When Hiring An Attorney

As an experienced trial lawyer in personal injury, I frequently see firsthand how important it is for injured persons to research and hire an experienced lawyer. In a personal injury case, there may be issues of liability, contributory negligence, understanding and evaluating the injuries and preparing the case for trial.   A lawyer who does not have years of experience handling these kinds of cases may fail to assess the case or value the case properly.

My advice to you, if a family member or friend of yours is terribly injured by another, research lawyers, law firms and talk with several of them. Google reviews can tell you if a law firm has happy clients, but it cannot tell you if the lawyer did a good job.  Some folks may be happy with their settlement; however, maybe the case could have been settled or tried for a higher amount. So, how do you choose a lawyer and law firm?  Start by appreciating the difference between marketing and accomplishments.

For example, a lawyer who is board certified has experience and training in the area they are certified in. It is a rigorous, skills-based achievement that reflects proficiency in the field, not just self-laudatory marketing.  I am nationally board certified in Civil Trial law. This requires a written exam, many letters of recommendation by lawyers and judges, as well as having completed a certain number of trials, legal writings, etc. In addition, a board certification expires, requiring recertification every “so many” years. It is not something you did twenty years ago and stopped, you must continue to be skilled by practicing your craft, practicing your area of certification, and in my case, trying cases. This is one thing to look for.

In addition, a membership in the American Board of Trial Advocates is a good indicator because it requires an invitation, completion of a certain number of trials, and a vote from local members and the national board.   These are objective credentials earned through hard work.

You can also talk with court room staff in your area, as they may know who is good in your surrounding area for your type of case. These folks see the lawyers who come in and argue their cases. I can tell you, some of the most rewarding experiences as a trial lawyer is when a new client says a judge or clerk, or bailiff recommended me. I have had that experience and have also had court personnel ask me to represent them in injury cases.  These were rewarding and humbling requests that I very much appreciated.

I also encourage you to interview several lawyers. It is amazing what you will learn by listening and asking questions. Good questions would include:  Have you ever had a jury trial before? Did you sit first chair in any jury trial? When was your last jury trial? Are you board certified? Are you a member of American Board of Trial Advocates? A good lawyer, in my opinion, will have at least two or three jury trials in any five-year period. I think civil trial lawyers and personal injury lawyers should try cases or have lawyers on staff that try cases regularly.

Look past the marketing, do your research, and choose a lawyer that has demonstrated the skills and proficiency to handle your case.  This may be one of the most important decisions you make to protect your interests and pursue your legal claim.

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