Like any other industry, a lot has changed with Illinois workers compensation law since I first became an attorney in 1997. Back then the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission was called the Illinois Industrial Commission. Many of the Arbitrators were old timers who had been there forever and couldn’t lose their jobs. This includes one that was known for falling asleep during hearings and another who was a known drunk. I lost my first trial as a very young lawyer even though evidence was on my side because the defense attorney and the old Arbitrator were very clearly great friends. The fix was in. There was another Arbitrator who regularly screamed at people in a way you couldn’t do today. And there was some very bad and blatant sexism.

Things have definitely improved. While there were many great Arbitrators back in the day too, we don’t see as much nonsense now. Not that it couldn’t happen, but it’s much less likely to happen.

Things change over time and that includes people. There was an attorney who was incredibly respected back when I first became an attorney and was a mentor to all sorts of lawyers including those not in his firm. Over the last few years though, I keep getting phone calls from his clients. They all tell similar stories. He’s really rude. He yells at them. He often doesn’t call back and when he does he won’t answer basic questions. They don’t feel like he is fighting for them.

How does this happen? I don’t know the particulars of this situation, but it’s something we’ve seen over and over. At some point, many older attorneys become disgruntled. Maybe they are sick of the grind. Maybe they wish they could retire but can’t afford to. Their home life could be terrible and they take it out on clients. They are sick. They are burned out and wish they could do something different. It could be a lot of things.

The point is that this isn’t an isolated incident, but sadly something we see repeated over and over. It’s the saga of the older attorney. That’s not to say that there aren’t older attorneys who are still crushing it, but generally speaking, when some lawyers get to a certain age, the passion they used to have is gone.

So what can you do if you’ve realized that you’ve hired the wrong lawyer?

You can seek out new representation, especially if there isn’t a settlement offer yet or the case isn’t that old. It costs nothing to switch. You can also call out your lawyer, explain your frustrations and see how they respond.

It’s not your fault that the attorney is going through something or doesn’t care to do the best job possible. Your case is your life and you get one shot at it. Just like the best athletes now are different than the ones 20 years ago, the best attorneys change too. You need to do what is best for you and your case.