Why hire an individual attorney instead
of “the Big Law Firm”?
Let’s face it. Any attorney or law firm can buy a television ad or put up a lot of billboards to get some name recognition. But all that really means is that they advertise! That Ad tells you nothing about the qualifications of the individual attorneys at that law firm. And when it comes right down to it, a law firm does not try your case in front of a jury - only one attorney does that. That is why selecting an attorney is so important.
Most firms like to tell you about all the experience the firm has collectively. That is, they simply add up all the years that the attorneys in that firm have been licensed and boast about that. Sounds impressive, if you have six attorneys with only five years experience, you can get thirty years. But how many individual attorneys at that firm have thirty years of experience on their own? Probably very few. And those that do have that amount of experience are probably no longer actively litigating claims. They have the younger Associates do that work for them. Why should your case be a part of some young attorney's learning curve?
So why is an individual attorney better for the client than the “Big Law Firm”? Primarily, it comes down to the associate attorney’s work load at the big firm and how they are paid. Most big law firms are “high volume.” That is, they survive and make the most money by bringing in as many cases as possible and turning them over. I know of many large firms where the older and more experienced attorneys do virtually no real legal work on the actual cases on a day to day basis. Instead, they “manage” the Associates to make sure they are working as hard as they can and that they are settling cases as fast as they can. The younger associate attorneys handle the vast majority of the cases at the large firms. Which is all well and good, for the partners who are making the money. But you, as the potential client, also need to look at it from the associate’s perspective.
Most associates (those attorneys with no ownership interest in the large firm) are normally paid a fixed salary. Therefore, the associate has no personal financial incentive to get the most value for any particular case or claim. Even the relatively few large firms that compensate their associates with a small commission on some of their cases place a “cap” on the total amount of commission that they can earn each month. If your case didn’t settle this month, well maybe next month. Or maybe next year.
An individual attorney, like the ADVOCATE, actually has more of a personal stake, and an actual economic incentive, in making sure that each client is satisfied and that each case is properly worked up and negotiated in order to obtain the best result possible, for both the client and the attorney.
You also need to watch out for those firms that are willing to send a so called “investigator” or “claim specialist” out to meet with you. Note that it is extremely rare for those firms to send out the actual attorney who will be handling your claim. (Why would you ever want to actually meet with Him?) This is because those associates are too busy with their case load to actually meet with a new client. The ADVOCATE will always personally meet with each and every new client. The ADVOCATE can provide you with over 30 years of Courtroom experience, someone who knows CHICAGO and South Suburban courtrooms, experience which some associate at a satellite office of a large multi-state firm can only hope to provide someday in the future. Why not get the most experience your money can buy?
A big, high volume law firm does not guarantee good results. What probably is guaranteed is that many aspects of your claim will be handled by a paralegal or clerk. At best, an associate attorney (whom you may never have even met) and who looks at your case as just another pile of paper, will try and negotiate a fair settlement of your claim at some point. And if he can not settle before a lawsuit must be filed, this will increase his workload even more. Another incentive for him to settle your claim for less than fair value.
And don’t be fooled by those firms that promise to also settle your property damage claim for your car for free. If you have auto insurance (which most people do), you have already paid a separate insurance premium for that aspect of your claim and your insurance company is going to work that out with the other insurance company anyway! In very few instances is an attorney’s actual intervention on a property damage claim ever required.
When it comes right down to it, with a large law firm you are simply not going to get the same level of personal care and attention, and the extra effort, to get the most money for your claim, as you will with The ADVOCATE. If you are still thinking about hiring the big firm, go ahead and ask them these questions before you sign a contract, because you certainly have the right to know this basic information:
Who is the attorney that will be handling my claim? Do I have a choice? Can I have the attorney at your firm with the most experience handle my case? If not, why not?
If you do assign a particular attorney, why that particular attorney? What is that decision based upon? His geographical location only? How many other attorneys are in that satellite office? Can I have the most experienced attorney at that office?
As to the individual attorney who will handle my claim, what is
his experience, in terms of:
How many years litigating personal injury cases in Chicago area courts?
How many jury trials has he had?
What is the largest settlement he has obtained?
What is the largest Jury verdict he has obtained?
How many cases is he handling at the firm? (More than 40 is way too many!)
If you can get satisfactory answers to these questions, good for you. But I suspect you won’t. And when you don’t, make sure you do not sign a contract with that particular firm.
Quite frankly, when it comes to handling personal injury cases, while there may be some attorneys in downtown Chicago with the same level of experience as The ADVOCATE, there is certainly no attorney in the Southern Suburbs with the same amount of jury trials and case experience. Why not know from the very beginning of your case that you have the most experienced attorney you can find?