The conclusion to the question: How can I avoid making a mistake regarding my legal representation for my personal injury, wrongful death and accident case?
There are differences among lawyers … huge differences. It is extremely difficult for lay people – that is, non-attorneys – to cut through the thicket of hype that lawyers create. But slick legal marketing does not make a great law firm. A firm can have the biggest ad in yellow pages, billboards over town and a thousand “Likes” on Facebook, but still under-deliver service and settle your personal injury, wrongful death and accident case for far too little.
To dig deeper – to cut through the noise – you need to look at the whole picture of the firm. Check out the certifications. Read the bios of the lawyers. Check out the awards won, if any. Do not be afraid to ask probing questions, particularly during your initial free consultation. Take your time with your decision, and do not be pressured to rush into action.
Law firms that advertise too many services may not be appropriate. It is okay for attorneys to be diverse. Just find an attorney who has ample experience dealing with your specific type of personal injury, wrongful death and accident case. For instance, if you got hurt in a commercial truck accident, find a commercial truck accident lawyer. If you suffered an injury at an industrial workplace, find an attorney who deals specifically with industrial workplace accidents. This sounds like common sense. But you might be surprised at how uncommon the practice of this “common sense” is.
Beware the “paradox of choice.” In his landmark book, The Paradox of Choice, social psychologist Barry Schwartz convincingly argues that “too much” choice in our lives can negatively impact our psychology, our happiness, and our satisfaction. This is very counter intuitive information! It goes against what our consumerist culture has taught us: namely, to get happier and happier, you need to buy more and more “stuff ” (i.e. more choice leads to better decisions and more happiness). The research shows that this is just not true. At some point, more choice creates more stress. Why? Because the more choices you confront, the more opportunities you have for regret.
Imagine you are trying to figure out where to go for a vacation. Your spouse presents you with two options: a trip down to the beach or a trip out west to see the Grand Canyon. You could turn these choices over in your mind, weigh the pros and cons, and come to a decision. If you go out west, you will miss out on fun-in-the-sun. If you go to Florida, you will miss out on one of nature’s true wonders.
Now imagine adding more choices to your pot of vacation choices: a trip to the Cayman Islands, a trip to Tennessee to visit your brother and a trip to Disneyland. Now you’ve got five choices – each with costs and benefits. Whatever choice you choose, you now must reject four choices, not just one. So now you have four times the regrets. Let us say you ultimately choose the Grand Canyon. If that trip doesn’t turn out well, you will mull over all the other choices that you could have made. This leads to dissatisfaction.
The takeaway here is that there is such a thing as doing “too much” research on prospective law firms. There comes a point at which finding out more about your options will actually lead to reduced satisfaction with your choice. One way around this Paradox of Choice problem is to leverage a concept called Parkinson’s Law. This is informally known as the law that “work expands to fill the volume of time allotted for it.” Practically speaking, it means that you need to make time-bound decisions in order to make yourself efficient.
Here is what is really interesting about Parkinson’s Law: according to some theorists, when you restrict the amount of time you give yourself to make a decision, you can increase the efficiency of the decision making without impacting the quality of that decision. In other words, the decision you make after one week of researching will be the equivalent in quality to the decision you would reach after two weeks of researching. You save time in your life, with no downside! Powerful idea. Remember, the insurance company has a team of defense attorneys and experts working against you while you are making this decision.
Aaron Gartlan is a graduate of Troy University and the Thomas Goode Jones School of Law who focuses his practice exclusively on representing those injured by the wrongdoing of others. He is member of the National Trial Lawyers Association’s Top 100 Trial Lawyers, Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum. In addition to his legal practice, Aaron teaches Business Law as an adjunct instructor at Troy University’s Sorrell College of Business and serves as a field artillery sergeant in the Alabama National Guard.