How to get big personal injury cases

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A personal injury attorney wrote and asked me if I have a strategy for bringing in bigger cases. I was a personal injury attorney for most of my legal career and when I look back at what I did, I have to say that I did not have that strategy. In fact, I intentionally focused on bringing in a volume of smaller cases.

My thinking was that quantity would bring quality. Bring in thousands of clients over a period of years and you are bound to have some big cases in the mix. And that was certainly true for me. But I also recall thinking, as every personal injury attorney does, that one day, I’ll get a case that will bring me millions of dollars in fees and I’ll be able to retire if I want to. But in twenty years, that never happened. Big cases, yes, but not a single practice-making monster.

But there’s something else I understood and that was that I was not one of the big boys. The biggest cases are almost always handled by the biggest names and most of the time, they are referred there by other attorneys. I wasn’t prepared to compete in that arena. I didn’t have the expertise and, more importantly, I didn’t have the passion for developing it.

The best strategy for getting the biggest cases is to become one of the best lawyers. Win bigger and bigger verdicts, develop your skills and your reputation amongst the bar, and when you have the respect of your colleagues, you will get their referrals.

Another way to get big cases is the one adopted by a lot of attorneys who aren’t one of the best and that is to appear to be. They swing a big stick with multiple full page yellow page ads and TV commercials, they sponsor charitable events attended by centers of influence in their community, they network with the right people, send press releases celebrating their victories, and otherwise promote themselves so that they appear to be one of the biggest and one of the best. And by and large, it works.

To do this, you need money and some marketing skills, but most of all, you need drive. The biggest promoters have big, healthy egos. They are driven as much by the desire for attention as the desire for money. I’m not taking anything away from them. They are usually good enough to serve their clients well and smart enough to bring in one of the best when they aren’t.

If you’re not one of the best and you aren’t willing or able to become one, and if you’re not willing to do what the big promoters do, there is an alternative: target niche markets. Become the biggest fish in a small market where word of mouth is strong and limited resources (and hubris) can go a long way. Become the attorney everyone in that market thinks of when they think of injuries. Network in that market, write for that market, serve that market and the centers of influence in it, and over time, you’ll get big cases. Do it well enough and long enough and you may even get one of the very biggest.

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