Hiring a personal injury lawyer is an important decision. This is the first of six posts that will help you understand the factors that you should evaluate when making a decision about who to hire in a case involving a personal injury or wrongful death claim.
1. Is the lawyer a member of the American College of Trial Lawyers?
Answer: Look at the lawyer’s website and determine if he or she is a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers. The American College of Trial Lawyers is a very prestigious organization that has less than 200 members in Tennessee. A lawyer who is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers has gone through a very rigorous, confidential selection process and is elected to the organization by other outstanding lawyers in the state. There are fine lawyers who are not members of this organization, but a lawyer who has achieved the status of Fellow has been recognized by his or her peers as among the finest trial lawyers in the state.
2. Is the lawyer board-certified as a Civil Trial Specialist?
Answer: Look at the lawyer’s website and determine if he or she has been certified as a civil trial specialist. Tennessee recognizes a specialty in civil trial litigation, and there less than 160 lawyers in the state who have achieved certification (less than 1 percent of all licensed lawyers). Certification requires substantial trial experience, successful completion of an exam, and satisfactory references. A certified lawyer must be re-certified every five years. There are fine lawyers who are not certified specialists, but a lawyer who is certified has demonstrated that he or she has the experience and background necessary to meet state requirements necessary to meet that standards imposed by the Tennessee Supreme Court.
3. Has the lawyer been recognized by “Best Lawyers?”
Answer: “Best Lawyers” is a national organization that recognizes outstanding lawyers in each state in a large number of legal specialties. Best Lawyers compiles lists of outstanding attorneys by conducting exhaustive peer-review surveys in which thousands of leading lawyers confidentially evaluate their professional peers. In the U.S., Best Lawyers publishes an annual referral guide, The Best Lawyers in America, which includes 43,629 attorneys in 135 practice areas, covering all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This publication is another way you can determine if the lawyer who you are thinking about hiring is respected by his or her peers.
Once again, there are many fine lawyers who are not included on these lists. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that “best lawyer” lists are yet another way for a consumer to gauge the reputation of a lawyer in the legal community.
This discussion will continue tomorrow.