Interview with a Personal Injury Trial Attornery

in Careers in Law, Jobs involving Commission Pay, Self Employed

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What do you do for a living?iStock_000004428195XSmall.jpg

I’m a trial attorney.

How would you describe what you do?

I help people in a time of need, when someone has been hurt by someone else’s negligence.

What does your work entail?

It’s a lot of relationship with the clients. My work entails quite a bit of paperwork and discovery with the defendant, and working with the defense lawyers, negotiating skills and trial skills.

The most rewarding thing is helping…Whenever you win that trial and your client is extremely excited and medical bills are paid and they’ve been properly compensated for what they’ve been through and you know that you put it all on the table and you’ve done a great job, that’s the best feeling in the world.

I would say I average 50 to 70 hours a week of work, but it really fluctuates.

How did you get started?

It’s a combination of a few things really. I enjoyed serving people. That’s the kind of profession that I always thought I was going to be in. Originally I thought I would be in the political arena because I really enjoyed serving people and I also really enjoy the public speaking and oral advocacy skills that it takes to be a trial lawyer when presenting a case. I just combined those two to say, “Hey this is the area of law and trial skills that I think best combines my talents to help folks.”

What do you like about what you do?

I really like the interaction with people. I really get to know my clients. I get to learn a lot about their family, about their careers, about what their problems are, what their successes are. I really like going out and fixing a problem. So for example there’s a large company who is doing something wrong that is causing people to get injured; throughout this process it’s actually fixing the problem. Because if someone gets hurt by the negligence of the company, or a tractor trailer, or a medical profession, whatever the defendant may be; throughout this process, hopefully they fix it. I really love that part of trial work.

What do you dislike?

I dislike having to deal with insurance companies whose only concern are profits. Insurance companies don’t care about the people, they’ve just worry about profits and bottom line numbers. So when I’m talking or negotiating with an insurance adjustor, the overwhelming majority of the time their hands are tied because this is not a person they’re talking about, it’s a dollar figure. And that makes it really hard to swallow, it’s one of the things I least like. I like the negotiating side of it but I don’t like dealing with someone who doesn’t really care about the person they only care about the dollar figure.

How do you make money/or how are you compensated?

Our firm operates on a contingency fee basis and what that means is we only collect a fee when we win. It really gets the client in the best scenario. Nobody could afford our services if we didn’t do it this way. So this is an opportunity for the client to get wonderful, great, top of the line representation at a no risk to the client. Basically we accept the risk for a percentage of the outcome, whether it’s a verdict or settlement.

How much money do you make?

Well that fluctuates tremendously. This year I’m set to make about $110,000. But I don’t know exactly what it’ll be.

Would you say there are any perks to this career?

To me there are a lot of perks, I like everything about it. I like the strategy, the amount of research that it takes, the constant learning curve, the negotiating with other attorneys, being able to present your case in a court of law in front of a jury. I mean these are all perks to me. Being the master of your schedule and nobody says I have to be there from eight to five. I don’t have to ask anybody to take off.

What education or skills are needed to do this?

Well you need a bachelor’s degree and technically it doesn’t matter what that degree is. Then you have to get your law degree. And that’s all you need to practice law. I’d say the skills that you need to be a trial attorney, you need people skills, you have to be motivated and you have to be a good orator to demonstrate your trial skills in the court room.

What is most challenging about what you do?

Probably the most challenging thing is controlling our resources. Keeping control of our time and my time and allocating how much time you’re going to spend on this and how much on that, and not getting too stretched out because you have to balance your family life, your church life, your work, your hobbies, your friends, and the most challenging thing for me right now as a young attorney is balancing all of those different things.

What is most rewarding?

The most rewarding thing is helping…Whenever you win that trial and your client is extremely excited and medical bills are paid and they’ve been properly compensated for what they’ve been through and you know that you put it all on the table and you done a great job, that’s the best feeling in the world.

What advice would you offer someone considering this career?

Number one, find a mentor. If you are strongly considering being a trial attorney, you need to find a trial attorney who’s been successful, who represents the morals, values and principles that you want to represent, and you need to make contact with that person, ask that person if you can… Basically follow them around, learn from them, gain from their experiences, their hardships, their successes, and see if that’s what you really want to do, and if it is, you need to mimic your mentor, and if you mimic someone who’s been successful, you’re almost guaranteed those same results.

How much time off do you get/take?

This year, my wife and I went on a four or five day vacation, right around our anniversary. I am going to try to make it a habit to take off at least four to five days at that time of year every year.

What is a common misconception people have about what you do?

People think that trial attorneys are out for money, which is completely not true. Also, I think that in my particular case, just being associated as a trial attorney, people talk about frivolous law suits. Which I can tell you, I’ve not been associated with a frivolous law suit. I would be foolish to accept a frivolous law suit because I spend all this money on it and time on these cases on a contingency fee. So if we lose, I’m just out that money. So if I spent ten thousand, or fifty thousand, or a hundred thousand on a case, and lose, because it’s frivolous, or even if it’s not frivolous, that’d be stupid wouldn’t it? It’d be silly. So we have a very, very thorough screening process. We screen these cases and only accept cases that have merit.

What are your goals/dreams for the future?

Well, I would like to become a respected trial attorney in the community, and the state, and the region, maybe even the nation, by helping people who need help. And that may involve opening up more offices, it may not. I don’t know how much our firm’s going to grow as far as the number of attorneys, but I would like to see us potentially opening up more offices in areas of the state where there’s need for trial attorneys.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jordan July 7, 2013 at 11:40 am

Reading this confirmed many of my ideas of what being an attorney is like, and I’m psyched to become one!

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