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Perception of Personal Injury Firms

I sometimes marvel at how much the big players make. Some of thelegalwhore06/27/15
"I sometimes marvel at how much the big players make. Some o chicagojoe06/28/15
"Also, with respect to clients, I'll put it this way: it's s mnjd06/29/15
Most PI lawyers make very, very little. Just FYI. midlaw06/27/15
I think most people who aren't going into or aren't succeedi wolfman06/28/15
Admin, is there any chance the time limit on editing posts c wolfman06/28/15
Just to clarify, I am referring to PI firms/attorneys who ar thelegalwhore06/28/15
It's a nice racket if you're positioned well, but it's alway chicagojoe06/28/15
Corporate law firms have seen their business models heavily parlance07/01/15
There are some common misconceptions out there. One big issu guyingorillasuit06/28/15
It can be very unstable. The few successful PI firms in my l jdscourge06/28/15
Sheldon Silver had his dirty fingers in lots of pies. For bi 3lol06/28/15
I did the minors' compromise papers on a case that took, I t propita06/29/15
Just for a little perspective, I mainly work in the field of carol14206/29/15
I strictly do personal injury. Been practicing for over a ye mnjd06/29/15
I've been working at a small time PI firm for the past year. trickydick07/01/15
See this http://www.attkissonlawfirm.com/vid eo-faqs/ attkissonlawfirm03/20/17
Thank you to the Attkisson Law firm for taking the time to s notiers03/20/17
I think the spam by A****** Law Firm illustrates some of the wolfman03/20/17
The other secret about PI work is that as automobiles have g ruralattorney03/20/17
thelegalwhore (Jun 27, 2015 - 10:42 pm)

I sometimes marvel at how much the big players make. Some of these firms absolutely kill it though I don't know how much each case typically costs from start to finish. But then you sometimes get gifts from above like the Tracy Morgan accident, which Walmart quickly took full responsibility of and settled.

I know the perception of PI firms aren't great, but unless you're a prestige whore, what's not to like if you are killing it? You represent clients who have been injured, most times, through no fault of their own, and you make far more than any other lawyer.

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chicagojoe (Jun 28, 2015 - 12:33 am)

"I sometimes marvel at how much the big players make. Some of these firms absolutely kill it though I don't know how much each case typically costs from start to finish."

Case expenses aren't really the variable to worry about. Unless you've got some heavy-duty birth injury or neurological case, it's usually fairly consistent depending on the type of case (i.e., how many records + how many experts to maximize value + how many stages of litigation are needed to resolve the case).

The variables you really need to know are:

-Firm marketing and overhead costs - most plaintiff PI firms are high in this area, particularly in marketing.
-Referral fees
-How long the PI firm has been working the case
-How many other cases the PI firm has opened on contingency
-How much revenue the PI firm has brought in the previous two quarters (or so).

You can "marvel" at a $333k piece of a $1M settlement, but whether that "kills it" or not is entirely dependent on other factors. If it's a case that was worked six months to settlement and the gains aren't already committed to overhead, marketing, and subsidizing other claims, it's a win. If it's a medical negligence case that's lingered post-filing for three years, there's a 10% referral fee, and the firm's had to commit 1200+ hours to the case, it's not that great of a deal.

There's a ton of risk and volatility involved. Often even the well-off PI lawyers finance cases with their own money or with secured financing on their own assets. Have a few cases bounce the wrong way, and you're basically screwed.

Also, with respect to clients, I'll put it this way: it's somewhat rare that a plaintiff's PI lawyer looks like a cruddier human being than his clients.

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mnjd (Jun 29, 2015 - 10:14 am)

"Also, with respect to clients, I'll put it this way: it's somewhat rare that a plaintiff's PI lawyer looks like a cruddier human being than his clients."

Awesome and so true!

It really is a matter of marketing though. The legal aspect really seems to come second in PI. If you can market the hell out of the firm and people come to you first, you can build a business on volume which hopefully leads you to being able to build the firm on quality cases.

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midlaw (Jun 27, 2015 - 11:45 pm)

Most PI lawyers make very, very little. Just FYI.

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wolfman (Jun 28, 2015 - 12:05 am)

I think most people who aren't going into or aren't succeeding in personal injury fare thus not because they don't like the perception of PI lawyers, but because doing well in PI typically requires a large advertising budget (to get cases), being plugged into a particular community, often on the poor/unsavory side (once again, to get cases) and lots of money/access to money to finance the cases you do get through trial (or to make it look like you can go to trial if you have to, to get the adjusters/defense counsel to take you seriously = give you money to settle).

Not to mention time/staff/thick skin needed (at least one of the three) to get of the hundreds of garbage cases/crazy people that you'll inevitably get, and will go bust from taking on... this isn't to say people can't make good money in PI, but all of the above often favors established players...

New lawyers, at least the ones who aren't made of money or related to a judge, know this and worry about this, not so much about any sort of perception...

Also, once you work for a bit in PI (as I did, albeit as a paralegal before law school, as as several posters on here have as lawyers), you may find that your perception of people "who have been injured, most times, through no fault of their own" changes quite a bit, and not for the better... this isn't to say there aren't such folks, but there are also other kinds of folks:-)

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wolfman (Jun 28, 2015 - 12:16 am)

Admin, is there any chance the time limit on editing posts could be made a little longer, at least on the law forum, so people can correct typos in lengthy posts? Otherwise half of us end up sounding like English is our third language (or maybe that's just me). Just asking...

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thelegalwhore (Jun 28, 2015 - 2:34 am)

Just to clarify, I am referring to PI firms/attorneys who are at the top of this game, hence "big players".

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chicagojoe (Jun 28, 2015 - 10:15 am)

It's a nice racket if you're positioned well, but it's always a volatile money chase. Even "big players" can do down fairly quickly with a few bad eggs and/or a dry spell in sweet cases.

Also, tort reform can slaughter your business model.

Would I like to be a rich PI lawyer? Sure, but I'd rather be a rich corporate lawyer, defense lawyer, etc.

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parlance (Jul 1, 2015 - 11:51 am)

Corporate law firms have seen their business models heavily impacted by clients who now clamp down on their legal expenses, closely scrutinize bills and sometimes even outsource the work. A business model subject to change is a reality that every firm in every practice area has to think about.

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guyingorillasuit (Jun 28, 2015 - 9:54 am)

There are some common misconceptions out there. One big issue which constrains receivables is collectibility of big verdicts. If your big verdict has a punitive component, it is not covered by insurance. So, unless the defendant is a large, solvent corporation, your $12 million verdict against Joe the Drunk Driver is worthless - only the non-punitive part is covered.

Also, if you receive a big verdict, you are looking at years of appeals. Depending on how rich your firm is, you may be pressed into settling for a much smaller sum post-verdict in exchange for a waiver of appeals. If you need the money, the defense will know this, and use that as negotiating leverage.

Bottom line: when you hear about a large $27 million verdict, look closely at its component parts. The plaintiffs' lawyers rarely collect the full 33 or 40% - the actual receivable is usually much smaller on a verdict that size.

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jdscourge (Jun 28, 2015 - 11:23 pm)

It can be very unstable. The few successful PI firms in my locale (the lowered tier successes, 2-10 atty firms) seem to do well. But one of them I know for a fact came from a wealthy family so had some advantages there. Having been hit by a drunk driver and settling that case, I can say my attorney did just about the bare minimum and wound up getting 1/3 of a nice six figure settlement (serious injuries in my car). It was a slam dunk case. The guy was blind drunk and left a bar speeding hitting parked cars and slammed into me head on.

The big boys (i.e., Weitz & Luxenberg) have big, big political connections, referral networks, and ad budgets such that they can control a whole field. Everyone in the asbestos field knows Weitz. They also had the former Speaker of the NY Assembly on the payroll (until he was recently indicted by the U.S. Attorney for SDNY). Plus, time is on their side as they've been around since the 80s. Same thing with Smiley & Smiley. The old man started that firm in the late 60s. So they have an established presence over 40 years. Sure, they are killing it, but they are bigger, established shops. I think a new solo would struggle a lot trying to break into the PI field. Also, a lot of PI clients are outright liars just trying to win the lottery and hope to never work again. I remember some desperate PI in my area took on a guy who claimed he bit into a razor blade at a Burger King and it turned out the guy had done it before.

I think a field that is red hot and far more interesting is the use of class actions to sue deep pocket employers for violations of the fair credit reporting act. A lot of those settlements set aside millions in attorney fees (and they have to be paid out in the actual settlement). Although most employers are getting smart and correcting the technical violations that have led to huge settlement figures, the window is still open slightly. Most of the class members end up getting like $50 each and the lawyers get millions in fees. Do some research. Dollar Tree, Whole Foods, etc. have all gotten sued and settled on these claims. Maybe Wal-Mart too.

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3lol (Jun 28, 2015 - 11:53 pm)

Sheldon Silver had his dirty fingers in lots of pies. For bigger firms, though, thats pretty much par for the course to "employ" a prominent politician to advocate for their interests. One of the named partners at the firm I summered with was quite cozy with a certain (now former) US senator in NY.

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propita (Jun 29, 2015 - 12:22 am)

I did the minors' compromise papers on a case that took, I think, 10 years to go through. Auto accident causing premature birth of twins, one slightly damaged, the other significantly. But it takes at least 6 years to do testing and such.

Anyway, once the testing was done, the insurance company immediately wanted to settle. For $1.3M. But they needed the paperwork done. Once I had that done and they added whatever else they needed, it was all good. Granted the first time through with me because I knew what was needed on the stupid MC--complicated with 2 kids and 10 years. They had had it denied before because they didn't know what they were doing.

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carol142 (Jun 29, 2015 - 10:24 am)

Just for a little perspective, I mainly work in the field of commercial real estate with some residential mixed in. I sometimes have to defend PI lawsuits on behalf of landlords. It seems like 99% of PI clients try to live off personal injury settlements. You will find in discovery that they made 20k 2 years ago, live off welfare, had all these surgeries etc. You are dealing with very low income people in that field...

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mnjd (Jun 29, 2015 - 11:13 am)

I strictly do personal injury. Been practicing for over a year, been with the firm for 8 years in July. Most of what has been said in opposition to OP is true. You do deal with some scum of the earth people. Sadly, they happen to be a majority of your clients. However, when I can help a genuinely nice person on a legit claim, it is an awesome feeling.

In order to "kill it," you simply need to market your ass off. Like mentioned above, the legal and attorney stuff is really secondary if you have slam dunk cases walking in the door.

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trickydick (Jul 1, 2015 - 2:27 am)

I've been working at a small time PI firm for the past year. Three partners and a little over half a dozen attorneys and a full time staff of nearly 50 people. This is a volume business. I've never been able to get an exact number but we've got several thousand cases cranking their way through the grind. The overwhelming majority are pissant auto accident cases that settle at or below California's minimum policy limits of $15k/$30k. The firm has cases rolling in because the partners have been practicing for over 40 years and they have an excellent referral network.

Judging from the lifestyle the partners enjoy and our colossal overhead, the firm seems to be making a tidy profit. But there's no chance in hell that a solo fresh out of law school will ever make it in a field like this. This is a field that belongs to established regional players and anyone looking to get in on it has to get their hands dirty. It's understood that young solos are paying for cases as a matter of course. They just can't get enough business otherwise.

I want out of this field, there's no future in it unless you're willing to spend your entire career working for someone else or aiming to become a rainmaker and shooting for an equity stake in an established firm.

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attkissonlawfirm (Mar 20, 2017 - 4:28 am)

See this http://www.attkissonlawfirm.com/video-faqs/

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notiers (Mar 20, 2017 - 4:40 am)

Thank you to the Attkisson Law firm for taking the time to spam 2+ year old threads on personal injury law. Things must be going very well at these days at your firm.

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wolfman (Mar 20, 2017 - 2:02 pm)

I think the spam by A****** Law Firm illustrates some of the points in this thread rather well.

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ruralattorney (Mar 20, 2017 - 1:56 pm)

The other secret about PI work is that as automobiles have gotten much safer, the number of decent cases has dwindled. That is a good thing for society, but not for the PI attorneys.

And this trend is just going to continue. Blind sport warning, collision warning, and all sorts of safety devices are penetrating into the affordable cars. And when autonomous cars become the norm, there will be a whole lot less in the way of accidents.

Bottom line: The PI industry is going to contract.

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