Many Ways to Meet Your Lawyer – Personal Injury – Divorce – Civil Suits

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By on December 24, 2012 10:57 pm Leave your thoughts

My perception is that doctors are aloof and inaccessible. Not mine of course. Dr.” O’ ” is very friendly and accommodating. You can see him power-walking around Buckhannon. But, these days the patient thinks “my doctor” is the PA (physician’s assistant).

If you are a personal injury lawyer, just try to get your client’s specialist, neurosurgeon, orthopedic surgeon, or plastic surgeon, to write a page or two on  your client’s medical history, diagnosis, prognosis, future treatment, and impairment. When you call, each time it is a different assistant. Most surgeons perceive NO obligation to help their patient get their life on track by helping to explain to an insurance adjuster the key components of the injury. Why? I think partly because doctors perceive lawyers as an enemy, not a co-professional.

Sometimes the doctor is on vacation. Other times, he is in surgery, and, most recently, he was “studying for his boards”. It used to be I could enclose a check for $150, then $200, and finally $350,  and get a letter,  which takes 15 minutes to dictate,  that answers these questions.

Now the hospital’s lawyer calls me to advise that it is “against our policy” for the doctor to write a simple letter, so I can settle a claim for a fair compromise amount WITHOUT FILING A LAWSUIT!

Sorry to shout, but these same doctors are against “unnecessary lawsuits”. We trial lawyers are too. That’s why the best of us present well documented claims, with reasonable demands.

I am sure the doctor  goes home to his wife and complains about “Those damn lawyers and their frivolous lawsuits.”

He might be surprised to know a good lawyer/negotiator can settle 90% of auto accident claims without filing suit. I believe a doctor who truly wants his client to have a recovery, and fresh start, should want to help her resolve her medical AND legal issues.

My colleague Tim has solved the problem by serving a subpoena and taking a “deposition” at the doctor’s office, whether there is a suit or not. The doctor  doesn’t know the difference. It is a solution,  but pretty pricey. It is a challenge for lawyers to cope with our often prickly relationships with doctors.

AND WHAT ABOUT THE PUBLIC’S
RELATIONSHIP WITH LAWYERS?

Perhaps you perceive lawyers as being aloof?

This one is not, and here are some suggestions:
1. Call me between 7:00 a.m. – 8:00 a.m. (304 472-7477) I pick up my own phone. Later, you will get a member of my cheerful staff.

2. Chat for 15 minutes or more. I do not charge for such calls. If I cannot represent you, I will try to recommend someone who can.

3. I will quote a retainer at the end of the phone call.

4. If it is a “contingent fee”, case, I will give you an appointment, usually within 48 hours. You may be pleasantly surprised regarding the proposed fee percentage.

5. E-mail me, either hunterjb@hunterlawfirm.net or go to my Findlaw website, www.hunterlawfirm.net (Ed. Now on a WordPress platform),  and write me through the “contact me” portal.

6. If it is a major case where I decide to associate with someone else, I will record 15 minutes or so and provide the other lawyer (usually from a larger city such as Charleston) a transcript of the interview. That enhances your chances of getting to meet a lawyer who focuses on that area.

7. Occasionally, especially if you simply can’t afford a lawyer, I suggest you and your spouse,  or adversary,  consider coming in for mediation; the cost?  $300-$800, usually shared by the two of you. I can help the two of  you prepare a parenting plan or property settlement agreement that is nearly identical to the ones I prepare for my clients. We can fine tune or modify a plan that has already been court ordered.

8. I have even begun charging a flat fee  to share the essential information in case you decide to proceed with self representation.

9. More than half the time, the client decides he just cannot do it himself, and I proceed to become record counsel.

10. Recently, WV Supreme Court of Appeals Menis Ketchem wrote an article in The WV Lawyer in which he shared my view that the WV State Bar Counsel’s advisory letter on the question of  “ghost writing” is stupid and unnecessary. I concur. (Ed. I believe the new rules of professional responsibility provide reasonable solutions to this issue.)

11. He is the same Justice who wrote an article with guidelines for lawyers who tend to play games with the “discovery” process in civil litigation, running up costs, and creating delays in an already burdened system. He’s a pretty sharp guy.

12. What is “ghost writing”? If I help someone draft a self represented (pro se) motion for a continuance, or write a letter to a landlord, or help with a simple pleading or agreement, the State Bar Disciplinary Committee, in it’s wisdom, make the lawyer insert a note that (insert lawyer name), State Bar Number (insert lawyer’s number) “assisted” in the writing. This, of course, means the lawyer can be drawn into a case, even be held liable, for a case she charged little, if any, for. And even though the nature of the service was carefully limited.

13. Even if the pleading or writing is imperfect, it’s likely to be a lot better than the pro se litigant can do. The State Bar believes this may give one party an advantage over the other. Justice Ketchem believes it will discourage lawyers from doing volunteer work or piecemeal work that might help that party. I agree.

14. If one party reads all the rules of court, digests Wikipedia and other sources, and prepares for the hearing well, they do not have to disclose that, so why should a self represented party have to reveal the identity of someone they wish to consult in private?

15. I still prefer to quote a retainer designed to cover most or all of my fees. Clients who can do that get a “double discount” and are less likely to have billing and payment issues.  I usually have a non refundable component, a “consultation fee” of perhaps $1000. That non refundable component gets the client the most experienced lawyer in the area, and a buffer of say $500 of free services if the services exceed the retainer, AND a discount of perhaps 25% per hour if the fee exceeds that. Think of it as a form of  insurance.  

16. Thus, I share in “the pain” of a case that becomes more difficult than anticipated. It is the virtual opposite of overtime, but it is a method I have developed to let “the little guy” have representation.

MY ADVICE? Call me. I will respond. Ask questions. Answer my questions, in confidence. Think carefully before you try to solve your legal problem yourself. I just handed a check to a client today, the day before Christmas. She stated that the complications and difficulties in getting her check, her husband’s, and a settlement from their own insurance carrier for the “underinsured” portion of the claim, were MUCH more complicated and problematical than they had imagined. She thanked us sincerely.

Of course there are smart lawyers who care about good results but not that much for the client. 

The best lawyers care about their clients, the clients’ families, their own careers, and even the money. 

They come to work  with passion every day. That’s what my staff and I try to do.

As I write this on Christmas eve, I thank my readers for reading. Hope you had a terrific Christmas, and that you and yours have a wonderful new year.

Burton Hunter

This post was written by Burton Hunter

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