As a personal injury lawyer in Miami who sues diabetes drug companies, without question the practice of law has become more complex, difficult, and expensive since I started more than 20 years ago.  Today’s lawyers,  have to know much more than the law to be successful; they must also master the latest evolutions in internet marketing, technology, and politics.

Attorney Spencer Aronfeld holding a bottle of Actos, the diabetes pill that increases the risk of bladder cancer.
Attorney Spencer Aronfeld holding a bottle of Actos, the diabetes pill that increases the risk of bladder cancer.

Getting a handle on it all is even more difficult for those of us who not only practice law, but also own and operate our own law firms. Aronfeld Trial Lawyers, my law firm in Miami, opened in 1991–within a week or so of my being admitted to the bar to practice law.

When I started working, I did not know what kind of law I wanted to specialize in.  I knew I wanted to help people, and I also knew I wanted to be in the courtroom, but I had no clue what personal injury law was, who practiced it, or how it was done. To learn more about my journey from law student to lawyer, please read my book, Make It Your Own Law Firm: The Ultimate Law Student’s Guide to Owning, Managing, and Marketing Your Own Successful Law Firm.


One of the most interesting things I learned in San Francisco was the growing number of claims being made by people who have developed pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer after taking diabetes drugs in the class known as incretin mimetics.  These drugs work by increasing the level of a hormone associated with the glucagon-like peptide-1, and the drugs have been associated with accelerating the precancerous conditions already present in some people.

Pancreatitis is a horrible and painful lethal inflammation of the pancreas that can be deadly.  Byetta, now sold by Bristol-Myers Squibb and AstraZeneca, was approved in 2005 and contained a warning about pancreatitis.  New research reveals that there is a more serious and probable risk for developing pancreatic cancer, an untreatable and deadly disease that kills its victims in less than a year.

So far, diabetes drug lawyers have filed hundreds of individual lawsuits against a number of diabetes drug makers.  For example, Merck makes both Januvia and Janumet, and last year alone enjoyed sales of nearly $6 billion while Novo’s Victoza generated $1.6 billion, and New York-based Bristol-Myers’s Byetta $149 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.  Some of the other diabetes drugs being investigated include Bydureon and Onglyza, sold by Bristol-Myers Squibb; AstraZeneca and Victoza from Novo Nordisk; Tradjenta from Eli Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim; and Nesina from Takeda.  It appears that we are just beginning to see the extent of the connection between these drugs and pancreatic diseases.



It took me years to find two organizations that are invaluable to all personal injury lawyers in Florida:  The American Association for Justice (AAJ) and the Florida Justice Association (FJA). Both of these associations are key trade organizations for personal injury lawyers.  They provide a comprehensive combination of invaluable assistance to Florida’s personal injury lawyers on the state level, with educational opportunities, networking resources, and political lobbying on the issues that are important to both injury attorneys and the clients we represent.

Both organizations host a variety of seminars, meetings, and conventions. None is more important and impressive than the AAJ’s Annual Convention, held on alternating coasts.  This year’s was held in San Francisco, and it continues to be, in my opinion, the most important gathering for all personal injury lawyers, specializing in everything ranging from slip and falls, car accidents, and medical malpractice, to defective products, like artificial hip implants, InFuse bone growth claims, and dangerous Mirena IUDs, as well as faulty prescription drugs, like Actos, Bayetta, and Fosamax.


Going to events like the AAJ Convention can be overwhelming for first-time attendees as there are literally thousands of lawyers from around the world, vendors, and politicians all packed into the convention center for a week filled with meetings, classes, and huge parties.

When I first found the AAJ, it was called the American Trial Lawyers Association (ATLA), and the feeling I get whenever I enter the host hotel overwhelms me.  The lobby of the San Francisco convention site was packed with lawyers, all displaying hideous name tags adorned with ribbons indicating the amounts of money they may have donated, or other special recognitions. My pockets always become packed with business cards and pens.  There are certain friends I see only at these events, some from far away, some from right down the street from our Miami law firm.

As a young lawyer, I would map out my days by selecting hour after hour of seminars taught by some of the best and brightest legal minds in the country.  Much of what I really know about being a car accident lawyer in Miami or suing drug companies I learned from sitting for hours in huge ballrooms in the bowels of different hotels packed with lawyers eagerly taking notes.

As I have matured, my focus at these events has shifted from the large crowds, to the small and intimate meetings where significant relationships can be built and maintained.



Attending the AAJ convention reminds me a lot of being in law school at the University of Miami; there it seemed that some people had already been given extremely valuable information about where to go and what to do, in contrast with most of the students, like me, who were clueless about the different organizations, meetings, and events that were happening on campus.

I remember once, in my first year of law school, literally bumping into Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, a hero of mine, in the men’s room at the University of Miami’s library.  I burst into tears when I shook his hand, similar to the reaction that most teenage girls would have to meeting Justin Bieber.  He then invited me to a meeting he was having with other law students and the Dean–a meeting that most of the other students did not know about.

There is a similar dynamic at these massive conventions, but with lots of effort and diligence the really valuable sessions can be found.  However, one must ask and find out where those sessions are, which is why inevitably the first thing most people ask is, “Where are you going,” or “Whom are you meeting with?”


I find that in the large ballrooms or noisy late-night parties, these types of private conversations are difficult to have.   AAJ offers a special opportunity to hold more intimate conversations through its Leaders Forum.  This is a club within a club that provides a separate meeting and dining area within the convention, where lawyers have a chance to talk quietly and make more meaningful connections.

It was there that I spent almost my entire week, meeting lawyers one-on-one to discuss specific cases and create working relationships.  Only in this way can I be sure of meeting about the cases that are currently most interesting and compelling.


As a personal injury lawyer, fan and friend, congratulations on winning the lifetime achievement award Mr. Gerry Spence.
As a personal injury lawyer, fan and friend, congratulations on winning the lifetime achievement award Mr. Gerry Spence.

The highlight of my week at the AAJ Convention was a complete surprise to me.  One day I learned just a few moments before lunch that my mentor, teacher, and friend, Gerry Spence, was receiving a much-deserved “Lifetime Achievement Award” at an AAJ luncheon.  It gave me an opportunity to get a big hug from my friend and hear again his words of inspiration that have given me strength and direction from the beginning of my career.  Gerry reminded me that great lawyers are not necessarily those with big verdicts, private jets, or floor seats at the Heat games, but rather those who fight and care for their clients and passionately believe in protecting people and their legal rights, regardless of fame or fortune.

I share that feeling, too.  If you have a legal question or concern about a potential personal injury claim in Florida for a car accident, slip and fall at a store, mall or tourist attraction, or have a been hurt by a prescription diabetes drugs such as:

Byetta (Manufactured by Amylin Pharmaceuticals, Inc.)

Januvia and Janumet (Manufactured by Merck)

Bydureon (Made by Bristol-Myers Squibb)

Onglyza  (Made by AstraZeneca)

Victoza (Manufactured by Novo Nordisk)

Tradjenta (Manufactured by both Eli Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim;

Actos (Manufactured from Takeda)


. . . Email me, Spencer Aronfeld, personal injury lawyer or call our law office at 305-441-0440 or Toll Free: 866-597-4529.