How to Feed a Lawyer (and Other Irreverent Observations from the Legal Underground)

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"the result will be an immediate erosion of personal rights and liberties. It will be a large step toward the past, when, for example, large companies did nothing about unsafe work conditions--even when employees were certainly dying from occupational diseases--because the companies thought they could get away with it. In those days, if you came from certain walks of life, your life if valued in a court of law might be worth close to nothing."

I am glad to hear that you care about your clients. You are passionate about their safety and health, which is a good thing. Those are the right reasons to be a plaintiffs' lawyer.

Now with that said, how many plaintiffs' lawyers would still be fighting for the little guy if the big paycheck was not there?

I have no problem with attorneys make a living, or even a very good living. I just hope that they never forget that money is secondary. I think Evan knows that clients matter most.

Now with that said, I do not think voting Republican would be the end of the tort system and its ability to keep business honest. I know many business people, and they have no problems with legitimate claims; it is the frivolous ones that make them shudder. Now the problem lies in defining "frivolous." Plaintiffs' attorney and business people have a different idea of what a frivolous lawsuit is.


JR: You write: "How many plaintiffs' lawyers would still be fighting for the little guy if the big paycheck was not there?"

Despite what the newspapers say, many lawyers who represent plaintiffs aren't rich. They make an adequate but modest living or completely strike out and have to do something else. So there's the answer to your question--most plaintiffs' lawyers are already fighting for the little guy without the "big paycheck."

Of the plaintiffs' lawyers you think are rich because of their advertising or their big cars or their boastful nature, many of them are just breaking even (lawyers of this type often have a huge overhead and lots of salaries to pay) or are overloaded with debt until the next big case pays off, which doesn't always happen. But they keep going--maybe because they hope to "hit the big one," maybe because they want to exercise their creativity without the hindrance of the layers of bureaucracy you get in big defense firms, maybe because they care about their clients, maybe for a combination of reasons. It's hard to know what motivates other people to do what they do.

Maybe your real concern is that a plaintiffs' lawyer who is already rich (and there are definitely lots of those, no question) might be so infatuated with the money that he doesn't work hard for his clients. That could be true of any successful lawyer, I suppose. For plaintiffs' lawyers, though, the interests of lawyer and client are aligned in that situation--a lawyer who's working hard to keep the practice going must by necessity work hard to get the most money for his clients.

Maybe your question would be more clear if you expressed it in terms of actual examples.


The Wall Street Journal recently had an interesting story about a plaintiff, Brenda Stoltz, who had her case dropped by a plaintiffs' firm shortly after her child died; the firm was enthusiastic when they thought they had a chance at a multi-million-dollar payday for lifetime medical care, not so much when they didn't have that chance.


Ted: Unfortunately, the article you mention is not available for free, but I read it in the print edition, and it doesn't say what you imply. According to the article, the plaintiffs' firm dropped the case after the child died; the implication was that the firm no longer thought the case was worth as much, but there was nothing in the article that would indicate that's why the firm abandoned the case. Maybe the client had unrealistic expectations; maybe the lawyers couldn't work with the client; etc. There are lots of reasons that a lawyer might fire a client. In the story you cite, it wasn't made clear why it happened. As I recall, even if the client was quoted in the article, I don't think the lawyers were. If they were, please correct me.

What if the lawyers did drop the case because the "big paycheck" wasn't there? Then that's too bad, but it's merely anecdotal evidence of the point; meanwhile, the client can find another lawyer. There are lots of them, I hear.


>> "Those who are really going to lose are injured people and their families. Wait until it happens to you, and you'll see what I mean. Although I hope you never have to find out."

And yet, there is something to be said for poestic justice. Sometimes people contribute to their own misfortune. And those who vote with malice in their heart to dismantle hard-won legal protections should be the ones to have to live with the consequences if anyone has to.

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