a lawyer negotiating

TheCPLawyer® – About Lawyers

In movies, on television and in news reports, lawyers are often depicted inside the courtroom – questioning a witness, speaking quietly to clients or conferring with the judge, perhaps – as they argue a case. In reality, however, the majority of a lawyer’s work is conducted outside the courthouse. Lawyers network, consult, research, mediate, conduct depositions, construct legal documents, and file motions. Some teach, chair boards, advocate, write publications, or volunteer time to community service projects.

In many instances, a lawyer is sought for services that do not require a court appearance. For example, lawyers help individuals form partnerships, lend money, document medical directives, distribute property and assets, and write employment contracts. A lawyer’s work influences all aspects of society, from conducting business, buying homes, making and following societal rules, borrowing and lending, and applying justice to civil and criminal matters.

At times, an individual can handle his or her own legal matters without the assistance of a lawyer. Other times, a lawyer can provide the knowledge and experience required to properly –and successfully – navigate the many complex, challenging and confusing aspects of the civil and criminal legal systems.

When representing a client’s interests in civil or criminal matters, the lawyer usually represents the prosecution, the side that is suing or accusing the other party, or on the defense, defending the accused against accusations. A lawyer can represent an individual, as well as an association, group or corporation, in legal matters.

To learn more:

Answers to these questions are detailed below.

Types of Legal Services a Lawyer Provides

Common services lawyers offer include:

  • Legal consultation and advice – understanding legal aspects of an issue, researching matters thoroughly, and entertaining available legal options.
  • Constructing legal documents – constructing documents that protect the legal rights of the parties to that document, including business agreements, domestic documents, significant purchases, investment papers, lending documents, estate plans, or guardianship and custody arrangements.
  • Dispute resolution – providing objective representation between two disputing parties, a process that may involve negotiations, mediation or arbitration.
  • Litigation – legal representation while preparing for, filing, litigating, or settling a case within the court system.

Advantages of Hiring a Lawyer Concentrating in One Area of the Law

The law is so broad and expansive that lawyers, much like doctors, have focused areas of concentration or interest. For instance, a lawyer may concentrate in an area of law such as estate planning, family law, social security, personal injury, special education, or negligence, and many lawyers will pursue areas of interest within those fields. Medical malpractice is a sub-section of general negligence law; within it, lawyers focus on birth trauma, surgical errors, misdiagnosis, pharmaceutical errors, medical errors or wrongful death.

Hiring a lawyer who concentrates in the area of law a client requires has many advantages. These may include:

  • They are versed in the highly technical nature of that field
  • They have the resources necessary to develop the client’s case
  • They have experience with successful litigation within that concentration
  • They have, at their disposal, a host of experts to research, consult, and testify on your behalf
  • They are familiar with the defense tactics utilized by the opposing legal teams
  • They are familiar with case law and nuances of court proceedings for that type of litigation
  • They are familiar with settlement arguments and strategies common to the specific concentration

Qualities to Look for

Law is a highly diversified field; those seeking legal representation should take measures to ensure the lawyer they hire is qualified. Even negligence law is broken into various subspecialties, including medical malpractice.

Lawyers should, but are not necessarily required to be licensed in the state of occurrence. The state’s legal licensing board can verify whether the lawyer is licensed and current on license renewals. Personal recommendations from the lawyer’s current or past clients are helpful, as well.

Potential clients may wish to consider certain characteristics about a lawyer or law firm before making the decision to hire. A list of considerations may be found below.

Qualities to Look for in a Law Firm

When considering a legal firm that focuses on cerebral palsy, birth injury or medical malpractice, consider:

  • Age of the law firm
  • Turnover of lawyers at the firm
  • Types of services provided at the firm
  • Reputation of the firm within the community
  • Reputation of the firm within the legal industry
  • Reputation of the firm within the medical malpractice field
  • Rate of successful litigation of court cases
  • Rate of successful settlement of legal issues
  • Average time it takes to litigate medical malpractice cases
  • Average award per case

Qualities to Look for in a Lawyer

Ten qualities to look for in a lawyer who focuses on medical malpractice:

  • Degreed – What degree does the lawyer hold? From what institution? When was it obtained?
  • Licensed – In what jurisdiction(s) is the lawyer licensed in? Is the license up-to-date and current? How long has the lawyer been licensed? Is the lawyer licensed in the jurisdiction where the complaint is to be filed?
  • Experienced – How many years has the lawyer been in practice? What is his/her focus? How experienced is the lawyer in negligence law, medical malpractice and birth injury?
  • Success – How many medical malpractice cases has the lawyer handled? Of those cases, how many settled? How many went to trial? Of those that went to trial, how many verdicts were awarded to the plaintiff? What is the average settlement obtained (if settled)? What is the average award obtained (if litigated)?
  • Focused and knowledgeable – What makes the lawyer knowledgeable on the topic? Why does the lawyer believe they concentrate on medical malpractice? What makes them good at what they do? What sets them apart from other lawyers in the field? Why do they believe they are the right choice to represent this particular case? Where did the lawyer obtain their knowledge about negligence, medical malpractice and birth injury? Have they ever published any industry articles or books? Have they ever been called upon to testify or educate legislative members on a topic in their field?
  • In good standing with the state bar association – Are they in good standing with the state bar association(s) they hold a license with? Have they ever been sanctioned or disciplined in the legal field? Have they ever committed a crime or had charges pressed against them?
  • Ethical – Are they respected by their peers? Do they conduct their business in a professional, ethical way? Have they ever been accused of being unethical?
  • Firm standing – What position do they hold in their firm? How long have they been with their firm? Do they intend to leave their firm? If they do leave their firm, what will happen to the case? Do they have adequate talent, resources and capital to handle the case? Will they personally handle the child’s case? Will the client be able to interact with the lawyer directly during the litigation process? How active will the lawyer be in the case?
  • Respected by peers - Have they ever received any accolades from their peers? Have they ever been rated amongst their peers by an industry organization? Have they conducted any seminars in their field? Do they regularly attend conferences? What groups and associations does the attorney belong to?
  • Persistent - How does the lawyer describe his, or her, approach in representing their clients? How does that set them apart from other lawyers in the field? To what extra lengths will they go to protect the child’s rights? How aggressive are they? How determined? How professional?

Experience to Consider in a Lawyer

Successful experience in birth injury litigation is crucial when considering a lawyer. Factors to know may include:

  • Length of time practicing birth injury litigation or medical malpractice
  • Number of cases handled in birth injury litigation
  • Percent and number of cases the lawyer has successfully litigated within the court system
  • Percent and number of cases the lawyer has successfully settled outside of court
  • Average award for cases settled and for cases awarded
  • The average case value the lawyer believes the client’s case can be litigated for
  • The lawyer’s fee structure and payment requirements for litigating, or settling, a case
  • The percentage of time the lawyer,as opposed to his or her staff, intends to personally spend on the case
  • Whether the lawyer intends to refer the client’s case to be handled by another lawyer and if so, do they remain involved and accept full responsibility for the client’s case

Additionally, since lawsuits can span a number of years, it may be beneficial to know if the lawyer is planning to remain with the firm for the duration of the case. If not, how will the case be handled? It is also helpful for the client to know who will assist the lawyer with the case and the amount of interaction required between support staff and client. The client may inquire with respect to the amount of time the lawyer will spend on the case.

An initial consultation may be scheduled with more than one lawyer in order for the client to evaluate which lawyer will best meet his or her needs. While an initial consultation is usually free of charge, clients may wish to inquire about fees – and expectations for the initial consult – when an appointment is made.

For more information on initial consultations, click on the topic What to Expect from an Initial Consultation. To find a lawyer, contact Ken Stern at .

Ken Stern concentrates in medical malpractice legal services and accepts personal responsibility for your case throughout the litigation process. In addition to providing you and your child with the required legal services, MyChild will also serve your non-legal information and resource needs, regardless of whether you ever choose to pursue medical malpractice litigation.

Maintaining Relations

In effect, contracting a lawyer is much like forming a partnership; active participation on both sides is necessary. The responsibility falls on both parties to maintain productive communication and a professional relationship.

Responsibilities a Lawyer Has to Their Client

Lawyers have two main roles within society.

  • First, uphold the law
  • Second, protect the client’s rights

Lawyers have rules and guidelines they must adhere to.

Lawyers must be diligent, competent and proficient. They must have the ability to research, study and analyze the issues and remain current on legal requirements and legislative trends. Lawyers should be persuasive in proceedings and vigilant in the defense or prosecution of the client’s rights. They must also advise a client of all available options.

Lawyers should be fair and objective when discussing options and pursuing legal recourse. They must be ethical, and they have an obligation to act legally at all times. And, they must maintain the “attorney/client privilege” protecting client confidentiality by not revealing client disclosures, except under guidance of the law’s requirements.

Lawyers must ensure they communicate with clients in a timely, effective manner. They must be confident they possess the experience, time and resources to properly represent the client’s interests. If a lawyer cannot adequately perform their responsibilities, they must decline a request to provide legal services on the client’s behalf.

A lawyer may decline a case – even if it has merit – for several reasons. A lawyer must not have a conflict of interest, such as representation of opposing clients in separate legal matters, and also must not represent a case that conflicts with personal interests. The lawyer must be confident he or she can uphold the law and protect client rights given the time commitment, resources, demands and expectations the case will likely require.

Legal fees should be reasonable and contracted under a fee agreement prior to services being rendered. Client’s property and money (other than fees) must be kept separate from the lawyer’s own belongings when held in trust.

At the Stern Law Group, PLLC, court costs and other additional expenses of legal action usually must be paid by the client. The percentage fee will be computed before or after expenses are deducted from the recovery in accordance with state laws.

Responsibilities a Client Has to Their Lawyer

A client has the following responsibilities to their lawyer:

  • to be honest
  • to fully disclose
  • to ask questions
  • to have realistic expectations
  • to be patient with the process
  • to trust in the lawyer’s abilities
  • to honor agreements made with the lawyer and the court of law

When working with a lawyer, it is paramount the client is honest and forthcoming. A client should gather their thoughts prior to a meeting and document information thereafter. The client should keep the lawyer up-to-date on any new or changed information that could affect the case.

To avoid misunderstandings, a client should promptly ask for any needed clarifications. A client should feel comfortable enough to discuss any confusing items and to express any dissatisfaction. A client should also be mindful that the lawyer’s time is valuable.

A client should maintain realistic expectations about what can be accomplished, the timetable, and the cost of proceeding. Legal matters can take months or years to resolve. This requires patience with the legal system and the process.

When contracting the lawyer’s services, a client should fully review the agreement and feel confident he or she is paying a fair and reasonable price for the quality of services rendered. Before contracting with a lawyer, the client should understand the different types of fees and services he or she will be responsible for, as well as when payment is expected, and how the services will be billed. Fee agreements are established before services are rendered, usually in writing. Throughout the litigation process, a client should adhere to the agreed upon fee and payment structure.

At the Stern Law Group, PLLC, court costs and other additional expenses of legal action usually must be paid by the client. The percentage fee will be computed before or after expenses are deducted from the recovery in accordance with state laws.