My dad was a Plumber and he taught me many valuable lessons. One of the most important lessons I learned was to, “Use the right tool for the right job.”
Picking the right lawyer for your case is just like that. In every city, there are hundreds if not thousands of lawyers and it is virtually impossible for anyone to know who they should hire as their attorney. I am shocked and amazed that given the importance of choosing the right attorney, many people pick the first attorney they recognize from TV commercials.
While I do advertise on TV, I do not suggest to anyone that the fact that I advertise like this means that I am the right lawyer for you. The choice of a lawyer is an important one and I, therefore, urge you to keep the following suggestions in mind when you pick the right lawyer for you:
1. Ask family and friends for personal injury lawyer recommendations
I strongly believe that the best source of information that people should consider when choosing a lawyer is the recommendation of their family and friends. Ask around. Talk to people you know and respect in the community and ask them who they believe would be a good lawyer for your case. The key for you is to identify who the good lawyers are so that you can stay away from the bad lawyers.
2. Find an attorney with years of experience handling accident cases
Just like the best plumber might be a disaster trying to fix your electrical problem, not all lawyers are experienced and competent in handling accident cases.
When I first started working as an attorney, I managed virtually every type of case that came across my desk. I took family court cases, traffic tickets, real estate closings, divorces, workers’ compensation, etc. Thankfully, for both me and my clients, I had a wise and experienced mentor, Carl Hayden. One day, Carl sat me down and said it was time for me to focus on “those cases you truly love.” He explained that being a jack-of-all-trades and master-of-none was NOT the way to become a good lawyer and he encouraged me to pick my passion. It was the best advice I ever received. Now, for more than thirty years, I have limited my practice to personal injury and medical malpractice cases.
Why is this history important? Because it illustrates my point that some lawyers dabble in all types of legal matters while others choose to concentrate their practice in a focused area of the law. My point is that the law is extraordinarily complex in every practice area. It is impossible to be competent in any given area of the law if you are trying to do several types of law.
Accordingly, I think one of the best questions you should ask any attorney who you are considering for an accident case is whether he or she restricts his or her practice to personal injury cases. Ask them how long they have limited their practice and for how many years they have represented accident victims. Ask them about their results. While it is true that past experience in cases does not guarantee future results, past results do provide some indication as to whether the attorney has successfully handled similar cases.
3. Review a prospective attorney’s website or their written publications
Good lawyers often have informative websites. While I do not mean to suggest that a glitzy website necessarily means that that lawyer is a good one, a website is often a reflection of the lawyer’s approach to his profession and his clients. A lawyer who has no website or a poor website may be a lawyer who is failing to take advantage of technology or one who does not approach his or her cases with the same level of seriousness as the lawyer who has invested the time and effort necessary to put together a good website.
Most effective websites feature sections providing biographical information about the lawyer, a description of the types of cases the lawyer handles, a description of some representative cases the lawyer has handled, and client testimonials for clients the lawyer has represented. Reading these sections will provide a great deal of information to you as to whether or not that attorney or law firm is right for you and your case.
4. Hire a local attorney when possible
Prospective clients often ask, “Should I hire a local attorney or an attorney from a distant city who may advertise in my area?” My response is that hiring a local attorney is always better if you can find a good local attorney experienced in handling your type of case.
Why? Because the local lawyer knows the local “scene”. What I mean by this is that local attorneys are:
- More convenient for you to meet
- Familiar with the local judges and lawyers
- Know the local court personnel and the unique quirks of getting things done in the local courts
- Know the insurance adjusters who typically handle cases in that area
- Know the doctors and their medical staff from whom cooperation is most important
- Know the local police and investigators who can be crucial to an accident investigation
- Know the local roads, the local bars, and the local witnesses so often they have general background information that can assist them in understanding your case.
Some people ask me whether they should worry about hiring a local attorney because they have some sense that the local attorneys or insurance adjusters might be friends or “in cahoots” with one another. My response is that I am in business to get as much money for my clients as possible. By doing so, I maximize my attorney fee. I feel my knowledge of my local opponents (and their knowledge of me) helps me do a better job for my clients. I know who is going to jerk me around, I know who is going to deal fairly with me, and I know who can be trusted and who cannot. In other words, the local knowledge helps, not hurts.
5. Examine the attorney’s prior results
Although it is true that every case is different and that past results are no guarantee of future results, an attorney’s past track record is a very critical piece of information you should carefully consider. An attorney’s track record is an indication of whether they have handled cases like yours and whether they were able to successfully resolve that case. Insurance companies keep a scorecard on all attorneys. Those with a good reputation for past results often get earlier and larger settlement offers because their good reputation precedes them.
Most attorneys list their results on their websites so that is a straightforward way for you to check them out before you even meet with them. If you visit my website, I list some of my firm’s results so you get an idea of what type of results information is usually provided by most attorneys. You are welcome to contact the Ziff Law Firm now by calling (800) 943-3529 or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Whether you hire our New York personal injury attorneys or not, we will advise you on your options for navigating your injury case. Please call us now.
Thanks for reading, Jim
James B. Reed
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and NYBikeAccidentBlog.com
Selected for: Best Lawyers’ ’15, ’17 & 2019 Lawyer of the Year