Most people don’t know how to go about selecting an attorney.
Injury attorneys are everywhere – billboards, TV, Social Media. Sneaking through your back yard (maybe, if you were recently hurt).
And if you have been in a car accident you probably are getting phone calls/texts and maybe even in-person visits from attorneys or their investigators.
What should you ask? What should you look for? What do you need to know before signing up?
For starters, in Georgia it is illegal for an attorney to contact you about hiring them after a car crash unless you have first contacted them. If you are contacted by an attorney (or someone acting on behalf of an attorney) and you did not reach out to that attorney first, don’t respond. Felons don’t make the best lawyers.
Second tip – pick an attorney who specializes in injury law. If you go to an attorney’s website and find that they are a jack of all trades (doing a little bit of family law, estate law, business law, criminal law, and injury law too), take your case elsewhere. Specialization means the attorney focuses all their time mastering one area of the law and that is what you need.
Next tip – think carefully before selecting a lawyer that spends a lot of money on marketing. Personal story time: when I first opened a law practice, I advertised in the Yellow Pages. Why did I do that? Because I didn’t have any clients and didn’t have many relationships in the legal profession. You know what I learned from advertising? The best clients don’t come from advertising. And the best lawyers don’t advertise.
Fast Forward to my present practice. I haven’t advertised in almost 20 years. Instead of investing in advertising, I’ve invested in relationships. With clients (who have become repeat clients and who refer me friends and family). With doctors (who know me and know I will take good care of their injured patients).
Big advertising in the personal injury arena is extraordinarily expensive. I know of lawyers who spend $100,000.00+ a month on advertising. Is that a good thing for that lawyer’s clients? Nope. It means that lawyer has got to charge more to cover that bloated advertising budget (I charge 10% less than the typical firm that advertises). It also means you, as a client of that firm, would be a fungible good.
A fungible good is a part that is interchangeable with any other part. It’s not special, it’s not all that valuable, because it’s easily replaceable. Big advertisers have thousands of new clients coming in every year. If you are not happy with the services provided by a big advertiser, you don’t have much power. They can just run another ad and replace you.
Firms like mine want and need happy clients. We depend on satisfied clients to keep our businesses open. Our past clients are one of the most important groups of people in our lives. So we care deeply about you and your opinion of us. We want to have a good relationship with you from now until infinity.
I get a little bit passionate about the negative impact lawyer advertising can have on attorney-client relationships. Hope that’s alright.
Another tip for picking a good personal injury attorney – the best lawyers are often people you’ve never heard of. And other lawyers know who the best lawyers are. If you know a lawyer already and you think they are good at what they do, ask them who is good at injury law. The best injury lawyers get some of their best cases from other lawyers. So work that connection.
Next tip – find out how many cases the lawyer is currently handling. Less is more. My goal is to limit my caseload to between 20 and 30 cases at a time. That’s what I’ve learned I can handle. It would be greedy for me to go higher than that and I wouldn’t be able to take care of all my clients’ needs.
If you get joined at the hip with a lawyer with 50-100 open cases, you are not going to hear from your lawyer. You might hear from your lawyer’s staff but your lawyer will be too covered up to keep your case a priority.
Tip # 6 (I think, starting to lose count) – Rapport. You need good rapport with your lawyer. You need to like your lawyer, at least a bit. If your lawyer has the personality of a porcupine, it’s going to be a painful case for you. Before you hire, talk to the lawyer long enough to see if you can connect as just two people. If you have a sense of humor, your lawyer should too. If you are a conservative person, don’t hire a hippie. If you want a lawyer who listens, don’t hire someone who rushes you and interrupts you constantly during the very first conversation.
Maybe what I’m saying is obvious, but when you hire a lawyer you are going to be stuck working with this person for months, even years. You need to have personality compatibility.
Final Tip – find out if the lawyer has tried any cases in recent years. You would be surprised how many lawyers have a website that describes them as “Trial Attorney” but haven’t seen a courtroom in a long time (or ever).
But keep this in mind – it’s common for very experienced trial lawyers to have almost all of their cases settle before trial. Some of the best trial lawyers only go to trial once every few years. So don’t expect something that doesn’t happen in the personal injury arena (lots of trials all the time). Make sure the lawyer can tell you about a recent case or two they took to trial. It doesn’t even matter whether they won or lost. Really, previous wins/losses don’t matter for you. Eye-opening statistic – nationwide about 60% of all injury trials result in a verdict that is NOT favorable for the injured person. 60%! So if your attorney tells you they never get a bad trial result, something is off. Maybe they haven’t taken any hard cases to trial. Win/loss record aside, just make sure they have been in the courtroom honing their craft and you’ll be fine.
I truly hope these tips help someone find a solid attorney.
My name is Pete Pearson and I practice personal injury law in the State of Georgia. Yes, I’ve tried cases recently. My most recent jury trial as of July 2019, which is when I am writing this post, was in May of 2019. We won. If you need an injury attorney, I’d like to talk to you. My direct dial is Six-Seven-Eight 358-2564. If I don’t answer I might be in court, so be sure to leave a message so I can call you back.