During a partners’ meeting, I have a surprise announcement. I tell the partners at my former law firm that I plan to write a book about the management and marketing of a plaintiff’s injury law firm. The response was not what I expected. The idea is quickly cast aside with comments, “Why would you give away everything that you know? Other lawyers will start doing this work themselves and we won’t get their referrals.” In only a few moments, my idea is dismissed as rubbish.
I said nothing. But I could only think of one thing: this book needs to be written because no one else is doing this. No one is sharing their inside secrets about managing and marketing a catastrophic injury law firm. And that’s a damn shame. So, I ignored the harsh comments and silently decided that my plans for the book would go forward.
Our Top 8 Secrets to Managing Your Plaintiff’s Medical Malpractice Law Firm
This is why I wrote my first 2 books, The Power of a System and The Law Firm of Your Dreams. But these books are still not filling a void, namely, how to manage and market a plaintiff’s medical malpractice law firm. There is some overlap, but a plaintiff’s personal injury law firm is different from a plaintiff’s medical malpractice law firm. These are our top 8 secrets for managing and marketing a plaintiff’s medical malpractice law firm.
Secret #1: Case Selection is Everything
Medical malpractice cases are not won or lost in a courtroom. They are won in case selection. Case selection begins with damages - if the damages are not catastrophic, you should (almost) never accept the case.
Catastrophic damages consist of 1 of 5 categories: death, brain damage, paralysis, loss of limb and blindness. If a new case does not fit 1 of those 5 categories, you should politely decline. The financial costs of a malpractice case simply do not justify the time and expense of mild to moderate injury cases, e.g., partial loss of vision, limited use of a leg or arm.
Empower your intake specialist to decline cases that do not fit the criteria of a catastrophic injury. Even if the liability is excellent, you do not want to spend your time and money on small cases. Our firm sets a minimum settlement value of $500,000 for medical malpractice and with rare exceptions (we accept an occasional case based on principle), we either decline or refer the smaller cases.
If you don’t know what you’re doing, but you only accept high quality cases, you will win (almost every time). That’s why case selection is everything.
Secret #2: Document Your Intake Process
Intake is more important than marketing. If you are losing good cases during your intake process, you should fix your intake process before you spend another dollar on marketing.
Your intake process must be documented and followed to ensure new clients know what to expect and cases are not ignored. Otherwise, your clients will fire you because they do not know what to expect and you are not getting back to them. This will be the death knell for your malpractice law firm.
Having an expert who is available on a moment’s notice is invaluable. Our firm works with a surgeon, Charles Gabelman, M.D., who reviews cases that are pre-qualified for merit. If our intake specialist prequalifies a lead for merit (i.e., the claim has good liability and damages), the medical records are sent to Dr. Gabelman for his review.
The medical records are reviewed usually within 3-5 days and we then make a decision whether to decline or hire an expert in the relevant medical specialty. Our clients know what to expect because we share a series of 5 information laden videos with them following the initial intake. Our case selection process is also set forth in an infographic that is shared electronically with our new clients.
BTW, if you’d like to consult with Dr. Gabelman about a potential malpractice case, you can reach him at 315-525-6807 or cggexpertconsulting.com. Dr. Gabelman has been an invaluable resource for our firm.
Secret #3: Do Not Accept Cases having Questionable Merit
It is tempting to cut corners when the injuries are catastrophic. Let’s say you’re asked to represent the mother of a child who is severely brain damaged and paralyzed, but your experts tell you that the liability is borderline. This is when you have to be ultra-cautious by evaluating the weaknesses of the claim and if you have any doubt about the merit of the case, decline it.
This is what I call the “$100,000 mistake”. You will spend at least $100,00 to get the marginal case to trial and it won’t settle just because the damages are huge. You will end up taking this marginal case to trial and risking a major loss of time and money. Don’t take the bait - let another attorney make this mistake.
Secret #4: Hire a World-Class Litigation Paralegal
You can’t cut corners when it comes to a litigation paralegal. You need a paralegal who can handle everything that comes up without your input. Your malpractice cases will not progress through discovery without a paralegal who monitors every deadline, makes sure you meet court-ordered deadlines and does not work by the clock.
Do not accept mediocrity. If you have a paralegal who shows up and gets the work done, but their work is 5 on a scale of 10, you must let them go. A medical malpractice firm cannot thrive with a mediocre team.
Our firm’s superstar litigation paralegal arrives early to work, stays late and loves her work. We empower our litigation paralegal to make decisions without asking for my permission. We try to hire superstars (admittedly, easier written than done) and let them do their thing without micro-managing their work. Don’t accept anything less.
Secret #5: Finance Your Case Expenses with a Lender
We finance all case expenses with a third-party lender, Advocate Capital (www.AdvocateCapital.com, 877-894-9724). Whenever we need funds for a case, we turn to Advocate Capital and we don’t have to worry about spending $10,000 for a neurosurgeon expert. With Advocate Capital financing the case expenses, our firm does not have to cut corners when it comes to hiring the best experts.
At the end of the case, the borrowing costs are paid by our clients. Case expense financing frees up cash flow for our law firm and allows us to spend money on operating expenses and occasional vacations. Advocate Capital has been the ideal strategic partner for our law firm and I can’t think where we’d be without them.
Secret #6: Document Your Systems
Document - step by step - the processes in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Create a work plan that shows exactly what needs to be done and the person who is going to do it.
Next, assign one team member whose sole job is to ensure that the work plan is followed. Be meticulous about meeting deadlines and meet with your team once a month to check on the progress of every active case.
To access our firm’s policies and procedures, go to www.Fisherpedia.com and enter the sitewide password in order to gain access to the main page:
USER NAME: fisherpedia
Feel free to copy as many of the policies as you wish.
Secret #7: Market to Lawyers, not Consumers
Medical malpractice, unlike personal injury, is a niche practice. As a medical malpractice lawyer, you run a boutique firm and your job is to market your practice to lawyers who do not handle malpractice cases (which is just about all lawyers). Once you establish relationships with prominent, influential lawyers, they will send you a steady stream of referrals that will be the lifeblood of your firm.
How can you create a marketing plan just for lawyer referrals? You only need to do 3 things:
Marketing Tip #1: Daily Updates to Your Referral Partners: Never take your referral partners for granted. Send an update to 1 referral partner about the status of a referred case every day. This, my friend, is the highest and best use of your time.
With every update, you are doing something that virtually no other lawyers do, namely, you are over-communicating with your referral partner. And with every update you are virtually guaranteeing that your referral partner will refer their next malpractice case to you.
Marketing Tip #2: Lunch date with Referral Partners: Have lunch with a prospective referral partner at least once a week (thanks to Craig Goldenfarb, Esq. for this simple, but brilliant marketing tool). When you break bread with referral partners over a meal, you are building the relationship and showing that you care about your referral partner (and how many other lawyers are doing this?)
Marketing Tip #3: Monthly Print Newsletter for Lawyers: The monthly print newsletter will keep you top of mind with your referral partners. Some of your referral partners will collect your newsletters and archive them in a binder and the content provides material for your first book. Without question, a monthly print newsletter is our firm’s most prized marketing asset.
Secret #8: Delegate Everything that You Can
What are the 4 tasks you hate? Now, ruthlessly delegate them. These are our top 4 tips for delegating tasks that you don’t want to do.
Delegation Tip #1: Lien Resolution: I hate lien resolution and truth be told, I’m not good at it. But the experts/lawyers at Precision Resolution in Buffalo, NY are amazing! Our firm delegates lien resolution to Precision Resolution for every case involving a lien (which is almost every case).
During the last year, Paul Isaac, Esq. and his exceptional team at Precision Resolution (www.PrecisionResolution.com, 716-712-0417) resolved 2 Medicaid liens each amounting to more than $550,000 to less than $2,000. I don’t know how they do it, but the team at Precision Resolution makes us look like superstars to our clients. The results have been extraordinary and the fees are a reimbursable disbursement. That’s a win in my book.
Why handle lien resolution when you hate doing this work and there are others much better at this? Let the team at Precision Resolution take this work off your plate.
Delegation Tip #2: Retrieval of Medical Records: Medical records retrieval is a necessary evil for a plaintiff’s medical malpractice law firm. Okay, then why are you doing this?
Rob Levine, Esq., a highly successful plaintiff’s lawyer in Rhode Island, created “Records on Time” (www.RecordsonTime.com, 800-524-6762), to make records retrieval easy for you. You simply upload a HIPAA request for medical records in your case management (e.g., SmartAdvocate) and Records on Time will request the records and follow up. Your firm will have a dedicated account representative for your questions and status reports.
Once the medical records have been received, Records on Time uploads the electronic records into your case management software and you are notified via email. Records on Time will report the expense as a disbursement in your case management system, so you don’t have to track the expenses. Almost everything is done for you for a reasonable fee of $35 per request. Your paralegals will love Records on Time.
Delegation Tip #3: Administrative Tasks: Are there certain administrative tasks that consume the time of your team? Outsource them! Sandy Van, Esq.’s team at “Legal Support Help” (702-690-4044; www.LegalSupportHelp.com) in Las Vegas takes care of date entry tasks that are not a productive use of our team’s time.
Within 24-48 hours of receiving the assignment, your administrative assistant at Legal Support Help reformats the discovery demands into discovery responses into a Q&A format in Microsoft Word. This will make the job of your paralegals easier and saves a bunch of time.
Delegation Tip #4: Client Communication: Our firm’s Client Care Advocate (Beverly “Bev” Davis in Iowa) calls our clients once every 3 weeks to say “hi” and see how they’re doing. Bev does a great job with small personal touches, such as birthday gifts, Valentine’s Day cards and customized gifts for our referral partners after a lunch date.
Why is this important? Your clients need to know that you care about them, but with a busy schedule, you can’t do this alone. Let a Client Care Advocate do the work for you.
The Only Question You have to Answer
Are you passionate about stopping medical injustice? You should not go into plaintiff’s medical malpractice work unless you are passionate about protecting the rights of the disabled and stopping medical injustice. If your primary interest is making more money, you are in this line of work for the wrong reason.
But if you are passionate about stopping medical injustice, the bad days won’t seem so tough and every once in a while, you’ll get justice for your client. And when that happens, you’ll know that you were meant to be a malpractice lawyer and you’ll be damn proud to be one.
Photo by Sora Shimazaki