Have you heard this one? What’s the difference between a lawyer and a jellyfish? One is a spineless, poisonous blob. The other is a form of sea life.
Bad lawyer jokes persist over time because somewhere, at some point in time, there has been a lawyer who fit the bill to a tee. I hate to say it about my own profession but I’m not naive, and I know you aren’t either.
The misconceptions about personal injury law in particular are many, and some are even damaging to the profession—picture cartoons of lawyers in bad suits chasing after ambulances—so perhaps you’re wondering what my motivation was for focusing my career on this area of law?
For me, it’s all about you.
When I finished law school and after articling with a personal injury firm, I saw the reality of how people benefited when they had a good personal injury lawyer in their corner. But I also had a young family and thought my best bet would be to take a job as a defense lawyer for a major insurer. At the time, my focus was on gaining experience and building a life for myself, my wife, Sherry, and our kids.
In retrospect, this turned out to be a good move.
I learned how personal injury claims and suits worked from the other side, and this experience has benefited my clients in many ways.
In insurance claims where lawyers get involved, the claimant is the plaintiff and the insurance company is the defendant. From my role as the ‘defender of the defendant’, I saw cases where claimants / plaintiffs were being badly defended, if at all.
There was a huge disparity in the value of settlements to individuals who were trying to make a case for a settlement without the benefit of any legal representation versus those who had a good lawyer in the corner.
Here’s the thing: Insurance companies are large organizations, and their reason d’etre is to turn a profit.
They have tremendous resources at their fingertips, in terms of money and professional staffing. They can also drop $150,000 to settle a claim without batting an eyelash or flustering a board member.
But to the individual plaintiff, whose life has been fundamentally and permanently altered by an accident, that money could make all the difference.
Working from the insurance company / defendant side, I saw first-hand what happened to people who weren’t properly represented. It was upsetting, but never more so than when I considered reality from my own point of view.
What if something happened to me in an accident? To my family?
I would them to be defended by someone who had their interests at heart, and who cared about whether or not their claim was successful.
I understood, on a fundamental level, that everyone deserves to have access to justice, so I started my own firm.
My goal is to provide access to justice to those who otherwise can’t afford it.
Of course, as a one lawyer firm, I have to limit the number of cases I take on: There are only so many hours in the day, and I want to make sure that I treat my clients like family, not like a number.
Each person I see has a story, and each person I see deserves my attention in equal measures.
The relationships I’ve developed with my clients over the years have been meaningful and strong. Even years later, I still get updates from former clients when I see them out and about in the neighbourhood, and I’m rewarded with the knowledge that what my help – my representation – made all the difference in their lives.
After all, to an insurance company, a settlement is just a payout, and a client just a number. But to you, the client, it’s the difference between having a life and living one. The power of those funds to make life easier to live, even with ongoing medical concerns, is a reality that I’m proud to have a role in co-creating with my clients
So the next time you hear a personal injury joke, or see an ambulance chasing cartoon (by the way, ambulance chasing is illegal in Canada), pause and remember that, when it comes to your rebuilding your life after an accident, it’s going to be that same personal injury lawyer, working hard on your behalf, who makes sure that you have what you need to heal. And from where I’m sitting, nothing could be more worth dedicating my life to than that.
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