There’s a lot of misconceptions about personal injury lawyers here in Canada, and my clients often ask me why I chose this area of law.
For me, I literally fell into the profession as a young articling student working at a personal injury law firm in Southern Ontario. I liked working with people, but as a young practitioner, I didn’t really think about issues like access to justice or empowering people in transition. I was simply ambitious and wanted to make my mark in the corporate world, so after articling, I accepted a lucrative role working defense for the large insurance companies.
It was there that I really came to understand the importance of a skilled personal injury lawyer to the average person. (It’s important to remember that insurance companies don’t exactly write cheques on request!)
Very few cases were cut and dry, and I saw first-hand the incredible impact that working with the right lawyer could have on an individual in terms of how strongly a case was presented and ultimately settled. In contrast, I also saw many people who had opted to represent themselves and how tough it was for them to deal with the insurance companies and the courts.
That knowledge stayed in the back of my mind for many years, but the catalyst to my leaving the defendant world (remember that the insurance company is usually the defendant) and opening a firm to represent people who had suffered an injury, was starting my own family.
When my wife, Sherry, and I had our first son, it struck me that, if anything happened to me, they’d be alone. What would happen, then, if Sherry had an accident? How could she support herself and our son?
That changed everything in my eyes. Within a year, I had set up my own firm and convinced my first few clients to let me represent them. Sometimes it really is that simple…
Do I ever regret my decision to leave the corporate defense world? Never. For me, it’s far more meaningful to build a relationship with a client (personal injury cases usually take a year or two to resolve so building that relationship is a given) and to work to improve that person’s situation.
I know I should probably touch on different areas of the industry I enjoy like the challenge of representing a client in a complex situation (no two cases are alike and each require their share of research and investigation) or even the necessary creativity of building a case within the structure of the law.
Sherry would say that I enjoy the arguing and negotiating with insurance companies and she’s not wrong; I always need to feel like I’m fighting for something – or someone!
But that is the heart of it: The ‘someone’.
When I’ve done a good job, my clients will come back to me and tell me how it’s impacted them, and that’s amazing. I get to see them do things that they couldn’t have done without the settlement from their lawsuit and that is amazing. In the world of corporate law, a cheque is a just a cheque. But in personal injury law, a cheque has the power to change someone’s life.
There’s a lot of misconceptions about personal injury lawyers, but the one thing that we all have in common is a genuine care for our clients and the belief that everyone should have access to justice regardless of how big or small is their pocketbook.
So I’ll make you deal: You can tell me all your lawyer jokes and I will laugh with you, but remember that, deep down, our hearts are in the right place.