Many injured consumers are at a loss to know how to go about finding a Newfoundland and Labrador injury lawyer who is right for their case, and frustrated by the information available to help them in this quest. A serious injury by medical negligence, for example, can have lifelong consequences. Choosing the right lawyer can be one of the most important decisions a consumer ever makes that will affect their quality of life for a long time to come. With this in mind, I provide some factors and points to look for in a great injury lawyer.
Of course, not every injury lawyer will meet all of these criteria, but the significant absence of many of the following should be a big question mark.
- Experience – obviously, the longer you have been practicing a particular area of the law, the more you will know. Experience is a big factor in most cases.
- Experience actually trying cases – the greater your number of cases actually tried and substantial awards and settlements achieved, the more likely the insurance companies will respect you. Past results are not a guarantee of the future but past results do demonstrate some level of experience and success.
- Ethical record – does the lawyer have a record of discipline by the Law Society for ethical violations? What violations?
- Respect in the legal community – does the lawyer teach other lawyers in Continuing Legal Education courses?
- Respect in the courts – have the courts commented on the lawyer either favorably or unfavorably? Has he or she been in litigation with former clients or in fee disputes?
- Membership in Best Lawyers in Canada – a compilation of the Best Lawyers in Canada, as selected by peers. This can be checked on the web at BestLawyers.com.
- Membership in Lexpert – another peer review publication, searchable at Lexpert.com. Membership in Lexpert and Best Lawyers in Canada cannot be bought, and is an indicator of respect on the part of other lawyers.
- Membership in trial lawyer associations. In Newfoundland and Labrador, you can certainly find a lawyer who is a member of the Atlantic Provinces Trial Lawyers Association (APTLA), and the trail-blazing American Association for Justice (AAJ). Some dedicated lawyers are also members of other provincial bodies, such as the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA). All three of these organizations provide extensive education and networking for trial lawyers.
- Serious involvement in trial lawyer associations – whether your lawyer is or has been involved in the leadership of trial lawyer organizations, for example as a member of the Board or as a President, is another indicator that the lawyer is dedicated to excellence in representing injured people.
- Honors and awards – honours such as Queen’s Counsel (Q.C.) and other awards can be recognition of merit by other lawyers and the community.
- Appointments such as Master of the Supreme Court – this appointment is made by the Chief Justice and carries the confidence of the profession and the judges that the Master is competent to make binding judgments on such matters as the fees a client must pay to his or her lawyer. Such monetary amounts can be large. This is an appointment to an office with legal powers and indicates recognition of merit not only by the organized legal profession but by the Chief Justice as well.
- Scholarly publications – has your lawyer written anything that has been accepted for publication in legal journals? This is another sign of respect that the legal community has for his or her skills and experience.
- Consumer publications – has your lawyer published anything aimed at providing useful information to the consumer – like a book? A lawyer who wants the public to be well informed about their rights probably works hard on his or her cases and treats clients with the respect they deserve.
- Referral base – do the lawyer’s clients come from relentless advertising or from referrals? Most of my clients are either referred by other clients, other lawyers, or former satisfied clients.
- Maintaining a consumer oriented website – does the lawyer make the effort to maintain a website that answers the questions that are keeping you up at night? Does it talk only about how great the firm or the lawyer is, or does it provide useful resources that empower the consumer?