Case selection – Don’t be afraid to say “no”

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James Publishing has recently published a practice guide written by Larry and Roger Booth of our firm entitled Personal Injury Handbook. The following is an excerpt concerning the all-important task of case selection:

“The hardest thing for any lawyer, especially a young lawyer, to do is reject a case that appears as though it might bring good money into the firm. Caught up in the hustle and bustle of practice, lawyers often are so happy to land what appears to be a good case that they do not take sufficient time to understand the facts, get to know the client, and, most importantly, fully explore the reasons to reject the case. Accepting a bad case causes several problems. The case ties up the attorneys’ money, gives them headaches, and eventually produces little, if any, income. It also ties up the attorneys’ time preventing them from concentrating on other business. A few good cases are much better than a cabinet full of problems.

Sometimes, attorneys take a bad case because they have the deluded belief that somehow they can help everyone. There are certain people you cannot help or who have problems that cannot be economically solved.

An attorney we have known for years works seven days a week, makes little money and looks 20 years older than he should. His office looks like a hurricane just hit the building with the windows open. He takes every case that somehow finds its way into his office, works like mad and produces little results. The clients do not appreciate all the effort because the final settlement, if any, is disappointing in the extreme. On the other side of the spectrum is a famous attorney we know who brags that his case load at any given time is no more than eight or 10 cases, and this is with a staff of several attorneys and a lot of clerical help. Nonetheless, his results are spectacular and he consistently makes a huge income. There is a happy medium somewhere in-between.”
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