When you go to law school, you think you might have an idea of what you want to do with your degree, but the truth is that you have no clue. Many of my classmates wanted to practice “environmental law” until they discovered that the only jobs that exist in that area are helping big corporations get away with polluting the environment. The truth is that most people kind of fall in to their career. When you are desperate for that first job, you’ll deal with any area of law that you are assigned to. And once you get experience in that field you usually stick with it because otherwise you’d have to start at the bottom of the ladder at a new place.
Because of this, many attorneys are stuck in careers they hate, but they feel trapped. That’s why you see such bad service at some firms.
I was fortunate in that during law school I got connected with a very good workers’ compensation firm that was run by fun lawyers who taught me a lot about the law and how to treat people. I ended up working for them for a bit until I went out on my own. They are still great friends of mine to this day.
But for me, the reason I was happy going in to Illinois work comp law wasn’t because I found a great place to work at. I remember being a waiter at Bennigan’s in high school many years ago. One day I was walking back to the kitchen and I slipped on the wet floor, landing hard on my back. I was pretty invincible in my own mind up until that point, but suddenly I had throbbing pain.
What happened next was the general manager trying to screw me over. I needed to go to the doctor right away, but he didn’t tell me that workers’ compensation was an option. I missed two weeks of work and wasn’t paid a penny. It didn’t bother me then because I didn’t know any better. I was lucky that I had insurance through my parents to get medical treatment and while I missed the money I was making, it wasn’t the end of the world as I didn’t have a family to support.
Years later though when I worked on my first few cases and learned the law, it occurred to me that I was really screwed over and it could have been worse if my injury dragged on or if I really needed the money. My boss didn’t care at all about me, but instead was only worried about himself. He would have received a negative review for any employees getting hurt. That’s all he cared about which is why he never told me about my rights and options.
I was lucky, but I think of that experience any time I hear of a worker that is getting screwed over. I can certainly relate to what they are going through and it motivates me to not let what happened to me happen to anyone else on a larger scale. I haven’t gone through even close to what 99% of my callers and clients have dealt with, but I tasted it enough to really have the fire to help people. And if that desire ever fades I’ll find something else to do.