A caller to my office injured his back a few months ago in central Illinois. As we've created a state wide network of experienced work comp attorneys, I referred him to a downstate lawyer to discuss taking the case over from his current attorney. It looks like it's going to work out.
The crazy part is what this lawyer shared with me that he learned from our new client. The first attorney was out of Peoria and the client revealed that in over four months he never actually spoke to an attorney once. The lawyer in my network revealed that this is common for this Peoria work comp firm to do and that he's seen it on dozens of cases.
Now I know a bunch of terrible work comp firms who don't return phone calls and yell at their clients, but all of them have an attorney talk to the client at some point.
I take the opposite approach and choose to answer the phone when it rings if I'm available as I assume people are calling to talk with a lawyer and I don't need anyone filtering out or screening phone calls for me.
But I've never heard of a law firm that is able to sign up clients without giving the client the chance to talk to an attorney first. In fact, I don't know how you could choose to hire a lawyer if you don't talk to them first and get a sense of how well they know their stuff, how they will treat you, what they think about your case and what they can do for you.
It's the height of arrogance to put up some wall that prevents a client from talking to an attorney. I imagine they only get away with it because there aren't as many law firms to choose from in central Illinois and some firms get the reputation as the place to go to whether it's deserved or not, often from the amount of advertising they do.
Even if they allow you to talk with a lawyer if you ask for one, the fact that any questions are being answered by non-lawyers is, in my opinion, unethical. Non-attorneys should not be giving legal advice and if it's clerks or secretaries that are answering the client questions that is a big problem.
This was truly shocking to me. All I can suggest is that if you don't get to speak with a lawyer on your first or second call to a law firm, you shouldn't hire them. And if it's been months on the case and you've still never spoken to “your lawyer” you need to find a new firm to fight for you. Are they really your lawyer if they've never even heard your voice?
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