A Longtime and loyal client just referred a friend of his to me for representation in a work-related injury case. This gentleman called my office and was interviewed by one of my paralegals who really “knows her stuff”. The potential client presented a good case and we could certainly help him. But before she set an appointment she wanted to talk to me. The problem was that this fellow has been represented by another lawyer for about a year.
The potential client (I will call him James for purposes of this article) was very dissatisfied with his lawyer. He was unable to receive return calls. He could never talk to his lawyer. The paralegal or secretary assigned to his case could not answer or did not care to answer James' questions. Essentially he was not effectively being represented. James was going to fire his present lawyer, whether I took his case or not.
Things got even more complicated because I know and respect James' current lawyer. And the irony of things was that this lawyer was coming to my office to a meeting with a number of other lawyers later that week. I could not accept James' case unless I gave this lawyer a “head up” that his client was very dissatisfied and was going to fire the attorney.
As a bit of background information, I have known the lawyer for 20 years. He is a very good lawyer. The problem is that he works for a huge TV advertising law firm in Atlanta. This firm spends over one million dollars per year in advertising for their legal services. The firm has many calls and many clients. But as this lawyer told me at the meeting, he has too many clients and is overwhelmed. This created a quality of life problem for this lawyer and more importantly it creates a legal problem for the client who cannot get answers and cannot speak to his lawyer.
You see, the cause of this problem is that a business person (and not a lawyer) runs the business of this huge firm. That person assumes the lawyer can handle a much larger number of cases then is realistic. The businessman assumes all cases are alike and can be easily handled by a lawyer and one or two paralegals or secretaries.
I can also tell you that a number of other quality lawyers have just left this firm and told me that the stated reason they all left (I know them all) is the volume of cases and not enough time to work the cases well.
So when I personally spoke to James' lawyer at my meeting about this client and how he was dissatisfied and was going to fire the attorney, the attorney acknowledged the problem of work/case overload and told me to take the client. He said to me “You can better handle this case. I just do not have the time to do so.”
This is one of the problems a person has when they are enticed by the barrage of TV ads to contact a big advertising firm. No one tells you that you will be a number only and that you will not receive personal time with the attorney. In all likelihood you will tell your legal problems to a paralegal with little or no experience.
This paralegal or secretary in some instances will be negotiating with an insurance adjuster who has 6, 7, or 10 years experience in handling these cases and who has been trained by the insurance company. This is not a level playing field. The deck is stacked against you and you don't even know it. You think that because you have hired a big firm, you are “good to go”. No, you are not!
The defining principle is that smaller firms know your case, know your rights and will be the ones to push for your rights harder and more effectively than the “big guys” where you get lost in the shuffle. Do remember this as you get ready to call “the number on the screen.”