Does Your Accident Case Need The Resources Available At The Biggest Law Firms?
So you’ve been injured. Now you keep hearing commercials telling you why you should hire the biggest law firms. Those commercials are profoundly misleading on many levels. So I wanted to explain why you should never, ever hire the biggest Orlando personal injury law firms.
I’ve been hearing misleading commercials about why people should hire the biggest law firms for years. I was in my car about to go into the hair salon when I decided that I needed to share my reply to these maddening commercials. Here’s the video I recorded from my car (scroll below for a much more detailed, less on-the-fly explanation):
Basically the message of many commercials is that you need to hire the biggest law firms to get the best results in your personal injury case. Of course, I know that is completely bogus. But let’s breakdown the reasons (some of which will be obvious to you, once you know the facts). And why I would NEVER personally hire any large law firm, let’s say if I were injured myself (because at least smart lawyers never represent ourselves).
But first let’s explain their theory as to why you need to hire the biggest law firms.
Why The Biggest Law Firms Claim You Need To Hire Them
The idea is that they have the “resources” to better fight your battle. I assume this means they have more money. They also claim that the biggest law firms have a larger staff of people waiting to return any of your phone calls that very same day. That’s the full summary of their argument. However, over the years, I have also had a few clients initially tell me that they thought they needed a larger firm because there was a corporate defendant on the other side (and somehow they assumed bigger firms would be better equipped to fight corporate defendants).
Beyond radio and television ads, many billboards also claim that you should hire the biggest firm — and often tout high dollar number awards to entice you to call them. I’ll break those down further below, too.
Here’s are the facts that I have learned over the years, and why I would never, in a million years, hire a large personal injury law firm.
Why I Would Never Hire The Biggest Law Firms, Nor Ever Refer Any Cases To Them
Similarly, I would never refer any case to the biggest law firms for the same reasons. For a variety of reasons, I regularly refer or co-counsel cases, in exchange for a percentage split referral fee (which means that I have skin in the game when referring any case, as well as joint legal responsibility to any referred clients), when I cannot handle them for whatever reason, or I believe that another lawyer would be a better fit for the particular type of case. This helps all potential clients because they get advice about who would be best to handle their particular type of case, based on my extensive knowledge & experience. Unquestionably, I could refer good cases to ANY law firm. No firm would ever turn down a good case referral. But again I would never choose a large law firm because I know that I don’t want to be treated like cattle as a referring lawyer — nor would I want to share required joint legal responsibility for any referred case that I knew would be handled in a high volume manner. For those reasons, I have always referred cases I could or should not handle exclusively to smaller firms, or solo lawyers, who I personally know from their results have an excellent track record in the courtroom. These are always among the most respected personal injury lawyers in the state of Florida.
How The Biggest Law Firms Operate — Decide For Yourself Whether You Should Hire Them
Anyway, here are the other facts regarding how the biggest Florida personal injury law firms operate:
- The biggest law firms start your process with several floors of cubicle style call centers. These people are employed directly by the law firm. They give preference in hiring, to employees in their call centers, to those with sales experience. I actually wrote a blog a few years back showing a sample employment ad from one of these firms. They want their call center operators to be highly skilled in converting you into a client, i.e., trained in sales. (Disclaimer: we use a third party answering service to screen our calls, out of necessity because we could not possibly handle the volume of calls from people with cases we do not handle. However, we carefully formulated the first basic questions, which tell us whether you might have a case that we can handle. These include extremely basic questions like how the accident happened, whether you are injured, what treatment you’ve received, whether there was insurance coverage, and that kind of thing. Two twenty year experienced and award-winning lawyers read every new case inquiry immediately. If we think we can handle the case, then we return the call very soon, often immediately. Importantly, this is a third party call center (not our sales pitch trained employees). The operators are trained only to take information. They certainly do not engage in any type of sales pitch.)
- The biggest law firms employ anywhere from 70 to hundreds of lawyers, with varying skill and experience levels. You get whoever you are assigned — with no control whatsoever over the experience of that particular lawyer. Many junior lawyers get their training fresh out of law school in these firms. They certainly are “practicing” on their clients cases. These law firms have absolutely no special techniques for winning cases that they teach their lawyers, junior or otherwise.
- The biggest law firms often employ “case managers,” who are assigned a large volume of cases. They get paid a lot less than the lawyers. Their job is basically to keep you happy, and to keep the lawyers from needing to talk to you. In sharp contrast to the highest profit, cattle mentality of the biggest law firms, we employ zero case managers. We have only highly trained paralegals & attorneys — who work closely together to handle all client questions and decisions in their cases.
- The lawyers at the biggest law firms often handle 500-700 clients at once. When I worked in some of the largest defense firms in the country, full-time, I might have handled 10-20 cases at once. Personal injury is a little different because we don’t have to respond to as many written court motions. And many cases are handled pre-suit (without a lawsuit). So handling 100 cases is reasonable, assuming there are a much smaller number of those cases in litigation at the same time (versus the number of cases in pre-suit, meaning only requiring negotiation with an insurance company after your treatment, without filing a lawsuit in court). However, there are no shortcuts in the law. This means that you simply cannot get the attention your case needs and deserves, if your lawyer is handling 500-700 cases, particularly if you have a more serious injury case that will require litigation. But even in cases that do not require litigation — it is simply not humanly possible for even the most experienced lawyer to handle that number of cases and give those cases anywhere near the attention they deserve. (By the way, I wrote a couple of blog posts several years ago linking to two extensive Stanford University studies about how large firms must operate to pay their very expensive marketing bills. You can read additional well-documented information about their operational techniques here. These studies were based on interviews with over 50 employees of the nations’ largest law firms and other evidence from disciplinary bar proceedings. The author & Stanford law school professor explained why the biggest firms must operate in a high volume way to cover their millions of dollars in marketing budgets. And the impact that high volume practicing has on individual cases, which is to lower the value in moderate to severe injury cases.)
- Many years ago, I interviewed with a large plaintiff’s injury law firm. Unlike every other firm where I have ever worked or interviewed, such as with large corporate defense firms, the focus of this interview was whether I could handle basically ignoring clients and letting case managers do most of the client communication, as well as doing very little work on each case. I have never forgotten that interview. That was just crazy, but still the norm for large personal injury law firms. They simply do not have enough lawyers, junior or otherwise, to have a lawyer carefully supervising every case, and speaking at length with clients who have more serious injuries that are likely to require litigation.
- Minor injury cases can usually be settled pre-suit after you finish treatment, largely based on a settlement package that includes your medical bills, any photos from the accident, and a written summary of why you weren’t at fault, as well as any other notable results from your injuries, such as lost ability to participate in hobbies, impact on your job or business, etc. In these cases, your medical bills mostly determine your case value. However, sometimes something about your story needs to be mentioned in the demand letter, or documents that support your claim need to be gathered, or witness reports need to be included, and only a lawyer can supervise that decision. You also need a lawyer with enough time to review and check whatever any paralegal has concluded about likely value, based on medical bills and other evidence, for pre-suit negotiation purposes.
- In litigation (lawsuits filed in court), lawyers have to tell your story. That literally is their job — to collect evidence, including preparing testimony from you and your family, friends, multiple medical and other experts, accident witnesses, and the defense witnesses, as well as extensive documents, such as employment records from the defendant driver, or trucking maintenance records, to tell the most persuasive story to convince a jury that you didn’t cause the accident, and how your injuries have changed your life. That means a lawyer needs to hear your story, and spend a lot of time thinking about the best ways to prove that you were not at fault (which isn’t always easy), and prove the extent of your injuries, and their impact on your quality of life (again, not easy or fast). There are thousands of possible ways to best tell your story. Throughout your case, you need a lawyer thinking about how best to craft your argument, collect the necessary evidence to tell your story, and present your case for top dollar, in any moderate to serious injury case. Cases in litigation take hundreds and hundreds of hours of totally creative work. Lawyers have to decide — which statutes to claim the defendant violated, which witnesses to interview, which documents to request, which questions to ask during depositions or trial, which motions to file to push for more evidence when the defendant refuses to produce the evidence, which evidence to fight to get admitted at trial when the defendant objects, which third parties to subpoena or depose, who to sue, whether to sue, where to even file the lawsuit, and on and on.
- In all types of cases, you need a well-trained paralegal, or a lawyer, or both, advising you regarding how to get the most money from your case. This often includes things like where you might want to get medical treatment, how to decide on the timing of optional medical treatments, how to interact with witnesses, how to handle your business or job if your injuries had an impact, etc. (Of course we aren’t doctors so we never give medical advice. But we consider telling you the impact of various medical treatments and providers on your legal case value to be an important part of your case.) Bottom line: you can increase or decrease your case value significantly based on your decisions after the accident. We help guide you through that process, in a very detailed way. That advice takes time. High volume case loads do not allow anyone working on your case to spend the time needed to maximize your case value.
- Because there is so much work involved in lawsuits, even when I worked 2400 billable hours a year in a big defense firm (which amounted to hellishly long hours because we also worked many unbillable hours), I could only handle 10-20 cases in litigation at one time. Personal injury is a little less labor intensive. But, still, there is zero percent chance that any human being lawyer could handle 500-700 cases at once, and make the most persuasive arguments in each case. If you do the math, assuming the lawyer worked 2400 billable hours a year (which is a lot), and he or she had 700 clients, he or she could only devote 3.4 hours to each client per year. There is simply no way such a lawyer could give any single client’s case the time necessary for the best outcome.
- Often the biggest names on the billboards are not themselves trial lawyers. They are lawyers who were very good at marketing.
- The lawyers with whom I work, and myself, have been sought by these big firms to work for them, as lawyers. We have all consistently declined those requests, and will continue to do so.
- Despite referring hundreds of cases over the years, having full knowledge of the legal system in Orlando, and having the ability to refer to any firm of my choosing, I have never, not one time, referred any case to a large law firm. And I never will.
- Regarding their claim that they have more “resources” (that is, money) to fight harder on your behalf. That’s laughable and totally absurd. Every personal injury firm, regardless of size, spends very similar amounts on similar cases. There are many reasons this is true.
- First, there is a simple business reason. If we spend X dollars on a case (which can be anything ranging from a few thousand to over a hundred thousand or more on the biggest cases), we risk losing that money, every time. And no law firm can guarantee how a jury of unknown people will decide your case, if it goes to trial, rather than settles (and lawyers cannot decide to settle cases without client consent, at least if they are following our ethical rules). So we have to balance the risk with the likely reward. If your case is potentially worth 2M, then it’s worth taking a risk to spend 100K. But that risk would be totally unjustified if your case was only potentially worth 100K. Big law firms make exactly the same business decisions, just in larger volumes of cases. They still can’t stay in business if their lawyers decide to risk higher amounts of their money than an individual case might be worth, on a regular basis.
- When I used to work as a defense lawyer representing the very same corporations that we now sue on a regular basis, big firms never spent more than smaller firms on individual cases.
- All personal injury lawyers have to answer to clients after the case settles! According to the very well-enforced ethical rules governing lawyers, lawyers are absolutely forbidden from spending money on any clients behalf other than case handling costs, which the client must repay at the end of every case. So let’s say your case is worth one million. And we know that we need to spend 50K to get you the best result. We spend that money, let’s say paying for experts needed to prove the extent of your injuries. At the end of the case, we have to deduct that 50K from the money that goes into your pocket. You get a settlement statement, again required by law, where we detail exactly what funds were deducted from your settlement amount, to whom those monies were paid and in what amounts. If we spend too much money relative to the ultimate recovery, we will have very unhappy clients. Exactly the same limit is placed on firms of any size. In other words, if the biggest firm were to spend 500K to get you 1M, they know you will be very unhappy at the end when you learn that they spent so much money. So no lawyers spend more than they think is necessary to handle a case effectively, regardless of the law firm size. This is an absurd marketing pitch from big law firms that totally falls apart when you break it down.
- As far as the billboards advertising high settlement numbers, we have high settlement numbers, too, in serious injury cases with sufficient insurance coverage. A higher volume of those high value cases go to law firms with more advertising, simply because they get more calls. But high value cases are not really unusual. The question is — will the lawyer you hire put the time needed into YOUR case to maximize YOUR case value? Because a million dollar case can easily be settled for 500K with a LOT less work (Or a 2M case can more quickly be settled for 1M, etc.) And quickly resolving higher volumes of 500K cases can make doing the work for 1M not really worth the time for a lawyer too busy to do the work. (And I must say that these high value cases are relatively RARE cases because the injuries must be catastrophic, and the defendant must have enough insurance to pay those kinds of awards. These case values are more typical of commercial or semi-truck accidents, or Uber or Lyft accidents, because those often have high value policies. Many regular people driving around have either no insurance coverage, or very low coverage ranging from 10-100K. We can’t collect when there is no money.)
We encourage you to read more about our background. But we also invite you to call us, particularly if you have a moderate to severe injury case. Talk to our lawyers & staff. Consultations are free. Ask yourself whether you think this lawyer seems to care enough, and be honest enough, to tell your case story (and will take the time to collect a vast amount of evidence necessary to make that happen–and by the way collecting evidence is an extremely creative process — not cookie cutter — and therefore takes time to plan and execute), and level with you when they are giving you advice about settlement or trial preparation. Let us tell you personally about the types of cases we have handled, and the outcomes we have achieved. The best Florida personal injury lawyer for you is the lawyer you think has a lot of experience and skill, and who will take the time to tell your story best. We have 20+ year experienced lawyers with numerous impressive awards working on every case. Don’t get stuck in the high volume rat race with a junior lawyer handling your case and not returning your calls!Share