I hope I am evolving. I hope my practice is evolving. I think it is. Over
the past several years, I slowly and constantly grew my personal injury
practice. I only do plaintiff work, representing people that have been
hurt. I have represented people injured in car accidents, truck accidents,
boat accidents, golf cart accidents, falls, bar fights, people who were
sexually abused while in jail, etc.
personal injury case was the brother of a guy I had represented on a minor criminal charge.
My client and his brother were driving home in separate vehicles after
they had enjoyed a pizza lunch. He was horrified when he saw the oncoming
vehicle smash into his younger brother, head on. He was rushed by ambulance
to Strong Memorial Hospital, in Rochester. I hadn't done any work
in the field before, but the family knew me and trusted me, and refused
to be referred to another lawyer. I ended up as co-counsel with a friend
in the field. Our client had knee surgery and made a strong recovery.
About six months later we successfully settled the case for $100,000.
That experience showed me that I had the ability and background to handle
complex personal injury cases. I got referrals because I knew some transactional
lawyers – guys who did things like real estate closings and wills.
They knew I wasn't afraid to go to court, negotiate, and fight for people.
Do Criminal Defense Attorneys Make Good Personal Injury Lawyers?
My background is in criminal law. Some people say that is a disadvantage
– that I don't have the intricate knowledge of civil procedure
law. Here's a secret: No lawyer knows every law. We all look up laws,
rules and court decisions almost every day. If you don't look things
up almost every day you're a lazy slacker lawyer or, as we like to
call them, B-level lawyers. So knowing the law is overrated.
People who have spent their careers in civil law – how to say this
appropriately – I feel sorry for them. For the first 5-7 years in
a civil practice you are the worst word known in law: an “associate."
(Read also, somebody's _____.) So while they were taking orders, I
was learning how to:
- Gather evidence
- Prep witnesses
- Deal with victims
- Make my cases stronger
- Interview cops
- Write opening statements
- Learn the rules of evidence
- Pick juries
- Deal with hostile opposing counsel
- Deal with friendly opposing counsel
- Go to pretrial conferences
- Stand up to judges
Moreover, while gaining al this experience I also settled thousands of
cases and won jury verdicts at trial. I learned how to be a lawyer, while
they wrote legal briefs and letters.
Choose an Attorney with a Track Record
I think my background is my biggest advantage. It makes me different. I
have the ability to go to court and fight, and settle cases. I fell into
civil law – yes, I admit that. I liked it. And I was successful.
So I kept doing it. I suspect no civil attorney has done 25 jury trials
before age 28. I did. I suspect no civil attorney has settled over 2,000
cases before they reach 33 years of age. I did. It may also be of interest
that nearly every sitting judge in Monroe County has a background in criminal
law. A background in criminal law gives you the skills to succeed in any
trial work. That became apparent to me really quickly when I started taking
Work Directly with Your Attorney
Things you should know: I'm not a mill. I don't advertise on TV
or billboards. I don't know if I'm efficient with my time. I don't
have an "intake specialist" – whatever the heck that is.
I do my own investigations. I return my own phone calls. If my clients
want a meeting they call and they get the next one-hour block open on
my calendar. They sit in a chair – in my office – and we talk
about their case. I think the best practice a lawyer can have is to take
fewer cases and devote more time to them.
The transition has been a lot of fun. It allowed me to continue to grow
as a person, and as a lawyer. I only do plaintiff personal injury work.
The cases are generally longer and more drawn out. That’s because
there is a lot of money on the line. If you want a lawyer who is different,
I would be happy to discuss your case free of charge.