July 19, 2011
Why Hire a “Personal Injury” Lawyer for Your Business Case?

Why Hire a “Personal Injury” Lawyer for Your Business Case?

Should you consider hiring a “personal injury” lawyer to represent your business in court? Yes.

Years ago, lawyers did not limit their practices to the degree that they do today. There were simply trial lawyers who did everything. Abraham Lincoln routinely would represent individuals and businesses. (And yes, there were personal injury cases in the 1840’s and 50’s.) He was known only as a good courtroom lawyer. This was common even into the 1950’s and 1960’s.

In recent decades, lawyers began to classify themselves as “personal injury” lawyers or “business litigators” or “collection” lawyers or even “antitrust” lawyers. But the pendulum is swinging back. There are a number of us who routinely accept personal injury, medical malpractice, and business cases.

There are advantages to using the plaintiff’s “personal injury” lawyer in your business case.

First, the plaintiff’s injury lawyer is accustomed to taking risk. The vast majority of personal injury lawyers charge a contingent fee, meaning that they are paid a percentage of the recovery. A personal injury lawyer may be more likely to share the risk in your business case.

Second, the plaintiff’s injury lawyer is accustomed to being efficient. Because of the contingent fee, plaintiff’s injury lawyers prefer not to waste time during litigation on things that don’t matter. The result is the reward.

On the other hand, and not to indict all “big firm” business litigators, the “corporate law firm” model inherently does not reward the efficient result. Most medium and large law firms bill by the hour. The more the lawyer does on the case, the more the lawyer earns. Many of these firms have a minimum number of hours that each lawyer must bill per year. As you can surmise, the lawyer has an incentive to “find things to do” on your case: a little more research, another deposition, file another motion. You pay the price.

Finally, the plaintiff’s injury lawyer is often a “trial lawyer.” Not always, but often. “But wait,” you say, “aren’t all litigators ‘trial lawyers’?”

No. They are not. The dirty secret of the litigation world is that many “litigators” have never tried a case in front of a judge or jury. They don’t advertise this. You assume that your surgeon routinely performs surgery. So, you assume that your “litigator” knows his or her way around the courtroom. You would feel deceived if your lawyer, touted as a litigator, has never actually tried a case. But, this is not rare at all. Particularly at the very large “corporate” law firms.

How does this happen? Medium and large firms usually hire their lawyers right out of law school. These lawyers spend years doing research, writing briefs, and other “litigation” support activities for partners in charge of the case. Rarely do these “associates” get to take depositions, go see judges, or handle routine hearings. Never are they trusted to try the case in court. Eventually, after seven to ten years, these new lawyers become partners in the large law firms—still having never tried a case.

Now, these new partners begin to represent businesses as the chief lawyer on the case. They don’t tell their client that they have never tried a case. They create work and bill. They take lengthy depositions (that do not necessarily help their chances at trial). They delegate tasks to younger associates on the case, creating more billable time. And, after a year or two, and hundreds of hours billed, this lawyer softens and begins to tell the client about all the things wrong with the case. The lawyer may even overstate the risks of the case. The lawyer starts to pressure the client to settle. Ultimately, growing weary of the mounting bills, the client settles. Every time.

Will a “trial lawyer” advise you to settle your business case? Yes. And he should—based on the facts. Not based on fear. The “trial lawyer” will tell you the straight facts as early as possible. Ultimately, however, if the facts favor your side, you may still need a judge or jury to get justice. Will you have a lawyer who knows how to do it? Will he know what to say, when to say it, and how to say it? Will he be afraid? Is he willing to put in the real work (not the “make work”) to win at trial?

A good “personal injury” plaintiff’s lawyer will try three or four trials per year. They know the risks and are accustomed to dealing with the risks.

When selecting a lawyer to prosecute your business case, consider hiring the injury lawyer. For whom you consider only a “personal injury lawyer” is in fact often your best “courtroom lawyer.”


-Ethan Vessels