Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Lawyer Too Smart For His Firm?

I'm frequently amazed by the lack of foresight "litigators" have when it comes time to generating business.

Recently I was contacted by an out of state attorney. He asked if I would assist with an injury claim that was "almost over." I agreed to assist for a percentage of any fee earned by the originating attorney. The case resolved as predicted in about six weeks from my initial involvement. The claim came from a smaller town in Georgia.

As I worked on the case, I saw in the letters in the file that I was not the first choice. A "civil practice" law firm that handles injury cases in that Georgia town had insisted on a retainer for fees and costs before "anything" could be done. Needless to say a retainer was not sent, and I was asked to help. Apparently no due diligence was done, because if it was, much could have been learned. Heck, even Googling the referring firm would have helped.

Now, with the matter at a close, fees paid, and the mutual client very happy, guess what? In today's mail there is a box of paper with additional referrals, several as additional counsel, others to handle from start to finish. All of them originate from that same town (or nearby it) where the civil practice firm decided it would demand a retainer on Case #1 from the out of state firm. Looks like I will be busy for a bit, and if I get results, there will be more cases to assist on in the future.

How smart was that civil practice lawyer? So smart that he passed on what will likely be a good working relationship that would generate work for months, if not years. For what? A small retainer? I can tell you that my fee was several times that amount in the end. In fact, I am quite happy that I was able to assist, regardless of later cases referred.

My office and probably yours has instances like this. Do you slow down a bit to see what the end result of a decision is - or are you so busy "being a litigator" that you cost your firm money? The civil practice firm lawyer may never know. Perhaps he does not care. I bet he does, though.

If he's smart.