I need to hire a lawyer in a personal injury case. Should I take age into consideration? I am worried about hiring a law who lacks experience.
I happen to think that 53 is a perfect age for a personal injury or wrongful death lawyer. In a couple weeks, I will think that 54 is the perfect age.
Seriously, age is a relevant factor, but age can be misleading in several respects. I remember about 25 years ago I was hired in a case and the opposing lawyer was at least 20 years older than I was. He was confident and forceful and attempted to use his age as an advantage. I looked him up in a legal directory and found out that he finished law school two years after I did – he attended law school after finishing another career.
There are lots of "older" lawyers who finish law school later in life. If they practice in the field of work they were in before they went to law school, they may have some expertise in that area that another lawyer may not have. If they are practicing in another area, their extra years may provide no real advantage whatsoever.
A factor more important than age is experience. For example, a lawyer who has been writing wills and real estate contracts for 40 years will almost always be less able to effectively handle a serious injury or wrongful death case than a lawyer with five years of experience handling those types of cases while training with a lawyer who had experience in those types of cases.
Put it this way: Who would you want to remove a brain tumor? A 65 year old highly competent pediatrician or a 35 year old neurosurgeon who received his or her training a Mayo Clinic? The same is true in personal injury law – you want a lawyer who has experience in the field, particularly if the early years of that experience was while training with a highly competent, respected lawyer.
There are lawyers with 30 or 40 or 50 years of experience in an area of law that no lawyer would ever hire to represent them – all of the grey hair in the world can mean absolutely nothing. Experience does not necessarily mean expertise or even competence.
One of the best tests you can apply is whether the lawyer is truly respected by other lawyers in the field. One example of that is the use of the legal guide Best Lawyers in America . That publication and website asks lawyers who they would hire and publishes the results. Age is clearly a factor in the decisions that result in being included in that publication, but young lawyers are not necessarily excluded – I have been named in the book since 1992 (when I was 36).
So, is age a factor? Yes, of course it is. Is it the only factor? No – experience, reputation, and integrity are much more important factors. Of course, the passage of time and the opportunity to learn from excellent mentors are the only ways to gain true experience, and thus age will always be a relevant factor in making the important decision of whom to hire as your lawyer.