One thing I vowed to do when I opened up my own firm in 2001, is to give clients and potential clients the type of customer service I like to get. That means a few things:
1. Talk in plain English.
2. Don’t act like a phony.
3. Be very direct and honest.
4. Don’t be a jerk.
5. Return calls and emails promptly.
I come across a lot of lawyers who violate many of these rules. Some act like they are better than their clients because they are attorneys. Some try to talk like they think an attorney should talk, rather than in a way non-lawyers can understand. Many yell at their clients and a ton, and don’t return calls and e-mails.
Arguably the worst violation though, is from attorneys who aren’t direct and honest. For whatever reason, some attorneys are afraid to give clients bad news or tell them what they don’t want to hear, but need to hear. Don’t you hate those types of people in your life? You certainly don’t want them as your attorney. A lawyer should have the guts and confidence to say what the truth is and explain why it’s the truth. If they can’t do that, they’ll probably get pushed around in court.
A recent caller to my office had one of these types of lawyers. She had a unique injury that was hard to evaluate as far as settlement value. Her lawyer told her to take the first offer the insurance company made, but couldn’t explain why, and when she asked to go to trial, he said he didn’t want to, as he didn’t think it was a good idea.
When she asked why it wasn’t a good idea, he told her she should call the insurance company to hear their side or the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission to ask someone there for a second opinion. It’s quite possibly the dumbest thing I’ve heard a lawyer say to a client.
First off, when you hire a lawyer, the insurance company isn’t allowed to talk to you. If I had my client call them they’d either think I was a weak attorney and take advantage of me, or more likely think that my client was nuts and take advantage of the. If my client called the IWCC, nobody there would be able to give advice about the case or talk to her because they are supposed to be impartial and can’t talk to one party without the other side present. If she got a hold of the Arbitrator, that man or woman would think the client was nuts.
It’s quite possible that the settlement offer is fair, but as you can imagine, insurance companies don’t usually make their best offer the first time around. Why this lawyer didn’t say it was a unique case to evaluate or give examples of settlements from similar cases or agree to counter offer is beyond me. Even if he didn’t think the case should go to trial, he could take the client to court and do a pre-trial where each side gets to tell the Arbitrator what the evidence will show and then the Arbitrator can say how they will likely rule. That would give, hopefully, the client some confidence that the attorney was getting the best deal possible.
For whatever reason, this Chicago work comp attorney (won’t name names, but he’s an old timer), has checked out and just doesn’t seem to care or fight for his clients, and won’t give honest responses to questions.