When you or a family member are injured you might find yourself searching for a personal injury attorney who can help you recover your lost wages, your medical costs and maybe even more. But the field of personal injury litigation is full of pretenders and lacking contenders. As you use the internet to search for a personal injury lawyer in your area, the first thing you will notice if you pay attention is that many of top results on GOOGLE, or BING, or YAHOO! are lawyers that have no connection your local community. Other top results are not attorneys at all but rather are attorney referral services that will simply sell you and your phone number to the highest bidder. Don't let yourself be just somebody's referral or even worse just another statistic. And don't waste your time using an attorney referral service that will rank the lawyers they show you in order of how much the attorneys paid the service. So how can you find a good attorney in the minefield of personal injury advertisers? Here are a few practical tips that will help you find the right lawyer for your case.
(1) Start by focusing on your local legal community. Ask attorneys you know who they would use if they needed a personal injury attorney. Ask your friends and family who they have used when they needed someone to fight on their behalf. And when you need to use the world wide web, be strategic and smart about your initial evaluation of the attorneys you see online. Some attorney's websites are designed to make you think the attorney has ties to your legal community when in fact their offices are 50, 100 or even 500 miles from you. Look carefully at an attorney's website before wasting your time reaching out to an office hundreds of miles away. You want an attorney who has roots in your community. You want an attorney with connections within the legal community where your case will be litigated. All of this is important when you want to sit down in an office near you when you need help.
(2) Stay away from the big law firm bait and switch. Unfortunately, the personal injury community of attorneys is often dominated by large firms spending thousands of dollars a month on television commercials and billboards and even more money on expensive office buildings populated by paralegals and legal interns. The bait is the big firm sold to you by the partner whose face you have seen on TV. But the switch is the people within that firm that will actually be working on your case. Large firms that handle hundreds and even thousands of cases at a time manage that volume by farming out the hard work of your case to legal interns, paralegals or if you are lucky, to first and second year lawyers learning on the job. When you need someone fighting for you, you want it to be an experienced attorney who has been in the trenches. Ask the attorney you are considering hiring who exactly will be handling your case. Ask if law students interning at the firm will be working on your case. Ask if all of the real work between you and the insurance company you are fighting will be done by an experienced attorney or by a paralegal. Ask if the partner you meet at your initial consultation will actually be the attorney working on your case or will she be farming your case out to a junior associate with little or no experience. All of these things are important because the glitz and glamour of a big firm isn't worth much if all the work on your case comes from law students and paralegals.
(3) Don't find your lawyer on television. Most of your late night or daytime TV commercial lawyers look a lot better on TV then they do in a conference meeting room or in a courtroom. When personal injury attorneys resort to television marketing, they are playing a numbers game, searching for a few major cases that they can sign up and hand off to an experienced litigator capable of handling it while the TV lawyer collects a handsome referral fee. The remaining cases they collect from slick marketing and late night TV spots are viewed as simply "overhead". Don't be a television commercial lead when you could be a real attorney's client. Ask any attorney you interview how many of the cases they accept ultimately get referred out to another firm or attorney who will do all the work. Don't hire a personal injury lawyer whose law practice is built on collecting referral fees rather than practicing law. Don't hire a personal injury lawyer who is simply going to refer your case to someone who you should have hired in the first place.
(4) Be weary of personal injury attorneys who sell low fees if they can settle your case quickly. Few statements in life are more true than, "YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR". It is as true in the services we pay for as it is for products we buy. If the biggest selling point an attorney has is being cheaper then the rest, you need to question why he or she would sell you their services on the cheap. Too often it is because his or her ability, skill and work ethic is worth less than that of his peers. And unfortunately, this inevitably will be demonstrated in the small recovery you receive. In too many cases, the only way to settle "quickly" is to be a slave to an insurance company offer. You don't need a personal injury attorney to take the low ball offer conveyed early on by an insurance company watching out for their bottom line. You need a personal injury attorney with the experience, skill and ability to get you the compensation you are entitled to under the law, not just the small amount that an insurance company is willing to pay you to go away.
All men may be created equally, but all lawyers are not. Unfortunately the legal profession has far too many unskilled lawyers who may have passed the bar but have never demonstrated exceptionalism in their career. You may only need a lawyer one time in your lifetime, when you do, hire one who has consistently demonstrated a level of exceptionalism that sets him or her apart from the rest.