I Regularly Do Personal Injury Work, Including Some Complex Cases. Why Would I Ever Want to Refer a Case to Another Injury Law Firm?

You probably would not. In fact, there are only three circumstances in which you would want to do so.

First, the new personal injury case you have been offered is different than the type of work you have done in the past, and you determine that you do not want to invest the time and money necessary to learn the new subject matter. Under these circumstances a referral would be prudent.

Second, your firm’s workload is such that (a) with your existing staff, you cannot realistically devote the time necessary to work on the case and still give your existing clients the attention they deserve, and (b) you do not want to hire and train the people necessary to increase your capacity for work. Once again, a referral would allow you to earn money from the case you have been offered (if the case is successful) without increasing your stress or overhead or adversely impacting the service you provide to your existing clients.

Third, you may have the personnel necessary to do additional work but make the judgment that, given your current case mix and financial commitments, it is imprudent to take on another complex case requiring the investment of considerable time and money at the moment.

For example, let’s assume that you are a solo practitioner and have a nice mix of auto and trucking cases, as well as two health care liability cases. The health care liability cases are just getting started, but both involve children who sustained brain injuries at birth. If those cases are tried, each will likely require an investment of $250,000 to $300,000 in out-of-pocket expenses. Assume that you are then offered a products liability case against a car manufacturer that will involve an up-front investment of $25,000 - $50,000 to determine whether a case exists at all. Further, if the case has merit, you know that hundreds of thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses will be required to move the matter forward. After carefully analyzing your practice, your workload, and your financial resources, you may decide that you can investigate the products case and accept it if it is determined to have merit. Conversely, you may determine that investigating and accepting the new case would push you beyond your ability to continue meeting your existing practice and financial commitments. If you make the latter decision, we ask that you consider referring the case to us.

To survive as a plaintiff’s lawyer, particularly in today’s marketplace, each of us must carefully analyze our practices, our personnel, our finances, and our tolerance for risk. The risk of loss in a small case is manageable for plaintiff’s lawyers with an otherwise healthy practice. Indeed, the loss of a major case is something that most experienced plaintiff’s lawyers are psychologically and financially prepared to accept. However, as the number of higher-risk cases increases (even those with high-fee potential), prudent plaintiff’s lawyers take a hard look at their practice and themselves and make informed judgments about what amount and type of new work they can realistically take on. It is admittedly a struggle not to “get drunk on opportunity,” but the fact of the matter is that case acceptance requires not just knowledge of the law, but also a consideration of numerous factors including the ability to effectively take on the case at that time.

As an excellent plaintiff’s lawyer from East Tennessee told me, “I am just three med mal losses in a row away from bankruptcy.” Now, this lawyer had plenty of money and his statement was an exaggeration. But the lesson I learned from his statement is the need to continually and carefully analyze the eggs in one’s practice basket and make intelligent, long-range decisions about adding another egg that will require a significant investment of time and money.

To discuss putting one of your eggs in our basket, contact John Day at 615-742-4880 or toll-free at 866.812.8787 or via email at referral@johndaylegal.com.

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