We will discuss taking over work comp cases from other lawyers when they are not doing a good job for their clients. Sometimes we can’t because there is a significant settlement offer on the table already. Other times we can’t because the case is just too old and we don’t think we can make an impact. But we’ll discuss any case and see what we can do to help, even if it’s just offering some free advice.
Recently a caller who had five surgeries on his leg called us and was looking for someone to take over his case. We didn’t do it because it was old and there was a good settlement offer. But it was really clear that he was a victim of bad lawyering. He had so many questions that his attorney wouldn’t answer. Had the lawyer done so, they’d have a happy client. Instead they have a pissed off client who will never recommend them to friends or co-workers. It makes no sense to me.
One of the biggest problems for this case was one that we see all of the time. The way this law firm is run, you don’t get to speak to the lawyer handling the case, but instead have to go through their assistant or a paralegal. It’s so dumb and it really makes me feel bad for their clients. I find it unbelievable that they think this is a good way to operate a business.
What happens is that the attorneys have a case load that is more than they should handle. I think most attorneys can handle around 200-250 open work comp files at a time. That’s a high number, but manageable if you are organized. Yet some firms will have their lawyers take on 400 or more clients at a time. It becomes impossible to keep them all straight and impossible to deliver any semblance of customer service to them.
As a result, they survive by doing the bare minimum and having their staff take your calls and answer your questions. You should not be getting legal advice from a non-lawyer. You hired this firm and are giving them 20% of your settlement so you will have an attorney in your corner. That doesn’t mean at trial or settlement time only. It should be from the moment that you hire them until the case is over and everything in between.
Now this doesn’t mean you should never talk to an assistant. That will have to happen. But if they are your primary point of contact throughout a case, that’s a problem. If you can never get the lawyer on the phone or don’t have calls returned, that’s a problem. While admins may help keep an office afloat, it’s not their job to be the lawyer. If your attorney can’t get back to you within 24-48 hours (personally I think it should be same day) then it’s a problem and you aren’t getting the customer service you deserve.
The best thing you can do is ask a lawyer how they will communicate with you before you hire them and hold them accountable if they don’t do it. And if you didn’t ask them and they aren’t giving you good service, try to talk to them about it. If things don’t improve, you should switch law firms before it’s too late.