Picking the right personal injury lawyerThe commoditizing of a personal injury practice seems to be making a come-back. Who knows, maybe it is here to stay. I have seen it several other times over the past thirty-some years practicing personal injury law. In time it will wax and wane with the spending and then wasting of marketing dollars. Because as marketing dollars are wasted and tend to bare little fruit, then stretch into years of litigation expense, the desire to spend more evaporates. And at that point it is your case that becomes a spoiled commodity. Because then the lawyer with a volume type of practice turns your claim into a bushel of corn.

A SIGN OF THE TIMES

My opinion is that TV commercials, Facebook ads, Google AdWords and billboard ads are a major red flag of the rise and fall of a volume lawyer’s thinking about clients. Keep in mind, if your lawyer is telling you it is all about hope, the legal strategy is just one more house of cards in the making.

How long has this lawyer been licensed to practice? Or even out of law school? Two weeks ago a daughter called to ask for settlement advice. Her parents' lawyers weren't even born when I started practicing law. Attorney Lombardi

WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?

This type of advertising is a sign they view your case as if it were no different than the one before or the next one the ad brings into their office. Your case is being viewed as a fungible good. Like just one more iPhone, a bushel of corn or a tank full of urea fertilizer.

WHAT IS COMMODITIZING IN PERSONAL INJURY?

For us today, commoditization of the practice is the acceptance that one lawyer’s skills are readily exchanged for the skills of another. It is accepting the proposition that any lawyer can handle your personal injury case. It is the acceptance that no special legal skills are necessary to complete the job for you. It is for all practical purposes accepting mediocrity.

It is similar to candy bars. One Mars bar has no real difference from the next Mars bar sitting on the shelf.

And with soft-tissue injury cases this may be somewhat true, but when damages get more serious the flaws in this thinking start to look like a large ugly scar on your five-year-old daughters face.

HOW IS THE PRACTICE BEING TURNED INTO A FUNGIBLE COMMODITY

Lawyers who lack experience, skill and income are tossing whatever funds they have available to them to the proverbial marketing fan and hoping something, anything, sticks to the wall. They want personal injury cases to lessen the financial pressures student loans, office expenses, rent and health care costs impose on them. I understand how considerable this weight can be. I appreciate the pressures imposed on them by the decisions that went into adding one student loan after another on top of undergraduate loans while heaping on a dose of money spent on enjoying spring break week.

TROUBLE BREWS AND RAISES IT’S UGLY HEAD AS QUESTIONS GO UNANSWERED

But those pressures are going to lead to trouble. Because what you may pick up in caseload cannot be exchanged for experience.

And that is where commoditizing of skills starts and ends.

Arguing or even thinking that your lack of experience can be made-up-for with hubris stands on thin ice as litigation expenses mount and a trial approaches.

CAVEAT EMPTOR MR. AND MRS. INEXPERIENCED LAWYER

Or, the lawyer goes the way of a cheap settlement and that is not a way to get repeat business or a good reputation. It is also a way to get sued for malpractice.

MEDIOCRITY IS HYPOCRICY WHICH IN TURN IS A LIE

Anyone believing that any lawyer is as good as another is in for a surprise. My mother always said, misery loves company and I believe that is true of someone not willing to ask the right questions before they hire a lawyer. A person who likes hubris over experience is usually willing to accept mediocrity, which probably implies a lot about them and the claim they are making.

TELEGRAPHING INEXPERIENCE

Personal injury cases are perceptions. They are about perceptions and the perceptions of who you are and what you do today, telegraph just how easily you are or can be manipulated. As trial looms closer and closer your young inexperience lawyer’s skills begin to wane and then completely disappear. Your level of confidence melts into a puddle.

What the insurance claim’s supervisor knows is that your lawyer has no skill-set to be concerned with and quickly surmises, neither do you. If you have not been prepared for the process, you are as good as any other amateur.

YOU ARE A COMMODITY, LIKE CORN OR SOYBEANS

Commodities are fungible goods. One bushel of corn or soybeans can easily be exchanged for another bushel with no one being the wiser.

But legal services are not like kernels of corn or soy. Skill comes from knowledge learned over the long haul of mistakes corrected over years of practicing law. Frankly, skills are learned from making mistakes. And every lawyer makes mistakes. Those who cannot admit to making mistakes are either lying or have been in the practice for one week and you must be there first client. Because in week two, the practice will certainly bring some experience that indicates about what not to do the next time you get to represent a client with a similar problem.

REFERRALS AND CO-COUNSEL

Trial work is known as “the practice of law” for a good reason. We are constantly practicing while getting better at what we do. We are constantly practicing to not make the same mistakes twice.   This is why it is said we practice law.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

When the inexperienced lawyer takes on a case which he or she is not really qualified to handle, experience should tell them to find co-counsel to lead the charge and to foot the bill of litigation expense.

I don’t see a lot of that going on. We get more referrals from outside Polk County and Des Moines, than we do within. That should bother the Iowa Bar Association. There is a lot of hubris in big-city marketing ads. It should bother those who are inexperience and especially their clients.

Serious personal injury cases in rural Iowa are no different than serious personal injury cases in Des Moines, Iowa. A death case in rural Iowa is as important to the spouse and children as it would be in the city. Frankly, it may be more important in rural Iowa than in an inner city. Running a farm after the breadwinner has been killed, may be tougher to do than finding another city job paying an hourly wage. Operating a farm is not a commodity and neither should be the practice of law.

BE CAREFUL WITH WHAT YOU ASK FOR

The Chinese proverb goes something like this. Be careful of what you ask for, because you just might get it.

When you choose to hire an inexperienced lawyer, because you didn’t take the time to think, seek advice and ask the right questions, you just may get what you asked for.

Why is this important to me and to you? My clients, our clients, this firm’s clients, matter to us. They matter to us because they have only one case. We have many from which to choose, but choose to take only a few. We like cases that are significant, have substantial personal injury. We look for an injury that causes death, requires surgery to fix, or renders the injured person a quadriplegic or paraplegic. Brain damage caused by a closed-head injury is a significant case requiring a healthy lay out of cash to cover litigation expense. Amputations, electrocutions, explosions and burn cases are normally significant.

Let us look at some questions you may wish to consider asking before hiring an Iowa personal injury lawyer.

15 QUESTIONS YOU NEED TO THINK ABOUT WHEN HIRING A DES MOINES PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER

  1. How much experience does the lawyer actually have?
  2. Have they ever been to trial?
  3. What percentage of their practice is personal injury? Ours is 95 to 100%.
  4. Have they ever argued a case to a jury?
  5. Can your lawyer afford to spend $10,000 to $25,000 hiring the experts your case will require?
  6. Did you know without the right expert witnesses the jury cannot award damages?
  7. Do you have tens of thousands of dollars to spend on litigation costs? Because if your lawyer doesn’t you will have to.
  8. You could or should ask if the lawyer sees a need to associate with a more experienced lawyer?
  9. You might ask them if they can afford to lose $10,000 dollars on litigation costs. If they avoid answering, you are definitely in the wrong office.
  10. Ask this, if they lose the case will they look to you to reimburse the litigation expense.
  11. Ask yourself, can you afford to lose $10,000 or $25,000?
  12. Ask yourself, who is going to foot the bill for litigation expenses?
  13. How long has this lawyer been licensed to practice? Or even out of law school? Two weeks ago a daughter called to ask for settlement advice. Her parents' lawyers weren't even born when I started practicing law. 
  14. Can you afford to lose your case? You have to know any case can be won or lost; and losing sucks.
  15. And then ask yourself this question: Is your personal injury case just like all the rest? Are you? Are you a commodity?

And then ask: Are you in the wrong office?

Definition of commoditize or commoditizedcommoditizing

1:commodify 

  • commoditizing 

specifically :to render (a good or service) widely available and interchangeable with one provided by another company

2: to affect (something, such as a brand or a market) by commoditizing goods or services 

  • fierce competition threatened to commoditize prices

WHY DID I WRITE THIS BLOG?

I write each week’s blogs on weekends. It’s getting harder and harder to come up with ideas and not be negative. Respect for experience is being commoditized for the sake of monthly student loan payments or failing practices. Bragging is today’s marketing. Call it changing the narrative or anything else, but it is simply arrogance. Arrogance is confidence you have not earned.

And while I spend a lot of time with people asking valid questions, I’m becoming less tolerant of questions coming from some inexperienced lawyer’s client who after beginning to doubt the lawyer they did hire, calls to my office and to me for reassurance and advice about what to do now are becoming way too common.

HERE IS WHAT TO DO

Call us early, call today. It costs nothing to speak with us. We use contingent fee agreements and advance all litigation expense. Our initial consultation is free. Call today, call now.

515-222-1110  Or send email to [email protected] or [email protected] or [email protected]

ADDITIONAL READING

Steve Lombardi
Iowa personal injury, workers' compensation, motorcycle, quadriplegic, paraplegic, brain injury, death
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