"Everything you've been told about building
an injury law practice is wrong"

The Secret to Building a Multi-Million $ Injury Law Firm

Injury lawyers face the same dilemma. You want the catastrophic injury cases with strong liability and tons of insurance coverage, but you feel compelled to accept slip and fall and soft-tissue motor vehicle wreck claims. You don’t think you’ll get the huge cases without taking the small ones that pay the bills. Sound familiar?

There’s one problem: this is a FAILED PHILOSOPHY. You can’t have a catastrophic injury practice and handle multi-million injury cases if you’re accepting every broken pinky claim that comes through your door.

The Brutal Truth about the Monster Plaintiffs’ Firms

First, let’s face one fact: the massive plaintiff law firms have an established procedure for handling minor injury claims. The big plaintiffs’ firms have multi-million advertising budgets and a small army of intake persons working 24 hours a day. And for all of that money and hard work, the average value of a single case for the behemoth plaintiff firms? $4,500. That’s right, peanuts.

I’m guessing that you don’t have that budget or system and you probably don’t want that type of practice anyway. You want your career to make an impact on the lives of the most seriously disabled. So, what can you do to build a catastrophic injury practice?

Do Less, Obsess More

Having a successful plaintiffs’ practice is not about taking on more work and clients—it’s about accepting fewer cases. Every minute you spend on a minor injury case is time you’re taking away from your multi-million $ cases. That simply doesn’t work.

To work smart means to maximize the value of your work by selecting a few activities and applying intense targeted effort.

Morten T. Hansen, “Great at Work

Focus on spending time every week on your biggest cases. Obsess about them. Get your biggest cases to trial in less than 18 months—yes, this is realistic when you and your team are laser-beam focused on taking steps every week to make progress (read Brian Moran’s classic book, “The 12 Week Year”).

Define Your Ideal Client

Be crystal clear who you want as a client. No, not just catastrophic injury and strong liability—go deeper in defining your ideal client. For our firm, the criteria for our ideal client is based upon 5 factors.

Our “Rules for Clients”

Rule #1:      Must have a Catastrophic Injury or Death

A “catastrophic” injury must meet one of five criteria to be considered by our firm:

  • Death
  • Brain Injury
  • Paralysis (partial or complete)
  • Loss of Limb
  • Blindness (near complete in at least one eye)

If a new claim does not meet one of those five criteria, we refer the client to another law firm that handles minor injury cases (and get a referral fee for making the referral). Referral fees for minor cases alone can pay a good chunk of your firm’s marketing budget.

Rule #2:      Must have a Minimum Settlement Value of $500k

We categorize our cases based upon the “settlement value”, namely, the lowest settlement offer that we’d recommend that our clients accept. The cases are classified in our case management software (“Trialworks”) as follows:

  • “A”: Settlement Value in Excess of $1 Million
  • “B”: Settlement Value between $500k and $1 Million
  • “C”: Settlement Value between $300k and $500k
  • “D”: Settlement Value Less Than $300k

For cases having a value less than $500k, they must have clear and undeniable liability, e.g., surgeon failed to remove a sponge or scalpel at the end of surgery. In the absence of clear liability, we steer clear of “C” cases and we avoid “D” cases at all costs.

Rule #3:      Decline Unreasonable or Rude Clients

Some clients are jerks. You’ve had clients that disagree with your advice, make unreasonable demands and second-guess everything you do. Hey, life’s too short. If you’re faced with an obnoxious, demanding client, do the right thing: FIRE THEM!

Whenever I’ve accepted a client who’s a jerk, I’ve regretted it. Decline the jerks and you’ll thank your lucky stars that you’ve got nice, humble clients who trust and admire you.

Rule #4:      Do Not Accept Cases having Questionable Merit

One of our 4 core values for our law firm is that, “We do NOT accept cases having questionable merit.”

If a catastrophic injury has questionable merit, we decline the case and wish the client well (also helps us sleep better). It makes no sense to invest a ton of money and time on a case that will likely fail at trial. Let some other lawyer make that mistake.

Rule #5:      Only Accept Clients Who Agree with Our Core Values

Our core values mean everything to us, and if they aren’t important to our clients, we don’t want to represent them. The conduct of our law firm is governed by 4 simple core values, including:

  • “We will NEVER agree to confidential settlements”
  • “We are brutally honest with our clients”

If our clients don’t care about confidentiality and think our core values are silly, we don’t want them as clients. If the client is money hungry, wants to sue to get rich or has a vendetta against a physician, we politely decline representation.

Sharing Your “Rules for Clients” with Your Team

If a new case does not meet the criteria for “Our Rules for Clients”, we refer the client to another law firm. But you’re not done yet—write down your “Rules for Clients” and share them with your team. Make sure your intake staff and paralegals are familiar with your “Rules for Clients” and use them to make decisions about new cases.

You must obsess over your chosen area of focus to excel.

Morten T. Hansen, “Great at Work

Once your team embraces your “Rules for Clients”, you’re one step closer to having a law firm that functions in your absence (a/k/a, the autonomous law firm). And isn’t that the goal all of us should have?

The Question You’re Dying to Ask

Don’t you have to accept the minor injury cases while you’re waiting for your biggest cases to get to trial? Au contraire, my friend. It’s better to handle 3 cases than 300 cases and with just one catastrophic injury cases can pay your overhead and income for 2 years.

Just think, where do you want to be in five years? If you’re happy where you are, keep doing things the same way. But if you’re not, then start by writing down the “Rules for Clients” and share them with your team. Better yet, post your “Rules for Clients” in a framed picture in every room of your office and make them the centerpiece for discussion at your daily, weekly and quarterly meetings.

Post Your Rules for Clients in Your Office

Here’s what your Rules might look like:

Our Rules for Clients

Rule #1:      Must have a Catastrophic Injury or Death

Rule #2:     Must have a Minimum Settlement Value of $500k

Rule #3:     Decline Unreasonable or Rude Clients

Rule #4:     Do Not Accept Cases having Questionable Merit

Rule #5:      Only Accept Clients Who Agree with Our Core Values

Now, enforce your rules for clients! Just having rules means nothing if you and your team are not living by them. When you meet with your team to discuss new cases, ask them to recite your Rules for Clients and whether the new case meets your criteria. You might be surprised by your team’s inability to recite your basic rules, but every meeting is an opportunity to reinforce your rules.

By taking this simple step, you’re one step closer to building the law firm that functions when you’re not there.


photo credit: Rareclass Gold Dollar Sign via photopin (license)

Leave a comment below telling me what surprised, inspired or taught you the most (I personally respond to every comment). And if you disagree with my take on running a personal injury law firm, or have a specific, actionable tip, I’d love to hear from you.