Choosing an Attorney

Your attorney will guide you through every decision you must make in your personal injury case including whether and when to settle, and for how much. That’s why the first, and maybe the most important decision you will make, is which attorney you will work with. How do you get started?

Getting a Referral to a Personal Injury Attorney

There are a lot of personal injury attorneys out there, and you don’t have time to talk to all of them. How do you narrow the field?

The best way to start your search for an attorney is to talk to people you know, especially if you have a friend or neighbor who has had a personal injury matter. You may be familiar with the names of some law firms that advertise on TV, but there is no better way to know how satisfied you will be with a law firm’s services than to hear how they treated someone you trust.

It is usually best to speak to at least two or three attorneys so you have some basis for comparison. Most personal injury attorneys offer a free consultation. This is so common that if a personal injury attorney wants to charge you for an initial consultation, you may want to look elsewhere.

Once you have decided which attorneys you will interview, you need to be prepared to get the most out of that initial consultation to decide which attorney is right for your needs.

Interviewing Personal Injury Attorneys

When speaking to multiple attorneys, you need to be able to compare “apples to apples.” It’s important to know what you are looking for in an attorney, so you can decide which attorney will best meet your needs. There are three primary things you are looking for: legal skill and experience, the attorney or firm’s approach to cases, and your own comfort level with the attorney.

With regard to experience, you want to ask questions like:

  • How long have you been practicing personal injury law?
  • What percentage of your practice is personal injury law?

Both of these questions are important. You want an attorney with depth of experience and a focus on the type of law you need. An attorney’s experience has a direct bearing on the outcome of your case—the result you get.

The attorney’s approach to practice affects your case’s outcome, too, as well as your experience. You have suffered an injury, so you are already under stress. Part of the attorney’s job is to help relieve that stress, so you will want to ask:

  • How will you keep me informed about my case?
  • How will you decide whether settlement is a good idea?
  • How much input do I get into decisions about my case?
  • Who will be working on my case?
  • How many cases are you handling at one time?

A good attorney should help you anticipate how your case will unfold, how long it might take, and keep you informed along the way. He or she should listen to your needs, and respond promptly to your calls or emails.

Ideally, your attorney will be carrying enough of a caseload to make you confident that they are experienced, but not such a large caseload that it is likely cases are being rushed to settlement regardless of the client’s best interests. And you want to know who will be handling your case—will it be the seasoned, thoughtful attorney you are speaking to, or an overworked, inexperienced junior associate you have never met?

It may seem like a large law firm that advertises on TV would be a good choice. After all, they must be good at what they do to be so large and well-known, right? Perhaps not. Many of these firms rely on volume to turn a profit, meaning they push many cases through quickly, but don’t always take the time to get each client the maximum settlement. These firms may also devote more attention to bigger, more profitable cases than to smaller ones (that are just as important to the injured people bringing them). You may find that these firms don’t provide either the results or the personal attention you had hoped for.

Your Choice of Attorney Matters

Once you have asked about a firm’s experience and approach to cases, it’s time to listen to one more thing: yourself. Are you comfortable with the firm and attorney? Do you trust them to help you get the payment you need? Remember: your choice of attorney affects both the outcome of your case and your experience during the case. No matter how good a firm looks on paper, think twice about committing to them if you feel uncomfortable working with them.

Your choice of attorney matters. Choose an attorney who makes you feel like you matter, too. If you have more questions about choosing an attorney for your personal injury case, we invite you to contact Jemison & Mendelsohn to schedule a free consultation.