Can You Give me The Scoop on Personal Injury Exclusive Firms

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Can You Give me The Scoop on Personal Injury Exclusive Firms

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 11, 2019 10:09 am

I have an interview coming up with a personal injury exclusive firm. The firm has about 10 attorneys. What are some good questions to ask and what should I know before going in? Also are these firms flooded with multiple "case workers" as well? I see a lot of case workers on the firm's page. I don't have any civil law experience and have been out of law school for about a year.

Pretty much if someone can give me the scoop, that would be great, like am I expected to settle and collect a certain amount every time, and are such firms worth working for as a first-year associate? salary-wise I will have a cap I believe, but is it possible to recover a contingency on these also, should I ask such a question? What about billable hours, no billable hours I am guessing, correct?

Thanks

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Re: Can You Give me The Scoop on Personal Injury Exclusive Firms

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Apr 12, 2019 6:54 pm

I have worked in a plaintiff’s firm around that size:

Anonymous User wrote:I have an interview coming up with a personal injury exclusive firm. The firm has about 10 attorneys.

What are some good questions to ask and what should I know before going in?

You are going to want to ask, first of all, what the firm’s case mix is. By case mix, I mean what the ratio is between different types of cases such as car wrecks, mass toxic torts, medical malpractice, etc. A firm that does a lot of mass torts and class actions is much more likely to be a sweat shop just as bad as any big law firm versus a firm that only does personal injury and medical malpractice.

Research this first, though. If the firm’s website makes its case mix obvious, you do not want to ask that question in the interview. Otherwise, the interviewer is likely to be unimpressed by your preparation.

Also ask what the firm’s expectation is for you as to how fast you will be made the lead attorney on cases. When I joined a plaintiff’s firm after three years at a mid Law defense lit boutique where I had barely taken five depositions, I was immediately made a lead attorney on a few cases and have taken over 40 depositions in the last year.

Ask about whether the firm pays for memberships and such. As a plaintiff’s attorney, unless your face is on a billboard, your main source of case referrals will be fellow attorneys. So unlike defense attorneys, you will seek out and desire to attend conferences attended by other attorneys. Fortunately for plaintiff’s attorneys, these events tend to be wild, crazy, debauched, and filled with far more very generous vendors with large expense accounts and gifts than any conference attended mostly by defense lawyers. So it is vitally important that you join as many organizations as possible that host these very conferences, and it’s more the sweeter if your firm pays for you to attend based on an investment in your ability to get clients.

Finally and most importantly, I think, ask about your support staff. A plaintiff’s attorney is often only as good as his support staff, so you might impress the interviewer with this question. Inquire about your assistant, whether you will have a paralegal, whether your firm employs investigators, in-house document production and printing, etc.


Also are these firms flooded with multiple "case workers" as well? I see a lot of case workers on the firm's page. I don't have any civil law experience and have been out of law school for about a year.

Case workers are typically individuals who do client hand-holding, as it were. In high-volume plaintiff’s firms, they will usually outnumber the attorneys 2 to 1 or 3 to 1. These “settlement mills” are soul-sucking. Avoid at all costs.

Pretty much if someone can give me the scoop, that would be great, like am I expected to settle and collect a certain amount every time, and are such firms worth working for as a first-year associate? salary-wise I will have a cap I believe, but is it possible to recover a contingency on these also, should I ask such a question?

A lot (probably the great majority) of plaintiff’s firms pay associates a base salary plus a bonus once the associate recovers a certain amount of attorneys’ fees over a calendar year. For example, say I recover $500,000 in fees this year and my base salary is $70,000. Well I also get a bonus once I bring in $250,000 in attorneys fees for cases where I am lead attorney of 20% of the fees, bringing my total compensation to $170,000.

What about billable hours, no billable hours I am guessing, correct?

Plaintiffs’ attorneys do typically track the hours they work on a case, usually for purposes like if there is ever a fee dispute in the future. For certain special types of cases that are fee-shifting, such as Fair Labor Standards Act cases where the defense has to pay the Plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees if it loses, a plaintiff attorney will typically track their billable hours much more closely to pass the scrutiny of a judge who has to approve the fees.

Thanks

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Re: Can You Give me The Scoop on Personal Injury Exclusive Firms

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Apr 15, 2019 9:10 pm

I'm a junior in undergrad also looking to go this route, asking here because it's hard to find threads that talk about personal injury stuff.

I'm looking at law schools in florida, new york, texas, chicago and california. Those seem like the markets with the biggest cases and most successful personal injury law firms. Does that seem accurate? Are there any other places to look or changes coming up?

I know that with changes in the Florida supreme court it's likely that med mal cases become less attractive there, and potentially other cases, so any advice would be appreciated.

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Re: Can You Give me The Scoop on Personal Injury Exclusive Firms

Postby lavarman84 » Mon Apr 15, 2019 11:21 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'm a junior in undergrad also looking to go this route, asking here because it's hard to find threads that talk about personal injury stuff.

I'm looking at law schools in florida, new york, texas, chicago and california. Those seem like the markets with the biggest cases and most successful personal injury law firms. Does that seem accurate? Are there any other places to look or changes coming up?

I know that with changes in the Florida supreme court it's likely that med mal cases become less attractive there, and potentially other cases, so any advice would be appreciated.


There's going to be personal injury work anywhere. Obviously, more lucrative work is going to tend to be in areas with more population. My advice would be to go to a quality law school on a full ride in a market where you have some ties and connections. Unlike biglaw, there isn't a clear path to PI work. You're going to have to network and find the firms that have openings. It's also worth noting that the elite small PI firms strongly value trial experience (and experience managing your own cases). Those firms tend to not hire straight out of law school.

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Re: Can You Give me The Scoop on Personal Injury Exclusive Firms

Postby Aptitude » Tue Apr 16, 2019 5:01 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I have an interview coming up with a personal injury exclusive firm. The firm has about 10 attorneys. What are some good questions to ask and what should I know before going in? Also are these firms flooded with multiple "case workers" as well? I see a lot of case workers on the firm's page. I don't have any civil law experience and have been out of law school for about a year.


There are a lot of personal injury firms that require as many hours as Big Law, they're the "sweat shops" another poster mentioned. There are a few giveaways and how you can tell these places apart. Usually, they will be based heavily on paralegal labor. Sometimes the ratio will be ridiculous, with maybe 1 or 2 attorneys, and a very large support staff of paralegals or legal assistants or "case managers." Because they mainly handle car accidents, the work is repetitive enough to where they can survive like this, and they'll just settle with insurance companies before any actual litigation.

Another way is that if they have high turnover and hire a lot of new grads - very low pay, no benefits/bad benefits, and long hours. Ridiculous stuff like working 70-80 hours a week for $45,000 and no real benefits. In these types of firms, really only the Partner makes money and everyone else gets turned over and leaves quickly. It's basically just a low-paying version of working at a big law firm. You can ask what their compensation structure is like, if there are bonuses how the bonuses work. Also, do a search on LinkedIn for people that have worked there - if no one lasts more than a year, that's a dead giveaway.

Someone mentioned that you want to find out about the mix of cases but that they'll have this on their website. You want to be careful, because many personal injury firms where the vast majority of their cases are simple car accidents for low damage claims, will advertise catastrophic injury, medical malpractice, truck collisions and mass torts etc on their website. Sure, they may do some, but 99% of their cases could also be car accidents for low damages - you want to find out about this just by asking what their mix is.

Just make sure you don't end up at a "sweat shop" like someone mentioned.

Edit - I didn't want to be all negative. Like Lavarman posted, there are some litigation boutiques that do personal injury that are great. The work is interesting, you get to work on bigger parts of cases than at large firms, the bonuses are great, and there are benefits. But they usually don't hire straight out of school, and these firms aren't known for turnover like the sweat shops or big firms, so openings are rarer. I've seen people at these firms for 10+ years.

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Re: Can You Give me The Scoop on Personal Injury Exclusive Firms

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Apr 16, 2019 7:32 pm

Aptitude wrote:Edit - I didn't want to be all negative. Like Lavarman posted, there are some litigation boutiques that do personal injury that are great. The work is interesting, you get to work on bigger parts of cases than at large firms, the bonuses are great, and there are benefits. But they usually don't hire straight out of school, and these firms aren't known for turnover like the sweat shops or big firms, so openings are rarer. I've seen people at these firms for 10+ years.


What jobs typically feed into these?

I'm not interested in the big corporate stuff. I know that civil work is very different from criminal, but would the trial experience of being a public defender be helpful? Or is it just a matter of working up from worse personal injury firms or the defense side?

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Re: Can You Give me The Scoop on Personal Injury Exclusive Firms

Postby Aptitude » Tue Apr 16, 2019 8:06 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Aptitude wrote:Edit - I didn't want to be all negative. Like Lavarman posted, there are some litigation boutiques that do personal injury that are great. The work is interesting, you get to work on bigger parts of cases than at large firms, the bonuses are great, and there are benefits. But they usually don't hire straight out of school, and these firms aren't known for turnover like the sweat shops or big firms, so openings are rarer. I've seen people at these firms for 10+ years.


What jobs typically feed into these?


I don't work at these firms, I just know people at personal injury firms. Personal injury can be very broad, from minor car collisions to catastrophic injuries with 8 digit payouts, or just many torts in general could fit a "personal injury."

A very reliable way of finding out is to do a search on LinkedIn on the firms you want to work at. I find this method far more reliable than internet forums. Go look-up a firm you're interested in, do a search for current/former employees, and look at where they have worked, went to school, and internships. Sometimes, you'll find very surprising things that go against online conventional knowledge.

Another benefit of doing this, aside from actually seeing where they've worked (as opposed to opinion from an online forum) is that you may have a common connection, and can reach out. Sometimes you'll see job postings for those firms on LinkedIn, or who the recruiters are.

I will share this opinion though - try your best to avoid high volume, low billables/low damage type of places. Also, be wary of high overhead. Lots of idiot lawyers (no different than other bad small business owners) with un-necessarily high overhead that stresses their books. This will also cause you un-necessary stress.

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Re: Can You Give me The Scoop on Personal Injury Exclusive Firms

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Apr 17, 2019 2:25 am

Is a firm with about 13 attorneys and 60 staff members (paralegals, case workers, intake specialists, etc.) considered a mill? Only 2 partners and the rest (11) are associates (junior, senior, entry level, etc.) Entry level associates are usually paid a salary only 45-55k and thus have a ceiling. Not sure how bonus structure works, but end of year review plays a part in it. Later on you can get a cut of contingency probably but not as a first-year or junior associate.

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Re: Can You Give me The Scoop on Personal Injury Exclusive Firms

Postby Aptitude » Wed Apr 17, 2019 2:57 am

Anonymous User wrote:Is a firm with about 13 attorneys and 60 staff members (paralegals, case workers, intake specialists, etc.) considered a mill? Only 2 partners and the rest (11) are associates (junior, senior, entry level, etc.) Entry level associates are usually paid a salary only 45-55k and thus have a ceiling. Not sure how bonus structure works, but end of year review plays a part in it. Later on you can get a cut of contingency probably but not as a first-year or junior associate.


13 Attorneys/60 staff members isn't a terrible ratio. But it sounds like one when you take the ratio account in with the pay. Do you know what turnover is like? I'm going to guess the benefits are really bad as well.

Unless it's in the boonies and they don't expect you to work any more than literally 35-40 hours a week, that pay is bad. You could make more bartending and practicing law on the side. You can make more doing a lot of things while practicing law on the side. I'm certain my yoga instructor makes a lot more than 55k a year.

Make sure the bonus structure is clearly defined on how you can obtain it. Another important thing is how many people actually get it. There are firms that will define it, "you need to to achieve ________ hours" or whatever the measurement, but it almost never happens due to needing the amount of hours or clients to get there. If they give a BS answer like "If you work hard and put in the time you'll get there, but not everyone here works that hard" blah blah, then just assume it's not a real thing.

Basically, you don't want to work at a sweat shop for $45,000 while working 6 days a week, 60+ hours a week, with limited holidays. And then you're hoping for a bonus that turns out to be $250. You'll basically get below minimum wage. You'll make far more than that if you spend that same amount of mental energy and time playing poker at your local casino/card room. Don't let the baby boomer lawyers with their cush jobs and lives make use of you.

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Re: Can You Give me The Scoop on Personal Injury Exclusive Firms

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 18, 2019 8:56 am

Anonymous User wrote:A firm that does a lot of mass torts and class actions is much more likely to be a sweat shop just as bad as any big law firm versus a firm that only does personal injury and medical malpractice.


that's interesting to hear, I always assumed it would be the opposite and the firms that took small PI cases would be sweatshops because they would need such a high volume. Do you have any insight about the large local PI firms? The ones that have billboards, commercials, etc and are well-known by everyday people? They seem to take mostly car accidents, at least that's what they advertise. Do you know what typical hours and salary are at those types of firms? Do they just try to settle everything quickly or would I get deposition/court experience?



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