9 Qualifications Your NC Workers Comp Lawyer Should HaveThe following are suggested questions you should ask a workers' compensation lawyer you are considering to retain to handle your case. It is not necessary for a lawyer to meet all the criteria suggested below; however, if many of these criteria are absent, you should be concerned as to whether this lawyer is the right one to handle your work injury case.
Experience is a big factor. It makes sense that the longer a lawyer has practiced in a particular area of law, the more skilled you would expect that lawyer to be. However, experience alone certainly does not make for a good lawyer. Some lawyers have 20 years of experience, other lawyers have one year of experience.
It is necessary for a lawyer to continue to learn, grow and develop in his or her area of practice. The mere fact that a lawyer has been practicing for a long time does not in and of itself mean that he or she is sufficiently qualified to handle your case. A lawyer should grow and develop and not handle cases the same way each time, but rather to continually improve his or her techniques and methods. Insurance companies tend to give greater credence and respect to lawyers who have actually tried cases in court. The greater number of cases actually tried and substantial verdicts and settlements achieved, the more likely it is that insurance companies will listen to the lawyer. Of course, the past successful experience of the lawyer is no guarantee of future results. However, a long track record of successful trials is a good indication of that lawyer’s level of experience and success.
2. Trial Experience.
Which brings us to our next point: Trial experiance. Ask the lawyer how many cases they have actually taken to hearing. Have they achieved any significant verdicts or settlements? Do they have a list of verdicts and settlements available that you can look at? As mentioned elsewhere, insurance companies tend to value cases based in part on the reputation of the lawyer and the number of cases the lawyer has actually taken to hearing.
3. Appellate Court Experience
First, understand that work injury cases are not handled the same way as injuries unrelated to a workplace. Work injuries are managed through the North Carolina Industrial Commission. However, it is some times necessary to appeal a workers’ compensation case to an appellate court. In North Carolina, we have two appellate courts: The Court of Appeals of North Carolina and the Supreme Court of North Carolina. Appeals are necessary when the North Carolina Industrial Commission makes an error at law. You would be surprised at how often such mistakes occur. The rate of reversals in the appellate courts is higher than you would suspect. Therefore, a workers' compensation lawyer needs to be a good appellate lawyer. If not, you may need to search for and hire a separate lawyer to handle an appeal. Ask your prospective lawyer how many cases they have actually appealed to our appellate courts.
4. Respect in the Legal Community.
Does your prospective lawyer teach other lawyers courses on trial practice in continuing legal education programs sponsored by bar associations, trial lawyer organizations, and law schools?
5. Board Certification.
The National Board of Trial Advocacy tests and certifies trial lawyers. It requires a minimum number of trials and recommendations from judges and opposing attorneys. You should ask your lawyer if he or she is board certified. You can also visit the National Board of Trial Advocacy and see which lawyers in your area are board-certified.
6. Membership in the Million Dollar Advocates Forum.
Membership is limited to lawyers who have won million and multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. Less than 1% of U.S. lawyers are members. In order to be a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, a lawyer must have demonstrated exceptional skill, experience and excellence in advocacy by personally achieving a trial verdict, award or settlement in the amount of One Million Dollars or more. Each case is different, however. Just because your lawyer is a Member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum does not mean that your case will be tried or settled for anywhere near one million dollars.
7. Leadership Positions in Trial Lawyer Organizations.
See if your prospective lawyer is a member of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice. Ask them if they have ever held any legal leadership positions in that organization.
The North Carolina Advocates for Justice is an active group of trial lawyers who work hard to improve the trial skills of their members and who provide specialized courses in trial practice for their membership. Ask if the lawyer has spoken at any of these trial practice seminars.
The American Association for Justice is a national organization dedicated to the training of trial lawyers who only represent accident victims. Members of the American Association for Justice, formerly The Association of Trial Lawyers of America, do not represent big corporations or insurance companies, they only represent individuals who have been damaged by the wrongful conduct of others. Ask the prospective lawyer if they are active in that organization, if they have ever held positions of leadership in that group or if they have ever given lectures and seminars conducted by the American Association for Justice.
8. Published Books and Articles.
Has the prospective attorney written any articles or authored books on the subject of trial practice for use in teaching lawyers and helping them improve their trial skills? Such publications are another sign of the respect that the legal community has for this lawyer’s skill and experience.
Ask the prospective lawyer how they intend to keep you informed about the progress of your case.
In our practice, we send our clients a copy of every piece of correspondence and pleadings in the case, both incoming and outgoing. We also keep the client fully informed on the progress of their case and we keep then advised of the various steps of the proceedings and when they can anticipate the next activity to take place.
Clients are invited to call or email us at any time. If we cannot personally return your call right away one of my assistants will help you set up a specific telephone appointment. We also encourage our clients to make an appointment for an in-person consultation at any time that it is convenient for them. Any law firm you are considering should provide you with this level of communication.