When you, your child, or a loved one has suffered serious injuries in an accident, you want to make sure any personal injury case you decide to file is going to be in good and capable hands. Law firms come in all shapes and sizes, so should you go with a solo practitioner or a larger firm? Put another way, when it comes to legal representation, is bigger better?
About half of the attorneys in private practice in the U.S. are solo practitioners (according to the American Bar Foundation publication The Lawyer Statistical Report), and many personal injury attorneys have chosen to hang out their own shingle and go the solo practice route. But, which route should a potential client take? Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to working with smaller and larger law practices. We'll touch on some key considerations in this article.
All law firms are accountable to their clients. However, in larger law firms, the day-to-day management of a case is often delegated to associates; it's not necessarily handled by the lawyer you first met with.
In contrast, solo practitioners handle every aspect of your case, from the initial consultation through trial, and are intimately familiar with all of the details of your situation. They depose all of the witnesses, review all of the documents as the case develops, and argue all of the motions in court. With a solo practice, the attorney you hire is the attorney who is responsible for the day-to-day case work, and who will be available to communicate with you about your case. (More: I can't get my personal injury lawyer to take my calls.)
If this sort of personal, one-on-one attention is important to you, it might make sense to consider a solo practitioner for your personal injury case (though that's not to suggest that a personal touch isn't possible with a bigger firm).
Whether you hire a solo practitioner or a larger firm, case costs and fees in a specific personal injury case should not vary greatly. Personal injury attorneys, solo or otherwise, work on a contingency fee basis, and the fee percentage is determined at the onset of the case.
Likewise, personal injury case costs are based on the facts and value of a case, not the size of the firm hired. All attorneys will be eager to take on a case with high value damages, provided they can afford to finance the case on a day-to-day basis. Often, solo practitioners will also be interested in representing plaintiffs in cases where the value of the damages may not be as high.
In larger law firms, associates, paralegals, and legal secretaries will be assigned to work on your case. However, the more staff members at a firm, the more cases these members will handle and the less personal attention your case may receive.
Attorneys at larger law firms will also benefit from the sharing of institutional knowledge. If the attorney has not handled a legal issue presented in your case before, another attorney at the firm most likely will know the issue and be in a position to provide guidance.
However, most solo practitioners nowadays belong to professional associations where they can, without disclosing confidential information about a case, quickly and easily reach out and seek advice on legal issues from other solo practitioners.
Ultimately, your decision to hire an attorney should be based not on the size of the firm but on your confidence in the attorney's ability to handle your case and get a good result. Great attorneys are found in small and large firms alike.
Perhaps the best course of action is to narrow your search down to a few attorneys near you (from large firms, mid-size firms, and solo practices) and reach out to them via phone or email (or even live chat features). Then, ask the right questions during your free personal injury consultation. Get more tips on selecting a good personal injury lawyer and choosing between a personal injury attorney from a large or small firm.