A problem for potential clients is knowing what to look for in a potential personal injury lawyer. One thing I always advise is to find out whether your lawyer is a member of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association and, if in Austin, the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association.
The Texas Trial Lawyers Association is the largest collection of plaintiff’s personal injury lawyers in the state. The Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association (of which I am secretary and on the executive committee) is our local chapter of Austin personal injury lawyers.
The great thing about these organizations is the attorneys’ willingness to share and help each other out. The continuing education courses are among the best I’ve ever attended. But the jewel of each may be the listserves that each operate. Hundreds of lawyers around the state are continually willing to share their knowledge and experience to help others. The listserves of each are among the best ways I know to stay abreast of changing issues of law, trial techniques, etc.
Yesterday was a prime example of the potential value of TTLA/CATLA membership and the listserves.
I had a hearing in a North Texas county involving an uninsured/underinsured motorist case. The issue at the hearing was whether I was entitled to take a deposition of a representative of the insurance company. I had requested the deposition, and the insurance company had filed a motion with the Court arguing that it was not required to provide the deposition.
When we arrived for the hearing, the Court informed me that he had read the motion and that it was his understanding from his practice that the insurance company was not required to provide the deposition. I argued that the case was identical to the case of In Re Garcia, a 2007 opinion from the San Antonio Court of Appeals, where the Court held that the trial judge had made an error by not allowing the deposition. I prevailed.
The amazing thing about the hearing was that neither the Judge nor the opposing attorney, who routinely represents insurance companies in these types of cases, had heard of the In Re Garcia case. But this is a case that is routinely discussed on both the TTLA and CATLA listserves.
What does that mean to potential clients? Even though this case is four years old, most lawyers aren’t using the case to get depositions in these uninsured/underinsured motorist cases. But TTLA and CATLA members are.
This is just one example of many on how TTLA and CATLA benefit lawyers and their clients. We continually collaborate on hot-button issues to give each other the opportunity to make the best arguments that can help our clients. (For example, I have a paper on uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage I prepared for a speech to the Capital Area Trial Lawyers that I’ve probably shared 50 times with lawyers around the state to help make sure they are making the best arguments for their clients.) The ways we help each other are too numerous to list. We bounce ideas off of one another; we help each other evaluate potential settlement values of cases; we help each other with suggestions of which experts might be good (or not good); we share with one another depositions of defense experts to help each other prepare for our own depositions. The list goes on and on. And in the end, we provide our clients better representation because we’re members of the organizations.
While there isn’t any guarantee that a TTLA or CATLA member will be a great lawyer (certainly, I’ve fielded questions from lawyers in our organizations that puzzled me), I think the lawyers in the groups have a better opportunity, and hiring mem bers of those organizations is probably a better test for potential clients than just hiring who has the best yellow pages ad or television commercial.
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