A woman who was recently injured in an automobile accident called me to ask if I would be willing to take her case even though she had already hired another law firm. I look at situations like these and believe that it is always better for someone who has hired a lawyer initially to not switch to another lawyer unless the relationship is completely beyond repair. With this view in mind, I told her that it would be better for us to sit down and sort through the reasons why she felt unsatisfied with her current representation and hire me instead. At the very least, perhaps I would be able to facilitate a reconciliation between this client and her lawyer.
When we met I learned that after nearly six months of being represented by this other law firm, she had still not spoken to her lawyer, either in person or by telephone. As she described the situation, her frustration was obvious. Her initial decision to hire this other firm was based upon its advertising that she had seen many times. These ads led her to believe that she would get personal help with her personal injury. She described that she had signed up with a “case manager” and all her communications were telephone calls with another assistant in the office. She felt like she had so many questions that the assistant couldn’t answer and when she asked to speak to her lawyer, she was told that she would meet him when the case went to trial.
I have heard these same stories many times before and I know that what I had heard this day was not a unique, isolated incident, but part of a larger problem with lawyer representation these days. Even if this approach to practicing law is common, I have never operated my practice in this way. I learned a long time ago from my dad, Guy Perenich, that every client deserves the personalized attention that you would give to your best friend or member of your family. He started practicing law that way in 1955 and did so until he retired in 2007. I have never strayed from those same core beliefs. So even though this year marks 25 years of being a lawyer, I believe that for me to best represent anyone, whether from an injury from a car accident, fall or because of a defective product, we need to meet early and always make myself personally accessible. But even more importantly, I know that we always get a better result when I get to know my client on a personal level because every injury affects everyone in its own unique way. The arrangement between a lawyer and his client is described as a relationship, and you can’t have that level of connection if you’ve never sat down and connected, face to face.
When a new personal injury client is referred to me from a past or current client, the referral is given with the confidence that I will provide the same personal, one on one service. Not every referral to other lawyers has that same level of confidence.
If you have been referred to a lawyer from someone because he or she hired that lawyer, my advice would be to simply ask, “Have you met your lawyer yet?”