Tag Archive for: practice of law

I’m Considering Firing My Personal Injury Attorney

If you’re considering firing your personal injury attorney, there are a few things you need to know. We know it’s frustrating when your personal injury claim takes long, and we speak to individuals every day who want to fire their personal injury attorney. We try to be objective during those conversations, as the goal is to help individuals make decisions that will benefit them most.

Can I Fire My Personal Injury Attorney?

Generally, yes, you can fire your personal injury attorney. The language in your letter of representation will govern that decision, together with the state bar rules surrounding the attorney-client relationship. If you choose to fire your personal injury attorney, you may owe them money depending upon the status of your claim or case. In most cases, personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee. This means that “We don’t get paid unless you get paid.” However, if your lawyer has procured an offer or a personal injury settlement for you, they may have earned a fee that will need to be paid if you fire the lawyer and reach the same settlement on your own without the lawyer.

In most cases, when a client wants to fire a lawyer, you will find the lawyer or law firm will terminate the lawyer-client relationship and peacefully turn over the client file to the new law firm, at the client’s request. Usually, there is no fee for doing so—lawyers understand there are times when a client simply decides they want to use another lawyer or law firm.

Why Do People Fire Their Personal Injury Attorney?

In our experience, the number one reason why someone wants to fire their personal injury attorney is a lack of communication. Quite honestly, the law firm may be working diligently on the file. But, when the lawyer fails to communicate the progress to the client, the client feels as if no work is being done. When you combine this poor communication with a failure to return a few phone calls from the client, the client starts to wonder whether the lawyer cares about them at all. You can read NC State Bar Disciplinary Orders here, to see the various reasons lawyers are disciplined.

Can My Personal Injury Attorney Relationship Be Saved?

When a client calls us complaining about another lawyer or law firm, we are sure to ask a few pertinent questions. The goal is to help the client understand their options, while also ensuring the client makes a well-considered choice. Often, we encourage the client to call their lawyer to ask for an update and give the lawyer a set amount of time to provide a meaningful response. Again, it could be the firm is working hard on the file and just failing to communicate that hard work to the client.

We also point out to clients that when you switch law firms, even if the old firm forwards the file over to us, it’s like starting over. Because of that, the client may be better of patching things up with their current personal injury attorney—especially if they are close to reaching a settlement.

Speak With A Personal Injury Attorney Today

If you would like to speak with a personal injury attorney today about a car accident or grocery store slip and fall, call us at 704.749.7747 or click for a FREE CASE EVALUATION and we will reach out to you shortly. If you’re concerned about your relationship with another attorney, we are happy to discuss that with you as well. We will strongly encourage you to work things out with your existing attorney, and we can give you some helpful tips on how to take the next steps to accomplish that goal.

I credit my time teaching negotiation courses with The Likeable Lawyer for many of the results I’m able to obtain for clients. In personal injury claims, the end result is almost always a product of a long negotiation between the personal injury lawyer and the insurance adjuster or defense counsel for the insurance company. Having a set of negotiation skills in place is a crucial part of surviving and thriving in this environment.

Understanding Needs

One central focus of successful negotiation is understanding the needs of all parties involved. Much to the surprise of many lawyers, this means attempting to understand your ‘enemy’. By understanding the other side’s motivations, however, opens you to the possibility of proposing a solution that will be acceptable to them. Quite often, with a deeper understanding of the needs or concerns of the other side, you can negotiate a better result for your client. This happens as a result of being able to describe to the other side the benefit of saying “yes” to your offer.

While needs will change from situation to situation, the lawyer’s goal should be to see beneath the demands and statements of the client and the adversary, toward understanding what is really driving their behavior. A personal injury client with a broken ankle, for example, maybe equally concerned about a monetary award as he is about seeing that a store implements a new policy when mopping floors to avoid slip and fall accidents.

Maintaining Emotional Poise

I will be the first to tell you that maintaining emotional poise during a frustrating negotiation is a challenge. It’s one we face nearly every day as attorneys battling it out for our clients. Developing the ability to maintain and understand emotions plays a key role not only in the longevity of your career but also in your ability to negotiate through difficult moments. While understanding your own emotions is critical, it’s also extremely effective to understand or seek to understand the emotions of your adversary—you can use that understanding to foster a relationship and reach an agreement.

The Bulldog Lawyer

It’s not uncommon for clients to seek out what they might refer to as a Bulldog Lawyer—someone who isn’t going to take no for an answer, and who will bully their way to good results. Despite what we see on television, this behavior is most often ineffective and creates a divide between parties which is often irreparable. The Likeable Lawyer course offerings have shown thousands of lawyers, myself included, that what clients want more than a bulldog lawyer is results. In the end, the client cares most about getting the best results. Lawyers who take the courses I’ve taught with The Likeable Lawyer comment routinely to me that the courses are refreshing offer a new perspective, and ultimately help them achieve better results for their clients. Happy clients make for happy lawyers.

Bankruptcy is not a sign of failure. Bankruptcy is not an admission of giving up. In fact, when you decide you’re going to file bankruptcy—in North Carolina or anywhere else—you’re taking control of your situation. So, if bankruptcy isn’t these things, then what is it?

What Bankruptcy Really Is

Bankruptcy is a relief. Bankruptcy is an agreement between you and your creditors. And for once you have some control over the terms. The reason you have control is that you have rights in bankruptcy, granted under the federal bankruptcy code. They entitle you to relief in exchange for openness and honesty about your financial situation. If you have nothing to hide, you have a lot to gain.

Why Bankruptcy

I start most conversations with my clients by letting them know my goal is not for them to file for bankruptcy. My goal is for them to get relief and to get back on track financially. Quite often bankruptcy makes sense as the most effective tool to accomplish this goal. It’s much more powerful than debt settlement and in my opinion, it’s a more FAIR arrangement. After all, most clients have been paying their creditors faithfully for years before filing, only to barely make a dent in what is owed.

What About My Creditors

It’s amazing how many clients feel obligated toward their creditors. That’s because they are good people who want to live up to their promises. In this case, the promise to repay a loan or debt. The fact is, when your creditor initially loans money, they are aware a certain percentage of those loans will not be paid back. And they build it into their profit model. Your creditors will be fine. Bankruptcy is a choice to shift the focus from your creditors to yourself and your family. What could be more important than that?

Chapter 7? Chapter 13? Do I Even Qualify?

A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a liquidation of assets which are then distributed to creditors. The good news is it’s very rare in my experience to actually have any assets liquidated. The bankruptcy code provides protections or “exemptions” for vehicles, homes, household goods, business “tools of the trade,” and other items. Typically, clients can protect all of their belongings when filing a Chapter 7.

A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a good option for clients who have too many assets to entirely protect, or too much income to file a Chapter 7. It represents a partial repayment to creditors and strikes a balance between having the ability to pay SOMETHING, but not having the ability to pay what creditors are demanding.

Finding A Bankruptcy Attorney

The key to a successful relationship with a bankruptcy attorney is to find someone who is available, knowledgeable, and understanding of your situation and your goals. Bankruptcy attorneys often break the stereotype we typically hold of attorneys. They practice bankruptcy law because they feel like they are helping their clients and they can help those clients experience immediate relief and a higher quality of life—all by following the rules of the bankruptcy code. Call 704.749.7747 today to find out more about bankruptcy and your options, or to get a referral to a great bankruptcy attorney in your area.

Attorneys who look past strategies to identify the underlying needs of their clients, strengthen relationships at the moment, and generate creative solutions for their clients and their practice. I’ve learned to do this in my Charlotte bankruptcy practice, to great results. When we think about needs, we tend to think about things like money, time, a new car. The truth is, those items are strategies that we use to get our true underlying needs met. Money is a strategy that meets our need for stability. Time is a strategy that meets our need for relaxation or tranquility. A new car may meet our need for safety or accomplishment.  In this way, strategies are distinguishable from needs. As lawyers, our job is to meet the needs of clients. Additionally, we have our own needs which need to be met. A skilled and creative lawyer realizes there is usually more than one strategy available to get all of the underlying needs met.

Some time ago, my six-year-old daughter was acting out on a daily basis. She wouldn’t eat her food, she was talking back to both me and my wife, she took up the hobby of hitting her little sister on the head with heavy objects. Parents, you know the drill. I decided to increase the number of minutes she spent in time out, any time she acted out. I think at one point we got up to 20 minutes a time, in time out. It wasn’t working. I became a disciplinarian, as I saw this as a struggle for authority and respect. And I was losing the war.

My wife is a kindergarten teacher. She had the idea to hang a “Responsibility Chart” on our daughter’s bedroom door. I laughed at this idea. This child needed discipline, not coddling! That being said, I was out of ideas so I caved into the Responsibility Chart. The chart had five rows and seven columns. The rows were chores or requests like the ones mentioned above. The columns were days of the week. Within 48 hours, our child’s behavior did a complete 180. And each night, she dragged us upstairs to go through the chart, placing a magnet in each box where she had successfully completed the chore. Notice that the requested behavior from us had not changed. What had changed was our strategy for getting our needs met. And she responded very well to it. Why? Because her needs were being met. The need for control, appreciation, acknowledgment—so many things are packed into a family gathering around a responsibility chart.

When you are facing your next difficult or frustrating client conversation, or when you are sitting down to overcome the latest challenge your practice faces, think about needs. Distinguish them from strategies. A client who is expressing frustration is engaging in a strategy. Perhaps they are requesting you get back to them sooner, or move things along faster. Take a guess at the underlying need. Perhaps the client has a need to feel understood. Or maybe to have the urgency of their situation appreciated. Make an attempt to reflect needs in the conversation and see what kind of response you get. My experience is you will be pleased. You and the client will re-connect at the moment. And once the underlying needs are identified, you can go about offering up strategies for meeting those needs—strategies that work for you and the client both.

Marshall Rosenberg is a wonderful contributor to the discussion of needs and has a list of needs here. It’s a great reference tool for situations and behavior which at first you find perplexing. Identify the needs, speak to the needs, devise strategies to get the needs met. The incident I described above with our daughter took place two years ago. The Responsibility Chart is rarely in use but it still hangs on the back of our daughter’s door. The other night I asked her about it. “What did you like about using that responsibility chart?” I asked. She looked at me, smiled, and said “Oh, I don’t know, dad. It was a job well done.”