I recently got a call from a woman with a bad shoulder injury. It turned out not to be an Illinois case, she just stumbled upon my blog while researching her issues. She actually needed a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney and since I know a great firm there I recommended she call them.
They hit it off and were scheduled to meet. A day before the meeting was supposed to take place she called them and said her union told her that since she was hurt at work she had to use the law firm that the union wanted her to work with. So she cancelled the meeting saying that she didn’t feel like she had a choice.
There of course is no law that requires you to work with any specific law firm. Many unions are great and will give their members a list of attorneys that they’ve seen do a good job. Others in Illinois can be like this one where they try to strong arm and pressure their members. Why would they do that?
Sad but true, many law firms pay big bucks to union heads to curry favor with them. I’ve never done it, but have certainly heard stories of law firm parties for union leaders where they give away big screen TV’s, cash prizes, vacations, etc and have strippers on hand that pay attention to them. It’s essentially bribery and in exchange for a raffle where everyone wins something big these “leaders” try to keep the golden goose going by getting business for these attorneys.
It’s not that all of these firms are bad. Some have good lawyers, some don’t. It’s that when you get a recommendation it should be based on merit, not based on the fact that you are gaining something from it.
What’s worse is that we hear stories of similar things happening with doctors. Can you imagine being told a specific surgeon is the one to use, but then discover it’s because he built a pool for your union steward?
Bottom line is that the best lawyer for your case depends on the case facts and your specific needs. If your union insists that you work with a certain firm, even if it’s mine, it should cause you to raise an eyebrow and question why they are so insistent. If they stand to benefit from the fact that you were hurt it’s a really bad sign for you. You can bet that in the end the attorney will be more loyal to them than they are to your case and needs. In fact we’ve heard of attorneys telling injured workers that the union doesn’t want them to settle a case. That is professional malpractice and just another reason to make sure whoever is representing you is only looking out for you.