In days of old, people found lawyers through family or friends, by word of mouth. In the internet age, when people are hurt by someone else, they head for the internet. This can be a very bad way to find a lawyer. Sure, there are some fine lawyers, including us, with websites findable on the net. But how do you know the sites you see on page one of Google are for truly excellent firms? The answer is, you don’t.
When you look at the first page hits, there are ads for firms. That tells you nothing other than they paid to be seen. Then you see a list of organic hits. That can simply mean they hired a good SEO (search engine optimization) person to convince Google’s algorithm to put their site on page one. Once you go into the website, it looks slick, there are lots of client compliments, etc. But you still don’t know the heart and soul of the firm. So here are some things to look for:
- What kind of client care will you get? Does the firm promise ongoing direct contact with the lawyers? You can test this by insisting on meeting with the lead lawyer. Many of the “settlement mills” are run by paralegals or junior lawyers. You will never see the main lawyer after the first contact. They also tend to settle your case for less than it’s worth.
- Have they ever tried a case? Here’s a dirty little secret: many of the personal injury lawyers out there have never tried a jury trial. That’s a huge problem for you, because what if your case needs to be tried? They won’t know how to do it. Ask the lawyer to show you a verdict or judgment form to prove they have tried at least one case in the past few years.
- Are you one of hundreds of clients? Ask the firm how many cases they have. If it’s in the hundreds, chances are good you have found a settlement mill.
- Do they try to refer you to a “doctor”? This is a method to build up medical expenses and perhaps increase the settlement value of the case. This is not good practice. The “doctor” is probably a chiropractor. Chiropractors are not real medical doctors. They have nowhere near the education and training that true doctors have. Being treated by a chiropractor can often reduce the value of your claim, since most insurance carriers look askance at chiropractic care.
Your best approach is to listen to your primary care doctor’s advice and get referred to real doctors and physical therapy.
- What does your heart say? When you are on the phone or talking in person with a lawyer, do you feel the lawyer is really listening to you and cares about you? Or are you just another piece of inventory for a law business? Our philosophy at Paoli & Geerhart is to take a moderate number of serious injury cases so we can devote all the time needed to have a personal relationship with the client and deliver professional service leading to an outstanding result.