Advice I would give to a person looking for a lawyer

After practicing law for almost 35 years, the advice I would give to a person looking for a lawyer would be as follows:

  • Check and see if the lawyer is protected by legal malpractice insurance;
  • Unless it’s a personal injury case, know that you will have to agree to pay a retainer;
  • Meet with at least 3 attorneys before deciding whom to choose.  You will get a gut feeling as to who is best for you and the difference on the rates charged. There may be a wide disparity between lawyers as to what they charge;
  • How many people work for the attorney is a question you might ask.  If he or she has a smaller office, they may not be as responsive as a larger firm.  It is also true that firms that do a lot of cases also may not respond as quickly as you might like.  I have always believed that returning phone calls is essential to a good practice. Other questions to consider are:  Does your attorney have voicemail, does the receptionist seem to be sharp or responsible or does he/she have trouble remembering when to say good morning or good afternoon; and
  • Ask your friends if they have used an attorney and what was the experience like.  It has been my experience that people often misrepresent the amount of money they have recovered, so remember that as well. Causing unrealistic expectations is one of the worst things an attorney can do. It’s not a lottery – policy limits vary from state to state.

Attorneys who do personal injury cases do it on a contingency fee – there are no fees unless a recovery is made.  Also remember, you have to give permission to the attorney to settle your claim.  We don’t get paid by the number of phone calls, letters drafted, client conferences, or documents drafted. We get paid based on results, so if your case does not have a value standing on its’ own merit, a lawyer will not take the case. Facts may also develop later that cause an attorney to withdraw, but if you present your case with both its’ good as well as bad points, an attorney should be able to make a decision.

Most personal injury cases in Bowie County and surrounding jurisdictions do not go to trial.  They get settled either before or after mediation, but rarely do they go to trial.  Contrary to what insurance companies like to portray, the number of cases filed that are tried have dropped precipitously – ask the judges - look at the statistics.  The myth of the frivolous lawsuit is just that – a myth.

Policy limits are drastically different, depending on the state.  For example,

  • In LA, the minimum is 15,000 per person per accident/30,000 total per accident;
  • In TX, the minimum is 30,000 per person per accident/60,000 total per accident; and
  • In AR, the minimum is 25,000 per person per accident/50,000 total per accident

In TX, this means that one person may recover only $25,000 from the negligent party unless the negligent party has a larger limit than the state minimum.  People sometimes do have larger limits, but the insurance company normally will not release that information.  Also, always carry uninsured (UM) and under-insured (UIM) insurance.  It’s relatively cheap and if the other person has no insurance, or it has expired, or it is void because the wrong person is driving the vehicle, then uninsured motorist coverage is a must.  This helps protect you.  UM is relatively cheap, UIM is relatively cheap – GET IT!  You never know what may happen.

I hope these pointers may assist you in your search and wish you GOOD LUCK!   Bruce Flint


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