After practicing law for almost twenty-five years, the “profession” has clearly changed. While the practice of law began changing well before my career began, it has changed exponentially in the last twenty-five years. In my opinion, two of the major catalysts for this change are (1) technology and (2) tort reform.
Technology has affected all areas of the legal practice, whether an attorney practices on the defense side or plaintiff’s side and whether in a large firm or small firm. Twenty-five years ago, we didn’t have cell phones and the internet. Communication was more difficult to some degree. Some attorneys still used typewriters and could bill an hour or two for drafting an answer, and now, they can produce 3-5 answers in that amount of time. Fax machines were still relatively new, and we had no e-mail. Attorneys were less accessible.
Even though attorneys might have been less accessible, it seems as though the ability to communicate with a client’s attorney has become more difficult. One of the major complaints to the bar association is lack of communication from the attorney to the client. Why is that given communication is so much easier?
Well, part of the reason is the volume of clients. If one attorney is representing 50 clients and another is representing 250 clients, it is easy to see how communication could be more difficult.
Tort reform has changed the practice of law too. From a plaintiff’s perspective, cases are valued at 60% less than they were 25-30 years ago. Why? Mostly due to the abolishment of the collateral source rule. Simply explained, if an injured individual has BlueCross BlueShield of Alabama and a $10,000 medical bill, BCBS probably will only pay $3,000 – $4,000 of that bill. The collateral source rule said the Defendant could not tell the jury about the BCBS coverage or payment, so the bills the jury would see would total $10,000. Now, the jury is told that the bills were paid by BCBS, and only the $3,000 – $4,000 has to be paid back from a verdict. So, instead of starting with $10,000 as damages, the Plaintiff starts with $3,000 – $4,000.
In light of the above, what has really changed is the actual practice of law. Many lawyers now treat law as a business more than a profession. These attorneys are trying to make up for the lost revenue. For example, if 10 cases used to be valued at $300,000.00 collectively, those same 10 cases today might only be valued at $120,000. So, in order to make up the $180,000.00 difference, many attorneys try to represent an additional 15 clients. An attorney cannot give 25 clients the same attention that attorney can give 10 clients.
We have lots of clients come to us complaining about the lack of time their other attorney gave them. Many clients aren’t simply out for a buck. Our system is designed to compensate people who were injured for the losses they have incurred. It’s not a lottery system. It’s compensation. Each case is different, and you cannot run cases through a mill. You have to meet the client, know the client, and understand the facts of the case. You have to represent the individual. We aren’t moving widgets through a manufacturing plant. We are representing people who have families and who need to make up for their losses.
At Lewis, Feldman & Lehane, LLC, when you call our firm, you speak with one of our attorneys. You aren’t passed off to a “case manager”. When you hire us, you have a relationship with one of our 3 attorneys, and usually, it’s the one you called. When you have a question about your case, you can get us on the phone to ask it. When you want to meet with one of us, we will schedule a time to meet. We truly are our clients’ attorneys, not a slogan.