It is extremely important that you make an informed choice when you hire a lawyer to represent you so that your expectations are met. In order to assist you with your choice, we have prepared a checklist that you can print out and take with you when you interview the lawyer you are considering hiring for your personal injury or medical malpractice case. View our printable checklist.
Your Lawyer’s Experience
When selecting a lawyer, make sure that your lawyer is a Trial Lawyer with extensive courtroom experience, and who has conducted numerous trials. This trial experience should include ‘judge alone’ trials as well as ‘judge and jury’ trials, and your lawyer should have been lead counsel in each case. When a lawyer lacks extensive trial experience, adjusters and defence counsel know that the lawyer will likely compromise on a client’s settlement in order to stay out of the courtroom. Clients who have these types of lawyers will almost never receive full and fair compensation for their losses. Hiring a trial lawyer without extensive jury trial experience is like hiring a surgeon who has rarely performed surgery. Be wary.
When considering the firm as a whole, your lawyer should have both references and an effective file management system. Your lawyer should be able to provide you with the opportunity to speak with previous clients that the lawyer has represented in a trial. Be sure to ask your lawyer to supply references for previous trials and appeals. Having these in hand will give you the best opportunity to ensure you have effective representation. An efficient paperless file management system also helps your case by increasing the amount of time your lawyer is working on the case instead of managing the claim. Look for the presence of a logical e-folder structure. Client files should be organized into ‘virtual filing cabinets’ with drawers and folders containing the following documents: routine incoming and outgoing correspondence and emails, court documents, accounting materials, medical information, wage loss information, and a complete directory map (showing where each of these items is stored). Technology is a significant advantage for law firms that embrace it.
Does your lawyer have a client reporting system?
One of the major complaints that people have about lawyers is that they do not keep their clients fully informed about the process, and often do not return phone calls and emails in a reasonable timeframe. Your potential lawyer should have a policy where he or she keeps in regular communication. If your lawyer does not have such a policy, keeping you informed may not be a priority, and you should be cautious of working with that firm.
Does your lawyer have a system in place for involving you in the claims process?
One of the key features of successful personal injury and medical malpractice lawsuits is client involvement. It is important that lawyers get to know their clients and that clients learn about the claims process. A close working relationship between the client and his or her lawyer always leads to a better result. If your lawyer does not explain the claims process to you in a manner that you understand and does not involve you where appropriate, you should look for one who does.
Does your lawyer have experienced support staff?
Much of the day-to-day file administration is conducted by support staff. It is a good idea to meet the staff who will be working on your claim so that you can be assured they have the right skill set to assist you. Support staff often deal with defence lawyers and adjusters, so it is important for you to trust them to represent you in a way you would feel is appropriate. A rude, careless, or disorganized support staff member can have an adverse impact on your claim. Watch out for these types of people.
Questions to ask your lawyer
Level of experience
How many years has the lawyer been practising?
Does the lawyer regularly run judge alone trials?
Does the lawyer regularly run jury trials?
Does the lawyer regularly run his/her own appeals?
Does the lawyer have a paperless office?
Does the lawyer have a client communication policy?
Are the support staff polite, professional and well organized?