When we ask people about why they hesitated in engaging a personal injury lawyer for their compensation claim, many people tell us that they had trouble finding a lawyer that they felt they could trust. Recent polls show that the Australian public has a net negative perception of the trustworthiness of the profession, putting lawyers just behind bankers and advertising executives.
I don’t believe the ‘untrustworthy’ tag is warranted
People are understandably wary of lawyers. We’re trained to use language to our advantage and we don’t have a great reputation for being trustworthy. And yet the reputation is (in my humble view as a lawyer) not deserved.
Occasional high-profile breaches of trust by lawyers, as well as shows like Suits and Better Call Saul give the public the impression that lawyers will bend or break ethical and legal rules to win a case.
Believe it or not, in reality, Australian lawyers overwhelmingly act under a strict ethical code and have extensive duties to courts, their opponents and their clients which are readily checked and enforced.
I’m involved in hard fought injury litigation on a daily basis and over 15 years, I’ve come up against hundreds of lawyers working hard to defend their clients from compensation claims. And yet, I could count on one hand the number of lawyers who I thought had crossed the line in doing things for their clients which were unethical or which breached their professional obligations.
It’s just that none of that makes for very good TV or very interesting headlines.
But I don’t write this as a plea to think more kindly of lawyers. Far from it.
The real shame is this:
If you’ve been injured and can’t find and engage a compensation lawyer that you trust and have confidence in to help you make a compensation claim, it will be you that suffers most.
With that in mind, here are my top 8 tips for finding a lawyer that you trust and feel confident in.
8 tips to find a personal injury lawyer
- Ask for a referral: Friends and family are great people to ask for recommendations. Almost everyone knows someone who was injured and needed a compensation lawyer. Ask them about their experience with their legal team and whether they would recommend them.
- Do your research: Researching lawyers online is a great way to get past the marketing promises and to find out more. Look at the profile of the lawyer – what do they care about? Look at their online reviews and see what clients say about them. Google the name of the lawyer and the word “complaint” – this can be a great way to see if there are any skeletons in the closet.
- Make sure to discuss fees before signing. The contract that you sign to engage your injury lawyer should not be difficult to understand. If there are things that you are unsure of, ask the lawyer to explain or rephrase the parts that you are unsure of. A trustworthy and empathetic lawyer will be happy to take the time to ensure that you feel confident in what you’re signing, and to clear up any confusion.
- Be wary of lawyers promising the world: Lawyers advertising a “98% success rate” or guaranteeing that you will win your case are either ignorant of the risks of litigation or cherry picking the easiest cases and leaving the hard work to others.
- Find out the extent of the lawyer’s training. Ask the lawyer about their experience in cases like yours.
- Ask if they will handle your case personally. It’s very common for law firms to send in a senior partner for the first appointment with you, only for them to hand the case over to a junior lawyer once you have signed. Understand who will be working on your case, and when you will speak to them.
- Speak your mind: Concerned about costs or the risks of litigation? Tell the lawyer at the outset about your questions or concerns, and watch for their response: are they defensive, impatient, abrupt? Good personal injury lawyers want to understand the concerns of their clients so that they can help resolve them, and should give time and space to help guide you through the process of a compensation claim.
- Listen to your gut. You know that little voice in your head telling you whether a person can be trusted? Listen to that voice! If you’re struggling to understand your lawyer or feel like they aren’t listening, think about speaking to another lawyer who might be a better fit for you and your case.
At Polaris, we pride ourselves on our client service standards. Our philosophy puts our injured clients at the centre of everything we do. If you have questions, it’s our job to answer them to your satisfaction, not ours. Your confidence in us, your trust and receiving the level of support and advocacy you require, is paramount to us.