Thom Singer on “How To Hire The Right Lawyer”

question-mark3aThom Singer, a local author and motivational speaker, recently hosted a podcast on “How To Hire The Right Lawyer For Your Venture.”   Thom’s thoughts are interesting since he has a background working for two of the largest law firms in the country.  Thom’s podcast is an interview with a corporate lawyer and focuses on how to hire a lawyer for a new venture, but there are several points in the interview that would be helpful to those seeking to hire a personal injury attorney or litigator. 

 1.  View your lawyer as more than just providing legal advice.  For a start-up, a lawyer’s contacts in the community can be critical in helping obtain funding for the venture or other important assistance. 

While a personal injury victim doesn’t care about funding, the lawyer’s contacts and experience in the community are important.  Why?  Choice of doctors is one.  An experienced personal injury lawyer will have worked with a number of the doctors and medical providers in the community.  While we don’t like to recommend which doctors you see, we are more than happy to help you decide which doctors, hospitals, or other medical providers you should avoid.  Avoiding problem doctors can help with the care you receive and with he resolution of your case.

A good personal injury lawyer will also have good relationships with investigators, court reporters,videographers and others that can help in the pursuit of your claim.

2.  Remember that your lawyer is part of your team.  Picking an attorney is like picking your husband or wife.  You need to know that you can work together even in bad times.

This advice speaks for itself.  We always advise clients that a critical factor in their choice of attorneys is how well they get along with the lawyer.  Each case is different, but if we’re going to take your case to trial, we’re going to be spending a lot of time together.  If we can’t work together, then we’ll have a hard time being an effective team.

3.  The biggest mistake people make is waiting too long to visit an attorney.  Seeking an attorney after a problem arises makes resolution much more difficult and costly.

This advice is equally true in the personal injury context.  In smaller cases, we routinely have clients approach us after they have tried to resolve the issue themselves.  By that point,they have usually made several mistakes that compromise the value of their claim, making it harder on us to help them obtain a fair result. 

This is not limited to clients.  We are also routinely approached by other lawyers who tried to handle a personal injury claim and realized that they needed help.  Again, we may spend a lot of time and effort trying to fix problems that could have been easily avoided with proper advice up front.

Aditionally, on larger cases, much of the investigation work is done on the front end.  A case involving a wrongful death or other catastrophic injury may require a quick visit to the scene, testing or measurements of  the vehicles or products involved, etc.  Once the car has been repaired, the defective product has been destroyed, or the scene has been substantially modified, it is much more difficult to work up a case.   Understandably, personal injury victims aren’t thinking about these things.  They just want to get better.  But I guarantee you that in any significant trucking accident, the trucking company will have lawyers and experts on the scene within hours.

4.  The second biggest mistake is thinking that “my brother-in-law graduated from law school so he can set up my company.”

The day and age of a lawyer being a jack of all trades is over.  Even the most basic car wreck case has a number of difficult issues that attorneys that do not routinely practice personal injury law will not know.  For example, the concepts of “paid v. incurred,” 18.001 affidavits, and  subrogation, among others, are probably foreign to most lawyers, but are routine issues in personal injury claims that are evolving on a monthly basis.  A lawyer that doesn’t regularly practice personal injury litigation doesn’t have any chance of staying on top of these changing areas of law.

5.  It is difficult for a non-lawyerto know whether their lawyer is good or not.  How can you tell if you have a good lawyer or bad lawyer? First, try and get a referral from someone you respect.  Second,  check other sources to understand your lawyer — look at their websites, Google them, etc.  Finally, don’t be afraid to interview two or three lawyers.  Once you’ve done all that, then you have to rely on your gut.

 Again, that advice is also applicabl to personal injury litigation.  The one thing I would add is that this is an important decision.  Think of your job  — whether plumber, teacher, doctor, etc — whatever your profession, you know that there are members of your profession that do good work and members that do bad work.  There is the same spectrum of skills in the legal community. 

I’m a firm believer that I’m not competing with the other good personal injury lawyers in Austin.  There are enough people injured to keep all of us busy.  What I am concerned about is the lawyers that don’t routinely handle personal injury cases or the lawyers that do handle the cases, but who don’t put their clients’ interests first.  If you’re looking for a personal injury lawyer, I hope you do your due diligence to avoid these lawyers.

On a related note, let me also add that I did a blog series earlier taking snippets from Stephen Comiskey’s book, A Good Lawyer.  If you’re looking for a lawyer of any type, these snippets are useful.  You can read my posts here:  Chapter 1Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4,  and Chapter 5.   I also encourage you to read these posts if you’re a lawyer.  The book is tiny, but it is a gem, and it’s a good reminder of what we do.  Unfortunately, it appears to be out of print, though Chapters 1, 2, and 5 are reprinted in full in various issues of the Texas Bar Journal (with links to those articles in my respective posts on the chapters).

These are only some of the highlights of the podcast, and I encourage you to listen to the entire interview.  And if you’re looking for a professional public speaker, consider Thom.

Posted on: March 11, 2010 |

Perlmutter & Schuelke, PLLC maintains offices in Austin, Texas. However, our attorneys and lawyers represent clients throughout the state of Texas, including Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Forth Worth, El Paso, New Braunfels, San Marcos, Kyle, Buda, Round Rock, Georgetown, Lockhart, Bastrop, Elgin, Manor, Brenham, Cedar Park, Burnet, Marble Falls, Temple and Killeen. By Brooks Schuelke


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