EP10 S03: Important Advices For New Lawyers
Advice for New Lawyers / Law Students Opening a NY Personal Injury Law Firm – Young Attorneys Looking to Open a New Law Firm
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One of the questions that a lot of people ask and topics that I really wanted to talk about was what I would tell my younger self. So for example, all those law students out there, all those people that recently graduated from law school and are about to start a law firm, what would you want to know? And I could maybe give you some advice because I’ve been doing this since 1999, for 21 years.
I think the important thing to consider is client selection. If you’re going into a field like personal injury, where you had a shingle and you open up your own law firm, and now you’re advertising, right?
Whatever method you’re doing, billboards, TV, radio, internet, and you’re getting those calls. And in the beginning, a lot of lawyers that are just starting out, make the mistake that they think, “Oh, I’m getting cases. I should just take them all.” Because a lot of those cases are actually landmines, they’ll actually drain your energy, and you’ll end up litigating them, and they’ll go into this discovery swamp where you’ll just be fighting, and you’ll never see any actual money from them.
The important thing is to use someone who’s a little bit older, maybe a mentor, and work with them, and have them guide you if you don’t know which cases are worthwhile and which cases could be the landmines that don’t work out. Because the last thing you want is to waste your time litigating a case that ends up being a dead end. And a dead end doesn’t only mean that the case ends up being zero.
A dead-end could also mean that you litigate a case, and you have to do mounds and mounds of paperwork, and go to court, and get affidavits from doctors. And in the end, the payoff is only, let’s say $5,000. And a third legal fee of one-third, 33, and a third percent of that is like $1,700. And then if you add up all your hours, maybe you’re working for less than minimum wage, right? You’re working for like a dollar an hour. It just doesn’t make sense.
A lot of litigation really involves going to war with these insurance companies, and their billion-dollar insurance companies, and their law firms that they’re hiring, or these white-shoe law firms with offices in Moscow, and London, and Paris, and Los Angeles, and New York City. And do you really want to battle with these law firms and get paid a dollar an hour? I don’t think so. So be careful. Very important to make sure the cases you are accepting our quality cases.
The real easy test is, after meeting the client, you should ask yourself, is this someone that I would be willing to sit next to you at trial? And do I believe in their case? Is this someone that I would sit next to in that courtroom and take a verdict from a jury of six strangers? And if the answer is yes, that you believe in the case, it’s truly in your heart and you would sit there, take the case. But if you see that this case has problems, he says he has an injury, but that’s a little scratch on the bumper, or whatever the problems maybe, or you just find out, look, it may be a good case, but it’s a limited policy, it’s only a $25,000 policy and it’s not enough of an injury for them to just tender and pay me the entire policy, so I’m going to have to fight for that 25, it might not make financial sense for you.
So you have to really consult with someone who’s been doing this for some time and make that decision. But I think case selection is very, very important. And what we’ve actually seen in our practice is that the clients who have the million-dollar cases, for whatever reason, are not bothering us, they’re calling us maybe like once or twice a year, we’re having nice conversations with them, and everything gets along perfectly.
But the clients that have these marginal cases, maybe the $25,000 insurance policies, or the little scratch of the bumpers, right? Or the clients who just don’t have an injury or who don’t get the minimum amount of treatment, medical care that you need to qualify under the law, those are the clients that always call, maybe because, subconsciously, they know they don’t really have a case, so they’re trying to concoct something. I don’t know, but they’re always calling. Some of them can call you 10 times a day. It’s a drain on your resources because then you can’t work on good quality cases.
So they’re calling you, they’re bothering you. And then if you end up not being able to help them because they don’t get enough medical care, for example, and nobody could help them, right? What they’ll do is they’ll go out and they’ll write a bad review about you, and then it’ll hurt your firm. So be very careful with that. That’s one of the things that I definitely learned as a personal injury attorney.
Okay. I hope this has been helpful. Thank you so much and have a great day. And good luck. Good luck with the bar exam. And good luck opening up your own law firm. All the best.