn't," he said. "I just knew how to try a case.
"I had good experts who taught me all I needed to know, but because I got the big verdict, I became an expert."
Bordas then added product liability and medical malpractice cases to his growing list of expertise.
The couple had two young sons at that point, Jamie and Ben, and in 1982, Linda enrolled in law school at WVU. She graduated third in her class.
Jim and Linda opened their office together in 1985 on National Road in Wheeling. Bordas & Bordas has grown to 13 lawyers in three offices.
When asked about his priorities, Bordas said God is No. 1, family comes next, and work is third in line.
"Everything else falls into place," he said. "I think everyone in our firm is on the same page, and we have no problems."
In addition to sponsoring nearly every team and event in the Upper Ohio Valley, Bordas said he is most active with Catholic Charities, the Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling and Health Right. Jamie Bordas, an attorney with the firm, is president of Catholic Charities for West Virginia. He and several of his employees spend time on the coaching staffs of several local teams small and large.
"Everybody is involved in these outside activities," Bordas said. "I think it makes people feel better about themselves, and that's what I like about being a plaintiff's trial lawyer: You're really helping when people are in trouble."
These days, Bordas said he is "cherry picking" the cases he wants to work, and he's taking more time to go to Florida on cold weekends. The family law firm includes long-time staff members who have become family. Ben Bordas owns his own business in Wheeling — something that seems to run in the Bordas blood.
"From the time I was a young kid, I wanted to own my own business," Jim Bordas said. "I never dreamed I'd be fortunate enough to be a lawyer.
"When I started law school, it seemed like the only people who went to law school were very wealthy people and sons of lawyers."
Bordas has never forgotten the spirit of service that moved him to become a lawyer in the first place. He received an award for his pro bono work several years ago, and Bordas said the award usually is given to big firms that dedicate staff members just to pro bono work — something he naturally spent about one-third of every day doing.
His favorite case was a medical malpractice trial for a young man who killed himself.
"I felt pretty good about taking that case because I could see myself in that kid," Bordas said. "He overcame his obstacles, he was taking care of his mother, he graduated from college and was making his own money, but one little incident … he had nobody to help him, and he killed himself."
Bordas recently was selected Member of the Year by the West Virginia Association for Justice. Both Bordas and his cases have been featured on 60 Minutes and Inside Edition. Some his major cases include a 1992 verdict against Bank One and a 2011 verdict against Quicken Loan and in 1993, his Strope v. Honda case, handled with Scott Blass, yielded a $3,620,000 verdict.
Bordas also proudly represented seven female coal miners in federal court in Beckley where Judge Elizabeth Hallahan set standards for women working in heavy industry throughout the nation.
But it's not about bragging to Bordas. It's just the right thing to do.
"In my view, it's not about hours," Bordas said. "When you do the right thing, the money seems to come."