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The Effective Lawyer Episode 13: How To Evaluate A Case

Summary

In this episode, the Zinda Law Group team discusses how to evaluate a case. A lot of the time, it’s not the case you take, but the case you don’t take, that can make or break your practice. Sharing their thoughts and experience with Jack is his law partner, Joe Caputo, one of the top litigators at the firm, Neil Solomon, and one of their all-stars, Christina Hagen, who litigates cases in Colorado and Texas.

Discussed in this episode:

  • How to evaluate a case

  • Sorting fact from fiction

  • Determine source of recovery
  • Deciding whether to take the case

     

 

 

How to evaluate a case

 

Deciding whether or not to take a case is one of the toughest parts of your job - you only have a tiny snippet of information on which you have to base your decision. So, how do you know whether the case is worth taking or not?

 

“When evaluating a case,” Jack says, “I think of liability damages. Is there a source of recovery? What do I think about the client? Who’s at fault and why? And damages. Are they hurt enough to warrant pursuing a claim?”

 

Consider also if you’re proud to represent the case, whether you’d feel confident working nights and weekends to represent them. Are you going to make a meaningful impact in their life?

 

“Is it going to be worth their while to have us go through our process to try to help them? Evaluating the facts and the circumstances and the damages and the source of recovery. It's just as important that you think about it from the client’s perspective.”

 

Sometimes, the best thing you can do for the client is not take the case.

 

Sorting fact from fiction

 

“Trust your instincts,” says Joe, “if it doesn’t sound right, it probably isn’t.”

 

You don’t want to get your hopes up that it’s a million dollar case only to wind up disappointed because you didn’t ask focused and direct questions:

 

  • How did you leave the scene?
  • Who was the first one there?
  • Who called the police?

 

The clients aren’t out to deceive you, they could simply be mistaken, and if you don’t ask the right questions, you could misinterpret information.

 

“A lot of times when you sign up a case, you'll hear information from the client. If you don't verify it, that becomes an assumed fact in your head. And you could get six months, a year, two years into the case, and you never vetted that. And it actually wasn't a fact, it was just someone's opinion or hearsay that someone heard second, third, fourth hand,” says Chrissy.

 

Source of recovery

 

How do you identify if a case makes sense from a source recovery standpoint, especially when you don't know much about the case?

 

“The most important thing,” says Neil, “is to confirm the source of recovery, because it will determine your strategy and the timeframe in which you can try to get the case resolved.”

 

Look outside the box too for sources of recovery, don’t accept a blank space on a crash report where the insurance policy isn’t recorded. “That's also where dash cam and body cam footage can be really helpful too,” adds Chrissy.

 

Walk the scene

 

Always go to the scene and do your own investigation. Hire an expert in the field if you aren’t familiar with what you’re looking for.

 

“Whether it's how to build a hotel, or how the training process is related to operating a truck crane, or how to hang a chandelier, get an expert to talk to you about what could have gone wrong and who the parties are,” says Chrissy.

 

Go at a time when the incident occured so you can see what the situation might have been like - who else might have been there? Potential witnesses? And look for cameras.

 

Deciding whether to take the case

 

“I always approach it with a best case scenario, in terms of liability, damages and source of recovery. And then given that and how much money I can afford to spend on the case, can I file a lawsuit and conduct an investigation without taking a crazy risk?” says Neil.

 

Top tips for new litigators:

 

  • Always meet the client in person or have Zoom meetings - you need to get a sense of who the person is.
  • Ask focused and direct questions to make an informed decision.
  • Determine the best case outcome.
  • Sometimes turning down a case is the best thing you can do for a client.
  • Be open and honest about how you conduct your investigation.
  • You can’t change the facts once you’ve established them, you need to be able to think on your feet and change your game plan accordingly.

 

On today’s podcast:

 

  • How to evaluate a case
  • Sorting fact from fiction
  • Determine source of recovery
  • Deciding whether to take the case

 

Links:

 

ABOUT THE EFFECTIVE LAWYER

The Effective Lawyer teaches ambitious trial lawyers how to grow their skills and create a prosperous law firm. Using lessons learned by accomplished attorneys from around the country, we discuss lessons learned through their trials and tribulations. Our discussions cover a vast range of topics sought out by attorneys looking for advice, from depositions to how to market your law firm. In each show we cover a new topic that an ambitious attorney would want to better understand, while providing practical skills to improve their legal practice.

The show is hosted by Jack Zinda, Founder and Senior Trial Lawyer at Zinda Law Group. In less than 15 years, Jack and his team have grown Zinda Law Group from 3 attorneys to over 30, spanning several states and handling a variety of personal injury cases from gas explosions to truck accidents.

 

 

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