One concern that I’ve heard from injured workers over the years is that they don’t like that their attorney seems to be buddies with the defense attorney. They convince themselves that this means that their lawyer has been bought off or that they won’t try as hard because they don’t want to make their friend mad.
I can tell you that even the worst attorney in Illinois work comp isn’t being bought off by anyone. That simply doesn’t happen and couldn’t happen for a lot of reasons, including that it wouldn’t make economic sense for anyone and a billion dollar insurance company isn’t going to risk their ability to exist over a work comp case.
I can also tell you that I’ve never seen a lawyer not try because they don’t want to make the defense attorney upset. That’s not to say that some lawyers don’t fight hard. That absolutely is a problem. But it’s more because they are lazy or don’t care than because of their friendship with the defense attorney. In fact, in most cases, having a good relationship with the defense attorney will actually help you get a better result. Those lawyers aren’t going to sell out their clients either, but if they like you, they are often more flexible on the case and will give you a true indication of what their real bottom line is.
And it’s become more important than ever for your lawyer to get along with others. That’s because of new Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission rules. Pre-trials, which are settlement conferences, are being done via Webex which is an online tool similar to Zoom. As of August 1st, the way they are going to work has changed. It used to be that all pre-trials happened with the Arbitrator and two attorneys present. That was how it worked pre-Covid and how it worked on Webex until recently.
Now, if a case is set for pre-trial, the two attorneys are required to go in to a break out room and discuss the case themselves before the Arbitrator joins. This is a great idea because in many claims the opposing attorney doesn’t respond to phone calls or emails until they have to. If you want to get something done, talking face to face, even on computer is the way to go.
Now if your lawyer is the fake tough guy/girl type who acts like they are a badass for show, they will quickly get a bad reputation. If they don’t get along with others or can’t have a reasonable conversation, other attorneys won’t want to work with them. That greatly decreases the chances of getting a resolution to your case in the break out room and also when the Arbitrator comes in to see how your talk is going.
People confuse what it means to fight for a client. That doesn’t mean yell, scream, be rude, etc. It means that the attorney does everything they can within their power legally to get you the best result possible. That includes aggressively filing trial motions, getting the case ready for trial, continuously reaching out to the defense attorney, etc.
It blows my mind how many attorneys take the approach that the best way to help their client is to be a dick. Maybe it intimidates some young lawyer or adjuster, but in the end it will lead to a lot roadblocks. And now thanks to these new procedures, if your lawyer is a jerk it may stop your case from settling when it should.
So how do you know your lawyer is a jerk? Odds are that if they are mean/rude to you, they aren’t so great to others either. All you can do in that situation is find a better attorney before your current one causes irreparable harm to your case.