There are many lawyers who claim the title “trial lawyer” or “litigation attorney”. But what does this phrase really mean to you? Why should it be important to you when choosing an attorney to represent your case?
To be clear, any lawyer who has gone to court on a single jury trial can claim to be a “trial attorney”, just as anyone who has been an “extra” on a film set can call themselves an “actor”. But serious injuries deserve to be taken seriously, not just by your attorney, but by the persons/companies you are suing and the insurance companies that represent them. The chances of that happening increases with every jury trial your attorney has successfully resolved.
This in turn increases the chance of greater recoveries and larger compensation to you, the client.
Your case may never go to trial. But having a lawyer represent you, who is well known and well regarded by his/her peers and especially by opposing counsel, will help in the settlement process. If your attorney is known for settling everything and has no trial experience, opposing counsel may feel that they can get away with offering less. But if opposing counsel knows your attorney is prepared to go to court and performs well in court, they may be more inclined to offer more to avoid trial.
Below is a summary of an excerpt from “Honesty is the Best Policy: It’s Time to Disclose Lack of Jury Trial Experience” originally published in the Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, Vol XXIII, No. 1, Winter 2010.
The article urges lawyers to disclose their lack of experience in court to their prospective clients. Too often there is a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, where if the potential client does not ask about the attorney's lack of jury trial experience, the attorney is not inclined or required to tell the prospective client.
Most clients do not know to ask the questions because they may be unaware of the rarity of civil jury trials and the resulting decreased number of opportunities for litigators to gain trial experience. In addition, prospective clients may not inquire about this information because the client either does not want or does not expect, resolution by a jury and is unaware of the numerous, subtle disadvantages associated with hiring a litigator without jury trial experience.
How then does the potential client assess a litigator’s credibility and make informed decisions?
ASK THESE SIMPLE QUESTIONS…
Even if you believe your case will settle long before it has a chance to go in front of a jury, asking these questions before you make your decision will help you find the best lawyer, the RIGHT lawyer for you.