Category Archives: Office Procedures

Developing a case referral office policy

If you are contacted about cases that you either can’t or don’t want to accept you should consider a standard office policy on referral of cases. Here is an example of a policy:

A GENERAL POLICY

1. There are four types of cases we refer out to other attorneys:

(1) Cases involving legal work outside of our area which have sufficient merit to justify a referral to a specific attorney

(2) Cases with we don’t feel are substantial enough but have sufficient liability and damages to justify a referral to a specific attorney

(3) Cases or where there is a conflict of interest

(4) Cases with minimal liability or damages which we don’t want and simply refer out.

2. There are two situations involving referrals of these cases: (1) where we expect a referral fee or reimbursement and (2) where we don’t.

3. In each of the situations the information will be entered in our case management software.

4. In each case where a referral is made to a specific attorney it will be made from the attorney referral list and a letter to the attorney as well as the client will be sent.

B. REFERRALS INVOLVING CONFLICTS OR OUTSIDE OF PRACTICE AREA

1. Referrals involving a conflict should be made to those who we know are qualified to handle that kind of case. The other referrals should be to those who practice that type of work. However, we do not refer divorce cases to specific attorneys. See following list of attorneys and types of legal work to refer.

C. CASES WE TAKE FOR SETTLEMENT ONLY

1. These cases must have a settlement value of $____________or more to qualify.

2. The client must sign a retainer indicating they understand we are willing to try to settle the case but if not possible will not file and will refer out.<1

3. It’s understand that our usual "sue, settle or dump" policy does not apply and these cases may remain open up to 1.5 years. The file must have a designation of that fact.

D.REFERRALS INVOLVING A FEE DIVISION

1. Referrals of cases for a fee division will be made to specific attorneys we have an arrangement for fee division. We normally do not charge a referral fee and do so only where we have an ongoing role involving work by our office.

2. We will send a letter outlining the fee division and put a copy with the retainer in the file.

3. We will create a diary entry in the case management system to check the status of the file and monitor the progress – particularly the statute of limitations.

E. POLICY INVOLVING REFERRALS TO OUR OFFICE

1.In cases involving attorney referrals we need to determine in the lawyer expects a referral fee. The attorney will decide if we want such a case and the ethical requirements we need to follow.

2.In cases where the referring lawyer has a continuing involvement with us,a written confirmation of the fee division is required and the client must be informed.

3.If the referral is from a non lawyer, a thank you letter is required from the lawyer.

Check list for interviewing malpractice client

Have you ever thought about creating a check list for things you should tell a new client at the interview? What happens is you give advice to a new client about things that they should know. Then you have another interview with a different client and you give them advice about the case. However, what I found was that I would forget some things from interview to interview that should have been discussed. I decided to create a kind of check list as a reminder of possible advice and information I should give the new client. Here’s a sample for a medical malpractice case. Depending upon the situation you would pick and choose what information to give, but you would also revise and add to your check list. You might consider a simple check list for your own cases less wordy then this one, but it’s an example for you.

                                                              NEW  CLIENT MALPRACTICE INTERVIEW CHECKLIST

  •  The case will be assigned to a specific lawyer who will have primary responsibility under my supervision. 

  • WA law requires a mediation before trial – Explain mediation

  • There is a three year time limit in WA for filing suit

  • Under WA law we must have a qualified medical expert willing to say there was malpractice and it was a cause of the injuries or the case will be dismissed before trial

  • In WA, on average 80% to 90% of the medical malpractices cases are lost at trial. There is no such thing as an open and shut malpractice case.

  •  We will have difficulty locating medical experts.

  • it is not uncommon for doctors or nurses to testify at deposition to a different interpretation or version of what they wrote in the record

  • The venue of the trial impacts both the value of the case as well as the chance of winning.

  • Insurance coverage can be a problem. Some doctors deliberately are under insured which presents problems collecting a verdict or settling the case

  • There are common defenses raised in birth injury cases: (1) it was a genetic problem (2) the cause wasn’t deprivation of oxygen or something else (3) the injury didn’t occur during labor and delivery – it pre existed admission (4) the injury was unforeseeable and unpreventable e.g. an embolism or an infection. (5)  "bad things just happen"(6) the care complied with policy or st andards.

  • If a minor child case there is  a need to appoint guardian

  • Most cases require a number of different experts in different medical specialities. In addition, we generally need expert cost of care and economist.

  • It is very important that we screen cases to make sure they have merit. They are very expensive to prepare and very time consuming. We have an obligation to make sure they have merit before we involve the clients in a painful legal process and the doctor or hospital deserve to have the case evaluated objectively

  • Our primary goals in these cases is to obtain a result for the client that will help them deal with the injury and give them a sense of justice. In addition, it is our goal to try to have an impact on conduct. To try to see that the wrong is not repeated with anyone else and that a lesson is learned.

  • Our policy is to obtain relevant records and have them screened by a medical expert. We will rely upon medical experts in deciding if the case has merit.

  • Our contingent fee is based upon the fact that few if any of our clients can pay t he costs, so we advance them. They can run from $100,000 to many times that amount. This is because the doctors and experts charge for their time and the court reporter charges as well. We know few of our clients can afford to reimburse us for the costs if we don’t recover money and we are risking this money. The cases are very time consuming with many motions and depositions, often around the country. The trials usually last from four to six weeks or more. We risk all of this time and effort in the case. Our fee is based upon that fact.

  • If another lawyer is associated in the case, we share the one fee between us. We will fully disclose the fee arrangement to you

  • Our policy is to send copies of everything in your case to you so you know what is happening in your case. . From the time the case is opened in the office to final closure usually takes one year to one and a half years.

  • About 90% of our cases are settled before trial. No settlement will be made without your full advance approval

  • It’s important that you select a lawyer you trust and can get along with as well as one experienced in these kinds of cases. We also, need clients we can relate to and who we can work with.