1 HOW TO RUN A PRODUCTIVE PLAINTIFF S PI / WORKERS COMPENSATION LAW FIRM Instructor: Paul M. Byck, Esq. Kreiter, Byck and Associates LLC 180 West Washington, Suite 800 Chicago, Illinois (312)
2 I. Intro. a. My background b. In order to run a productive and successful Plaintiff s injury law firm, one must be extremely organized, attentive and proactive. Each case is similar to a game of chess, where even the earliest moves can make a huge difference. Do not ignore the fact that your client is an integral part of your case. Failing to recognize the importance of the attorney client relationship will result in more work, unhappy clients and bad results. On the other hand, constant consult with your clients, studious review of relevant records and information, and aggressively directing each case will ultimately yield better results, happier clients and enhance your reputation. II. Running a successful small law firm a. Person of all trades i. Practice law ii. Run a business iii. Be a social worker iv. Be a friend
3 b. (other responsibilities, manage staff, negotiate bills, trial technique, etc. for another time) III. Biggest complaints about lawyers and law firms a. No contact i. Return phone calls a. Remember why you became a lawyer b. Why is it such a problem? 1. Contingent vs. hourly 2. Too busy doing real work 3. Afraid of setting a precedent 4. Useless conversation 5. Requires too much prep work 6. Repeat caller
4 ii. Call or write if you do not hear from client a. Where are you letters b. Bedside Manner iii. Angry responses iv. Lack of interest or compassion a. Let them know you care b. Know what is important to them 1. It s often more than the money v. Following up with clients a. Continue to update b. When issues arise, deal with them right away 1. Information in past or current medical records 2. Red flag comments from adjuster/attorney 3. Missed doctor / therapy appointments 4. Job logs c. Disclose offers
5 b. Promises gone bad i. Initial expectations a. Time frame b. Value 1. Too speculative (liability; treatment) c. Too many staff, too many Attorneys i. Changeover in handling attorneys ii. Non-attorneys answering legal questions iii. Non personal d. Client s feel they are in the dark i. Attorneys should know how to explain in layman s terms ii. Explain settlement / trial / deps - process iii. Explain settlement terms and implications iv. Give clients realistic time-frames v. Empower your clients with knowledge to make good decisions
6 IV. Knowing your case a. Understand how defense evaluates claims (setting reserves) b. Know your file! Never look stupid c. How you handle a case will impact your reputation for future cases, including settlements d. Actually review medical records, nurse case manager reports, vocational reports, etc. You may find out information that surprises you i. Ex-parte communications ii. New complaints by client that he failed to tell you iii. Client trusting wrong people talking too much V. Direct your case a. Chess game b. Paint a picture early and through the end i. Credible client ii. Honest examinations a. IME b. FCE c. Client s own medical providers iii. Job searches iv. What should surveillance see?
7 v. Client / attorney - good guy, bad guy c. Respond to other side ASAP, prevent small fires from turning into explosions d. Assume every case will go to trial e. Encourage clients to call i. After doctor appointments ii. Change in work status iii. No check iv. Lack of authorization for treatment v. Suspicious / surveillance f. Encourage honesty g. Know your adjusters / opponents i. Take personal notes ii. Relationships matter iii. Store your knowledge for the next case
8 VI. Prepare for Trial / Arbitration a. Always prepare client on separate date i. Outline theme, but avoid making client nervous by memorizing answers ii. Go over expectations direct / cross iii. Credibility is key b. Read medical records and all exhibits c. Have a strategy d. Understand opponent s strategy VII. Managing case load a. Software System i. Statute of Limitations ii. NOTES / Phone call details a. Develop a code system +-; tcw; LE; NE etc. b. Document medical treatment; providers, appointment dates, etc. c. Outline reports, issues legal, medical, etc. to be more efficient and less scrambling for documents
9 iii. Link correspondence iv. Link s v. Link opponents vi. Client follow-up diary system a. Did client get check? b. Was treatment authorized? c. Status of doctor appointments vii. Case follow up diary system a. Do records need to be subpoenaed? b. Do records need to be sent to other side? c. Contact witnesses d. Following up on settlement discussions viii. Motions; Statutes of Limitations; Court Deadlines, etc. ix. Weekly diary meetings a. Review at least two weeks out b. Trial continuance letters, etc.
10 x. Organize each file in your own way, but keep special folder separate a. Expense folder b. Liens c. Attorney referrals d. Medicare or Public Aid reminders e. Child support VIII. Research a. Keep updated on current law b. Have research organized for quick reference i. Ability to add to research file IX. Save stuff so you can cut and paste a. Motions b. Standard letters, i.e., discovery follow up; medical bills
11 X. Market yourself to clients a. Holiday Cards b. Following your good result c. Let them know all areas of practice d. Ask for referrals it should be an easy sell e. Thank them for referrals f. Tell them to stay in touch g. By being genuine h. Issues even after a case is settled XI. Market your firm to other Law Firms a. By being good to your clients b. By keeping them informed and involved c. By being honest XII. Update Website a. Your message should be who you are
12 XIII. Conclusion a. Running a successful injury law firm requires a global approach with excellent organizational and people skills. Each case must be managed proactively. By creating a system that allows for easy access of information, constant monitoring of cases, and by encouraging client contact, attorneys can avoid or reduce the impact of problems that can destroy cases and or frustrate clients. Furthermore, by understanding the importance of directing each case, fostering relationships and demanding honesty, attorneys could expect better outcomes and happier clients. Finally, attorneys should realize that running a law firm is also running a business. Therefore, recommendations and referrals will depend on the attorney s conduct and integrity during the course of the case as well as an effort to maintain lifelong relationships.
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