Who really wants to spend their time in a lawyer or doctor office? Most people would prefer to be almost anywhere else. I understand. Other than routine physical exams, we see a lawyer or doctor only when we have a potential problem. For some of us, it has to be a pretty bad problem.
Most of us have seen a doctor at some point in our lives. So, we are familiar with the basics of medical appointments. When it comes to lawyers, it’s a very different story. Maybe you’ve never needed a lawyer. Many people live their entire lives without needing a lawyer. That’s a good thing.
Suddenly, you are hurt in an accident and not sure what to do. You may have many questions and many concerns. How do I handle my medical bills? Who can I call for help? Will I heal? Unfortunately, a lot of billboard and television advertising lawyers feed on uncertainty and fear. They offer a smile with promises that they can make the process easy.
It can be really difficult deciding what lawyer to call. All the ads look the same — A smiling, confident looking lawyer tells you he can handle it and asks you to call. Most of those guys avoid the courtroom at all costs. The insurance companies know these settlement mill attorneys well. They pay them less. A lot less.
I hope you never need a lawyer. If you do, research your options before hiring anyone. Avoid lawyers smiling from television or billboards who promise quick settlements. They are snake oil salesmen promising you what you want to hear. They rarely deliver the hard work necessary to prepare fully your case.
What should you expect when meeting a personal injury lawyer? I’ve written a couple prior articles on new client interviews. You can read my articles here:
What I want to discuss today are “red flags” for the interview process. What are the red flags that should warn you against hiring a specific lawyer? Here are four:
RED FLAG NUMBER 1 — A NON-LAWYER CONDUCTS THE INTERVIEW.
This is a huge red flag. Many settlement mill law firms advertising on television and billboards use “investigators” or “runners” to interview prospective clients. In some of these settlement mill law firms, clients never meet a lawyer. If they do, it is usually just at settlement. That’s wrong.
Some of these advertising firms even send their “investigators” to homes or hospitals when NOT requested. They show up and try to sign you up. Imagine someone entering your hospital room without an appointment trying to sign your case. Even if you called the firm and asked for an appointment, be wary of non-lawyers conducting new client interviews.
At our firm, you will be interviewed by a trial attorney. Why? An interview is more than just a meeting to gather your name and medical information. We believe it’s an opportunity to talk, in detail, with you. We want to understand your unique story. We want to understand your unique viewpoint. You will be the client. It is very important that the lawyer begin understanding the greater story of your case and how to present it. So, we believe it is essential for the lawyer who will work on your case to conduct the initial interview.
RED FLAG NUMBER 2 — THE LAWYER MAKES PROMISES.
We’ve all heard the television ads promising quick checks for wrecks. They promise fast money if only you will call. Whatever the slogan, the promise usually refers to easy and quick money. These television and billboard lawyers promise you an easy settlement if you just make a call. It’s a promise of success without work. Some lawyers even make promises of success when interviewing clients. These false sales promises are wrong.
Preparation and hard work produce the best cases and best results. Yet, settlement mill lawyers are unwilling to do the hard work necessary for preparing a case, maximizing the potential recovery, and saving the client as much money as possible.
RED FLAG NUMBER 3 — THE LAWYER RUSHES THROUGH THE MEETING.
Is the lawyer really interested in you? Is the lawyer acting like he would rather be elsewhere? Is the lawyer spending the time needed to understand your unique case? Some lawyers rush through client meetings like they are a burden. But, they are not. Initial client meetings are where a good lawyer begins to understand what makes every client, every case and every solution, all unique. Initial meetings are where a good lawyer begins to learn the client’s story so he or she can present it. Initial meetings are where the lawyer and the client begin to trust each other. A good lawyer should dedicate the uninterrupted time necessary to listen, learn and advise his or her client.
RED FLAG NUMBER 4 — THE LAWYER PRESSURES YOU TO SIGN THE ATTORNEY-CLIENT CONTRACT.
Why the pressure? Why is the lawyer only interested in getting my signature on the attorney fee contract? If you feel pressured, you should avoid signing with the lawyer. Attorney-client relationships should not work this way.
As I mentioned earlier, the initial meeting should be a time to discuss the events and gain an understanding of the case story. We believe the attorney-client relationship should be a two-way decision. That is, both the client and the attorney should feel comfortable working together to present the case. We limit our cases so we can focus our time on preparing cases and working with clients.
SETTLEMENT MILL LAW FIRMS ABUSE THE ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP
Modern settlement mill law firms turn the attorney-client relationship upside down. Instead of an attorney and client working together to best present the case, these firms utilize a staff of non-attorneys to process people and settle cases. A skilled lawyer with expertise in the field could better prepare individual cases. But, that’s not the goal of settlement mill law firms. Their goal is to move the legal assembly line from client signature to case settlement. Insurance companies and their defense lawyers know this and pay them less.
At the Blackwell Law Firm, we focus exclusively on Alabama personal injury cases. Our process is work-intensive. We want to best present the unique story of each individual client. We prepare every client’s case as if it will go to trial. We believe better preparation leads to better settlements and better trials.