There is no special skill required to represent a member of a union who is hurt on the job as compared to a regular employee who is hurt on the job.  This is especially true if you have real experience in representing injured workers.  Once you’ve represented one City of Chicago employee, you know that they will be sent to Mercy Works for care by the City for their initial treatment.  If you get a call from a United Airlines flight attendant or pilot, you should know that their contract allows them to bring a case in Illinois no matter where they are based out of or where their injury took place.
None of this is rocket science and there are many other examples we could give.
Yet there are unions out there that are overly aggressive as to who their members should hire and even worse, don’t make the recommendations based on the quality of the lawyers.
That’s not to say that some of the firms they recommend don’t do a good job, but if part of the reason you are suggesting a firm is because they took you to a Bears game or golfing or to Vegas or gave you a flat screen TV for Christmas or will take you to the nicest steak house in town whenever you want or got you a stripper (and yes these are all things I have been told about) then something is wrong.
It’s a rather open secret that the firms on the preferred lists at many unions get there or stay there because they do this sort of entertaining which is a disguised as a “get to know you” type of event.  It’s one thing to take someone to dinner and talk about your business.  It’s something else to give away trips or merchandise or even cash which are motivation to make someone recommend you and illegal under Illinois law which prevents an attorney from providing a non-lawyer with compensation in exchange for a referral.
I know this behavior will never stop just as I know that politicians will never stop getting arrested for taking kickbacks either, at least not in Illinois.  But you as the injured worker, the only one that really matters, need to look out for yourself.  I don’t say this as a plea to get you to hire me or anyone in my network.  It just makes me cringe when people get rewarded for unethical behavior and it’s worse when a worker suffers as a result.
When a caller to my office tells me that the lawyer they are working with is terrible, the first thing I ask is “how did you decide to hire them in the first place?”  If they tell me the union told them to do it, I ask if they’ve asked the union’s help in getting better results with the case.  More than half the time the answer is yes, but not one time has anyone told me that the union rep who made the recommendation was willing to intervene.  The most common answer I hear is that they are told that it’s not their problem.
Of course the complaints by the union members don’t impact who gets recommended in the future.  In one recent case, the union recommended a Chicago firm for a claim in southern Illinois.  The worker that called me was upset because it’s been over a year since he was told that the case would go to trial and it hasn’t.  Of course the reason is because nobody from the Chicago firm wants to drive five hours to take a case to trial.
So it’s up to you to figure out why a firm is being recommended.  If you ask me why I’m suggesting someone for you, I’ll tell you and the answers will be because it’s in your best interests.  But don’t take my word for it or the union or anyone else.  Get a recommendation from the union, from me and from another source and interview all three.  Let that decide who is best for you.  What is their service like?  Are they rushing you off the phone?  Have they handled similar cases?  How much work do they handle in your area?
No matter the issue, nobody should look out for you more than you.  If you don’t then you should not be surprised when things don’t go your way.