Focused, hard-working and with a common touch, Brian Kerley has for more than a decade been one of Long Island’s leading trial-defense attorneys. With his partners – including Raymond J. Furey, also of Ten Leaders – Kerley has built one of the most successful liability-defense practices in Southern New York. Today the Seaford-based firm defends large numbers of doctors, hospitals and insurance carriers in the fast-evolving world of medical-malpractice law.
Founded in 1988, the firm now has 19 lawyers, all based at its expansive headquarters, Seaford’s former Jackson Avenue Elementary School, which Kerley himself attended in the early 1960s. Kerley attributes his own success – and the firm’s – to a steadiness and hands-on accountability that his clients relate well to. Kerley, the fourth of ten children, spent part of his youth in Newport News, Va., where his father, a marine engineer, made his career in the Tidewater shipyards. “We were solidly middle class people, and my dad never got rich, but he created opportunities for us,” recalls Kerley, who attended prep school in Richmond. Four of Kerley’s siblings went on to serve as police or fire fighters in the New York area; “we’ve always been a tight-knit family.”
From St. John’s Kerley went straight to law school, and as his first job took a research position with a customs and international trade firm in Manhattan. “I’ve always had lots of energy, and I never felt I was suited for back-room research. I knew I wanted to be a trial lawyer from the start.” Within a year he joined Long Island’s Furey & Furey, then with more than 50 lawyers, giving Kerley early experience in the courtroom, which became the basis for his practice today.
In 1988, he, Ray Furey and Jeffrey Walsh launched their firm. Over the last 20 years it has sustained remarkably steady growth in the face of an ever-changing liability-law marketplace: Insurance carriers are dropped and hired regularly, hospitals switch network affiliations, and medical practices continually remake themselves. Through all of that, Kerley’s firm has thrived as many larger competitors have struggled, a testament to its capacity to grow relationships – and keep clients happy. “We’ve been busy from the first day.”
Kerley, himself the father of five sons today, remains as competitive as ever; “It’s all about wanting to win. That’s the only kind of person I’d want defending my livelihood.” He calls courtroom work “the closest thing to playing professional sports,” and his caseload – they can reach two or three trials at a time – reflect the demand for his representation. Kerley has been for years a “reliable joiner”; today he is presiding chair of the Nassau Suffolk Trial Lawyers Association, a 275-lawyer organization of both defense and plaintiffs’ attorneys. He lectures widely to physicians on minimizing the risks of lawsuits and litigation. He enjoys golf and he’s a veteran now of many seasons coaching his sons’ sports teams. He and his wife Maura live in nearby Merrick, Long Island.