Hint: We do not standby in emergency room waiting areas!
It’s an old, tired tale that describes lawyers as ambulance chasers, pursuing the potential payout and not caring about the people affected by accidents and injuries…
These days, lawyers of all stripes find some of their clients in ways that didn’t even exist a decade ago: social media, websites and blogs among them.
But the old methods remain too. Ask any child who watches TV what they should do if they are in a car accident, and I’ll bet you their answer will be something along the lines of: “Call 1-800-INSERT LAW FIRM NAME HERE”. Nothing wrong with that, except as I blogged about before, it’s not the way to find the right lawyer to represent you.
So, if we’re not chasing the paramedics down the street, where DO personal injury lawyers find their clients?
The Old Fashioned Way
Referrals, referrals, referrals: A lot of business comes from word of mouth. A job well done will be remembered for a long time to come and previous clients are a big source of referrals. After all, someone who has had a positive experience with a lawyer, in the midst of a difficult and painful injury claim, will remember the person who helped them overcome the worst of it. And their friends and family will probably remember the accident as well, prompting their first post-injury call to be to the person who has a lawyer connection.
Referrals also come from professional areas. Specialization is something that happens even within the area of personal injury law. I don’t deal with WSIB claims, for example, but I have many colleagues who do. If someone were to approach me to represent them in the handling of a dispute for such a claim, I would refer them, so that they would have the representation they need.
On the flip side, I DO specialize in long term disability and motor vehicle accident injury claims, so a friend of mine who happens to focus on slip and fall might send me an MVA client.
This kind of professional referral is to everyone’s benefit: the lawyers get work in which they specialized, and the client gets a lawyer who has significant experience in precisely their kind of case. It’s a win-win.
The New Ways
These days, the internet has provided a platform through which consumers can make more educated choices about the kind of firm that they want to represent them.
By searching online, they can find lawyers in their geographical area who practice the kind of law they need help with, and there is every chance that the lawyer or firm will have published blog posts (ahem), and even unbiased client reviews which give the consumer some insight into the lawyer’s personality and breadth of knowledge.
Social media has added another layer to this, where you can get a sense of a firm or an individual lawyer’s style. It’s also a good way for lawyers to stay in touch with one another and keep those referral networks alive.
Me? I’m a straight shooter at the head of a small firm. I tell it like it is in each and every case, and you know when you’re dealing with my firm, that you’re dealing with me. Of course, I have clerks who help me with intake and paperwork, but the essence of the experience and knowledge? It sits with me.
What Happens When Client and Lawyer Find Each Other?
Assuming you have found the lawyer you want to work with, or they have found you through a referral, it’s time to move forward.
Dealing with a personal injury lawyer in the case of an accident is a personal situation, so you have to be comfortable with the firm that you engage. There are a few steps that most lawyers and law firms go through at the outset:
- A clerk will be in touch with you, or will pick up the phone when you call the office for the first time. This first call is an intake session, and the clerk will ask you questions about your case. It’s best to be forthright with your answers to be sure that they have the best information to decide how they can help you. If your case matches the experience that the lawyer has, an office visit is the next step.
- The office visit is a personal approach to dealing with a situation that can take a long time to resolve, so it’s important that you and your lawyer get a feel for one another. This is the opportunity for the lawyer to expand on the intake session, all in the aim of determining if they are the right lawyer / firm to help you.
It’s also a chance for you to ask questions about what will happen, how things will move forward and what you can expect. It IS a partnership of sorts, because the lawyer doesn’t get paid unless your case is successful, so being open and communicating are very important.
- If this visit goes well, and both you and your lawyer agree that it’s worth moving forward together, the process is explained by the lawyer and a retainer is signed. This allows the lawyer to work on your behalf, and speak to others on your behalf.
Remember, it’s okay to get a second opinion: Just because you go through the intake process or even the in-office consultation doesn’t mean you’re married to that lawyer. Until you sign a retainer, you’re free to look around, check with others and see what your own network has to offer.
If you have any questions about the process, please feel free to contact my office