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Although law firms have been declared an essential business with the COVID-19 shutdown, like most other professions, business is down for everyone that I talk to.

What ends up happening to some attorneys when they lose money, is they stop thinking about what’s best for the client, and start thinking about what’s best for the firm.

This became crystal clear to me the other day, when I got a call from an experienced civil attorney in Chicago.  The way I understand it, the lawyer that used to handle work comp cases in their firm left and did not take the remaining cases with him.

So now a lawyer, who has only dabbled in work comp, is being asked to handle all work comp cases that the firm has.  He called me asking if I knew of any good CLE’s (continuing legal education) seminars that will help him get up to speed.

This attorney is trying to learn the law, which I respect, but I told him that I don’t think this is a good idea.  The only way to really learn workers comp is through trial and error. If they make an error, it’s going to come at the expense of their clients.  Even if they think they are going to only handle “easy” cases, some easy cases become complicated unexpectedly.  Some times you don’t know what you don’t know and that can hurt the client.

My belief is that a lot of firms do this because they are thinking it will lead to more money for them.  This isn’t a new phenomenon.  I’ve seen divorce lawyers try to handle car accidents because they think it will be easy.  More often than not, they screw it up and need to bring an experienced lawyer in or end up getting sued.

I’d love to make millions off of a medical malpractice lawsuit, but I know that I have no idea how to handle those cases and even if I tried to learn, I know that there are way better firms that have a track record of success.  That’s why I always refer med mal cases to those firms.   It’s the right thing to do for the client which is all that should matter.

Whatever type of case you have, I highly recommend that before you hire a lawyer, ask them what percentage of their practice is in the area you are dealing with and how many cases they’ve tried in the last year.  If it’s work comp and they aren’t at least 75% work comp (preferably 90-100%) with at least ten trials in the last year, then they are not the right firm for you.  It’s not to say that they couldn’t do a good job for you, it’s just that they don’t, in my opinion, give you the best chance success.