Choosing a lawyer for your personal injury or wrongful death case is a decision that is similar to picking a partner for marriage. It may be a long relationship and it is always one that commands the two parties, the attorney, and the client, to trust each other. If one party does not trust the other, the common goal of justice cannot be obtained. This is because justice without trust in the result is no justice at all.
I am writing this entry to encourage face-to-face interaction with those seeking legal representation and the actual lawyer who would be trusted with that case. My biggest competitors are out-of-town, big-city lawyers who, in my estimation, rarely actually meet with the injured/aggrieved parties in my area. So it is no surprise that I often get calls from nearby clients of these lawyers telling me that they are not happy with their lawyer because they don’t know what is going on with their case and they do not trust in what they are being told. I always encourage these folks to try to work it out with these lawyers and I do press them to seek a face-to-face meeting, as that nearly always satisfies client concern, at least for the short term.
I know a great deal of my competitors, and I will say that most of them are very good lawyers and that their firms are usually reputable. But, to me, there is no substitute for the old-fashioned face-to-face meeting. And I do believe there is still something important in the ability to look someone in the eye.
“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” - Albert Einstein
Before I talk about the benefits of personal interaction for personal injury clients, I want to stress the benefit of the lawyer to meet with the client. I nearly always demand to meet with my potential clients face-to-face before my attorney-client relationship begins. I’ve been doing this long enough to be able to identify most potential trust issues early on. For example, when I ask a potential client if they’ve ever had the medical condition that they are complaining of now and they either look down or away, fidget, leave moisture on my glass table, and they answer “no,” then I know to pause and inquire further. I advise them that it does not usually matter if they did have prior issues and that I value trust over preexisting injuries in my clients. If they persist in their denial, I have other methods of verifying the truth, but if I get a bad feeling about a potential client, I will turn down cases on that alone. If I can’t trust my client in the initial meeting, I realize that a jury may have a hard time trusting them at trial.
For injured victims of negligence in Ohio, choosing a personal injury lawyer is easy. If you are in a car accident, your mailbox will likely be flooded with mailings with catchy phrases, DVDs, and all kinds of letters from lawyers all over the state. You can be in Portsmouth, call a lawyer in Toledo, and have a lawyer at your doorstep in a matter of a few hours, or less. But choosing a personal injury lawyer you trust is something entirely different. In the instance of this traveling Toledo lawyer, you will likely never see this person again. He or she is probably just a runner, paid to sign you up as a client. Who is actually handling your case - - at all stages, is a whole other story. While you may still get quality representation, you won’t be able to lock in trust because you will likely feel a void in the relationship.
When new clients don’t meet with the actual lawyer will end up handling their case, they are many times deprived of judging sincerity, which goes directly towards how that person can rely on the lawyer. Meeting with the actual lawyer on your case can also give you the opportunity to judge for yourself that lawyer’s commitment to your case, which goes hand-in-hand with whether you believe that person has integrity. Lastly, by meeting face-to-face with your lawyer, you can judge for yourself their competency and whether you feel they will be consistent in providing results.
If you don’t like the lawyer you meet with, move on to the next one. Because if you don’t like them, a potential juror might not, either, and it is important that you find someone you feel comfortable talking to. And to me, there is no substitute for sharing a cup of coffee with the folks I’ve asked to trust me.