Here Are Some Tips:
- Get our book, Hiring the Right Injury Lawyer (TheAccidentBible.com or email and ask for it at Joe@JoeStephensLaw.com). It will teach you how to “read” the ads.
- Get a referral from an attorney that you know. He or she will probably know someone who does specialize in your area of need. If you need an attorney in an area of practice that we don’t do, call us. We’ll help you find the right lawyer for your case.
- Find out if the lawyer has Board Certifications in the field of Personal Injury Trial Law in the State of Texas. The National Board of Trial Advocacy certifies lawyers and the process to become certified is rigorous. You can go to http://www.nblsc.us/find_board_certified_lawyers/ and do a search for certified lawyers. The Texas Board of Legal Specialization also certifies lawyers http://www.tbls.org/Directory/Attorney.aspx. You want someone with AT LEAST ONE certification, but two is better.
- Ascertain if the lawyer has been chosen as a Texas Super Lawyer. You can do a search at http://www.superlawyers.com/texas/. The lawyers in this organization must be nominated, and then are voted on by their peers if they are considered to be outstanding lawyers in their field. Very few lawyers are chosen.
- Have they had any grievances filed against them? The State Bar only advises if they have lost a grievance, not whether one was filed against them by a client.
- Whether they have ever won any awards for their accomplishments such as “Outstanding Trial Lawyer” or “Verdict of the Week.”
- And most importantly, does the lawyer you are seeking to hire have a lot of experience in the court room trying cases to juries? Most experienced lawyers have tried very few cases. The Specialty Organizations who certify lawyers these days are actually thinking of dropping the number of trials that a lawyer must have tried because nobody can qualify to take the exam. The number of trials is only 14. A truly experienced court room lawyer should have between 50-100 trials under his belt, with many of them involving serious injuries and death claims. Otherwise, he will get no respect from the big insurance companies when it comes time to settle the claim. They check out the lawyer’s track record. So should you! How can you check out the lawyer? Run a search through Verdict Search to ascertain at least some of the cases the lawyer has tried in the recent past.
- Look at Internet services such as AVVO, the industry leader in lawyer ratings. It shows the measure of what others think of the lawyer. MartinDale Hubbell also provides lawyer ratings such as AV –standing for preeminent. In my opinion, MartinDale Hubbell has become so commercialized that its rating service is not all that reliable these days. With increasing frequency, good lawyers are left off their peer review ratings because the lawyer chooses not to pay thousands of advertising dollars each year. Further, lawyers with poor reputations or no reputation are included and given high ratings. The influence of their paid advertising and websites probably has influenced the objectivity of this formerly reputable rating service.
- Interview several attorneys. Ask each attorney who else handles these cases in your area. If they won’t give you any names, leave. Ask this question of each attorney. The names you see showing up on various lists of recommendations are probably good bets for attorneys doing these cases in your area on a regular basis.
- Be careful about any attorney who rushes you to sign a contingent fee agreement. A contingent fee is not the right fee for every type of personal injury case. You should take the agreement home, read it and understand it. We have heard of instances where fee agreements are delivered by courier within hours of the time you first call the attorney’s office. That’s right, before you even have had a chance to meet with the attorney. This is outrageous.
- Run from any attorney who calls you first.
- Beware of “runners.” A “runner” hangs out at the police station or listens to police radio to “run” to accident scenes or hospital rooms to encourage victims to sign contracts with attorneys. Outrageous does not begin to describe this practice!
- Beware of any attorney who contacts you in writing just after you have had an accident for the sole purpose of soliciting your claim. If you are contacted “cold,” it should be for the sole purpose of providing you free information that you can study in your own home, on your own time, not soliciting your case.
- Beware of any attorney who has a stable of doctors he wants to refer you to. You can tell who these attorneys are by the rack of doctors’ cards they keep in their office. Local judges have said that when an attorney makes a referral of a client to a doctor for a garden-variety case, this is the “kiss of death” for that case. It’s OK to get a referral to a specialist health care provider, but run from any attorney who has a stack of doctor or chiropractor cards in his office.
- Here are factors and good points to look for and question your attorney about. Note that not every attorney will meet all of these criteria, but the significant absence of the following should be a big question mark.
- Experience – obviously, the longer you have been practicing a particular area of the law, the more you will know. Experience can be a big factor in many cases.
- Experience actually trying cases – ask the attorney how many cases he has actually tried. Has he or she achieved any significant verdicts or settlements? Does he have a list of verdicts and settlements available that you can look at? Don’t accept the “All my cases are confidential” line! The greater your number of cases actually tried and substantial verdicts and settlements achieved, the more likely the insurance companies will respect you. Past results are not a guarantee of the future, but past results do demonstrate some level of experience and success.
- Members in Trial Lawyer associations. In our area, you can certainly find a lawyer who is a member of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association (TTLA) and the American Association for Justice (AAJ). These organizations provide extensive education and networking for trial lawyers.
- Authorship. Has the lawyer published any books, or written any articles in the field?
Once You Have Decided on an Attorney, Make Sure You Both Understand Your Goals and You Understand How the Relationship Between Your Attorney and You Will Work.
How will your attorney keep you informed about the progress of the case? Your attorney should also take time to explain the “pace” of the case and in what time frames the client can expect activity to take place.
Find out who will actually be working on your case. Make sure that you and your attorney have a firm understanding as to who will be handling your case. There are a lot of things that go on with a case that do not require the senior attorney’s attention. On the other hand, if you are hiring an attorney because of his or her trial skills, make sure that that person is going to be trying your case for you, and taking every deposition in the case.
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More Personal Injury FAQ
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