6. Case selection – don’t get killed.
Refuse those cases that will cost or risk more to prosecute than you will make. Evaluate the damages and the costs, and don’t be afraid to say no. Think of every case as a trial case. Analyze what you have to do to win the case. If you don’t know how to do this, talk to your mentor. Roughly compute your costs and time. Keep in mind that any case can take much more time and effort to prosecute with a nightmare defense lawyer on the other side. We have all had these experiences. Sometimes you can pick out such a case, but most of the time you cannot. Make your decisions based on you have to do and a reasonable and realistic estimate of the defenses. Do the math. If it doesn’t make sense, just say no. If there is a referring attorney, give a reason in writing why you are unwilling to take the case and ask where he wants to send the case. Pass it on without a fee. Confirm in writing that you are not taking the case and include the referring attorney’s name in the rejection letter. Send a cc to the referring attorney.
7. Use a mentor
Connect with an attorney you know and respect in your geographical area that is a member of CAOC, ATLA, TLPJ or CALA. Let him or her know you respect their judgment and discuss your discovery and trial plan of your case. Listen to what they have to say. Ask if you can call them from time to time and inquire about how to handle a particular problem. You will be surprised how receptive they are to helping you. Be respectful of their time. A mentor is a wonderful thing to have. If you can connect with someone who really knows what they are doing, it is immensely helpful.
8. The BIG case walks in the door. What do you do?
It will happen. When the big case walks in your door, sign the client up. If you are unsure of your personal or financial capabilities, ask for help from the best firm in your geographical area or your personal mentor. If you do not have a mentor, this is your chance to find one. Expect to pay half or two thirds of the expected fee to the referred firm. Agree to it willingly. One third or 40% of a big success is better than 100% percent of a disaster.
If an association takes place, ask to be taught. Go to the depositions and court hearings. Meet all the experts, attend client meetings and everything else you can fit in to your schedule. It takes time, but is worth its weight in gold if your mentor or associate is truly skilled. Any agreement regarding fees is covered by Rule 2-2000 as discussed above and set forth below.
9. Refer out those cases that you do not want or should not handle. Make good business decisions.
If you have too many cases, refer those smaller cases out. Your time is limited. Don’t be afraid to refer the small case out and take a fair and reasonable referral fee. If you have a number of large cases but have never tried a big case or feel that you are overwhelmed, associate a trial firm and pay the referral fee. In summary, refer the small cases out and associate on the big ones.
Remember rule 2-200 is applicable to any referrals. The client must consent in writing to the association and referral agreement. If it is not in writing, it is not enforceable.
10. Treat your personnel right
Treat your staff well and most times they will voluntarily commit to your practice. Give them respect. They will help you succeed. If you have staff members that are not what you need, get someone who is what you need. Once you find them, pay them what they are worth. Tell them when they do a good job. Give bonuses where appropriate. Long term employees have incredible value as an institutional memory. They will act as a backup to you, particularly when they are committed and feel a part of the success of your firm.
Photo Courtesy of Nosha