As an Orlando accident & injury attorney, I learn more about how other injury law firms operate every time I receive a call from a client who is unhappy with how another firm has handled their case. In fact, in a prior blog post, I shared another story that amounted to a huge warning to watch for law firms who admit right in their retainer agreement that they will never file a lawsuit. That would be a big red flag because not filing suit will seriously decrease the potential value of many moderate to serious injury cases. Although some accident cases do not justify filing suit, you need an Orlando accident attorney who will honestly explain the difference, and non-suit cases are limited to very specific fact patterns in my practice, such as those involving minor injuries, or those without sufficient insurance coverage.
Orlando Accident Attorney Uncovers Big Shell Game
Last week, I was equally shocked to learn about another BIG shell game with injury & accident law firms. This one was unbelievable. I wish I could highlight both law firm names right in my blog, but that’s just not possible. So, let me just tell you, if you want to understand how these cases really work, you need to call me. I explain everything you need to know about how to maximize case value during my initial consultations with any car accident or other injury victim.
My Own Mistaken Belief Before Last Week’s Consult
With that foundation, here’s the scoop. There are two very well known injury & accident law firms. My personal impression is that one has a tarnished reputation, to put it mildly, based on pages and pages of bad reviews you may easily find online with a simple search. My impression was that the other (second) law firm had a decent reputation. I suppose my impression was based on my own perception after seeing huge billboards all over the place, even though I know billboards guarantee nothing. Still, I hadn’t heard anything good or bad about the other firm, so I had no real opinion one way or another about them.
But my belief was that these two firms were both fierce competitors. Seems logical, right?
Shocking Injury & Accident Law Firm Partnership Facts
Well you can imagine my surprise when one of my new clients shared the retainer agreement that this second firm had asked him to sign, as part of his search for a bicycle & car accident attorney. The retainer agreement from the second accident law firm had this telling line:
I understand that _________ law firm is a partnership between _________ law firm and ___________ law firm.
The first blank line is the second firm, which advertises heavily. The second blank is the other huge firm, which also advertises heavily, and has pages and pages of bad reviews.
What Does This Mean?
When any injury or accident client hires what they might reasonably think is the much better injury firm, in reality that firm is a partnership with the other accident firm, which has accumulated a mountain of bad reviews. Partnership means they are one and the same, at least as far as the client hiring the partnership is concerned.
Are Injury & Accident Law Firm “Partnerships” Unusual?
Having law firms that join together as co-counsel is not unusual. Co-counsel or referral arrangements are common. Further, at least in my opinion, these arrangements can help the clients, because more lawyers with better expertise work on their case, for the same price to the client. Or the first lawyer refers the client to another lawyer they trust. For example, my clients trust me, so they might call me to get help finding another lawyer in another practice area. This regularly happens to all lawyers and can be a very good thing for their clients.
But this was notably different for a few reasons: (1) none of the advertising from the second injury firm reveals the partnership with the first firm, which I believe is misleading; (2) since the firms are a partnership, that means they are both owners of the same business; (3) generally co-counsel do not form an official partnership, which is very specific type of legal business entity, and which usually includes a formal written partnership agreement. These might be a confusing differences for potential non-lawyer clients. But, as a lawyer, the partnership was distinctly different than anything I’ve encountered before with co-counsel or referring attorneys. A formal business partnership suggests an extremely close alliance, which seems unusual since neither firms’ advertising mentions any alliances with other firms. Nevertheless, if a client signed this agreement, they would effectively be hiring both the first and second law firms. Additionally, my client told me that the second firm did NOT explain this partnership during their initial consult. In fact, they had absolutely no idea that the first firm was involved, until they read the agreement more closely later. In contrast, when I work with other attorneys or law firms on any case, I explain the relationship and reasons to my clients, as well as what aspects of the case I will handle, and what aspects of the case the other firm will handle. Moreover, this is just me, but I would never encourage my clients to hire any other law firm with a long list of bad client reviews.
Is There Anything Wrong With Law Firms Forming Partnerships?
Even though this seems highly unusual to me, there is actually nothing wrong with two law firms forming a partnership. The question is, with two seemingly gigantic injury & accident firms, what is the purpose of this partnership? Further, regarding this particular arrangement, unless these injury and accident clients carefully study their retainer agreements, many may not understand who they are actually hiring. In other words, without realizing it, they may be hiring an injury or accident law firm that they never wanted.
Another Not Good Injury Client Experience
As a slight tangent, one potential client of this “partnership” never spoke with anyone other than an “investigator” who came to his house to sign papers, which took just a few minutes. The investigator explained nothing other than they would begin investigating the case. In contrast, I personally spend approximately 2-3 hours with every new client, between the initial teleconference and in-person consultation, to make sure they know everything they need to know (which is a LOT), to maximize their case value.
2 and 2 Equals?
Anyway, putting everything together, one has to seriously wonder whether the first firm has partnered with the second because of the bad review situation. Of course, that is pure speculation on my part. Either way, why am I not surprised to find yet another shell game where injury and accident cases are concerned?