I only make money if I take on clients, especially if they have good cases, but I always tell the truth.  And sometimes being honest prevents me from getting business which is of course just fine.
A recent called to my office hurt his back a couple of years ago, had surgery and hired a decent firm in town to represent him on that case which is still pending.  He did return to work and got hit in the head, resulting in a neck injury.  The insurance company sent him for an IME and he’s worried that he won’t be able to receive the additional medical care he needs.
He called me and said that there’s nothing wrong with the firm he has.  They haven’t had to do much, but they’ve answered his questions.  He’s just worried that he’d be putting all of his eggs in one basket if he had them do the second accident as well as the first.  He called a different Chicago workers’ compensation firm that said they’d gladly handle the neck injury and let the first firm handle the back injury and they told him that it’s the right thing to do.
It’s only the right thing for the lawyer, not the worker.  Both of the injuries this worker has are serious and could impact his ability to work in the future.  But they are also closely related and when it comes to a settlement, one could impact the other.  If he went with two different firms it would not only make the case drag on longer (too many people to coordinate to attend depositions, trials) and cost more money (each firm would have to spend money for records), I could also see the lawyer arguing over who earned what which again wouldn’t be in the best interests of the worker.
So I told him that he shouldn’t hire me for the 2nd case.  Instead he needs to determine if his first firm is really in his corner.  He’ll know that soon if the IME goes against him and they don’t get his case ready for trial quickly.
My opinion would have been different if the first injury was all better and ready to settle and the second case was something like a broken arm or carpal tunnel case.  But when you have injuries to different parts of the spinal cord or both problems still require medical attention, they are just too closely related to have two firms.
This did cost me money, probably a lot of it.  But it is the right thing to do which will make my firm more successful in the long run.

By Michael Helfand