The most important tool a trial lawyer can have in his tool bag is the ability to turn down cases. Max Kennerly put it quite well in a recent blog post he wrote entitled How Much Client Contact Should Be Expected In Litigation? Because I handle cases on a contingency fee basis, I am hired to handle each case from beginning to end regardless of the amount of legal work required for each individual case. The client pays none of the costs or expenses to litigate the case unless or until the case is resolved successfully. Some cases settle, some cases go to trial, and some cases are appealed from trial. So, for instance, if a case is appealed from trial, and it takes several years to be finalized, I don't get paid until the end. And that's assuming I win the case.
This is not a retail business. We do not sell widgets here.
I am quite sure that most business owners, including hourly fee lawyers, outside of the personal injury world, would think I am crazy to run a business like this. How, they would ask, can you possibly wait so long to get paid for your work? And with the risk that you may never get paid, and to top that off you may have to spend very large amounts of money in any given case that you may eventually lose, or that you may decide ultimately has no merit.
How indeed. The practice of law is nevertheless a business. No more so than in the personal injury arena. Thus I must scrutinize each case I take. I cannot afford to gamble any more than I already do on my "good cases."
So, that is why I turn down many more cases than I accept.
Last week three good clients with good cases contacted me and asked me to represent them. One was a malpractice case where the hospital had clearly been negligent. The client's injuries however, were not permanent. I could not take that case. Much too expensive to pursue with the potential jury verdict too low. The other two cases were car accident cases in a county where the jury verdicts are historically low, and my clients' injuries were not severe enough to warrant pursuing, given the county where suit would have to be filed.
Mine is a risky business, but a business nonetheless. Anyone, including lawyers, who tells you something different either doesn't know what they are talking about or does not have, in the case of other lawyers, a successful legal practice.