Have you ever been to Herrin, Illinois?  Neither have I.  I’m sure it’s a lovely place and I’ve worked with many injured workers from down in that part of the state. But it’s more than five hours from my office and the only practical way of getting there is to driver, so I’ve never been there.  When I do get calls from that part of the state, I refer them to various law firms that are part of our state wide network of lawyers.  For those downstate firms, getting to Herrin or anywhere else in that region is not a big deal because they live near by.  So if you are hurt downstate, I can help you, but that’s by connecting you with someone good for your case.
Beyond that, they regularly appear at those courthouses and know the local doctors who often have to give depositions in workers’ compensation cases.  They know the good ones, the bad ones, the evasive ones and the helpful ones.  All of this information is helpful for you, the client.
Recently I was contacted by a worker who is living in Chicago, but was working way downstate when he was injured.  He hired a very reputable law firm in Chicago for work injuries and if the case was in this area, it would have been a great choice.  But the problem was that the case was in a place that they don’t ever go to and certainly don’t want to go to for just one case.
So now that the worker’s benefits are being denied, instead of fighting for him, they’ve told him to put all of his treatment through the group insurance carrier from his wife’s employer.  Otherwise they’d have to make two trips downstate for depositions and one or two more trips for a trial.
In my opinion, unless you are a lawyer who has a huge amount of cases downstate, you shouldn’t accept those clients.  Refer the case out instead as it’s in the best interests of the client.
What often happens is an established firm will hire a young associate to travel to these far off places and pay their dues by spending the night at bad hotels or waking up at 4 a.m. to make it on time for 30 minutes of court time.  So you might think you are hiring a top notch firm, but the reality is that some kid is getting an education off of your case.
This actually happened to me when I first started working, way back in 1997.  I was sent to Alton and was really in over my head because I didn’t know anyone at the court, certainly not the Arbitrator who was buddies with all of the local lawyers.  I didn’t have a say in the matter as I wasn’t the boss, but it was not in the best interests of our client.  I vowed never to make the same mistake when I had my own firm.
In the same vein, every now and then these downstate lawyers find their way up to Chicago for a case.  Sure they are happy to visit our great city, but again it’s not in the best interests of the client.
As a FYI, the location of your case will be based on where the accident takes place.  So you could live and work in northern Illinois, but if you get sent down to southern IL for work and get hurt, any hearing in your case will be down there.  That’s because the evidence as to your accident is down there and the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act rules that determine where your hearing will take place.  So keep that in mind before you make a hiring decision.