By John G. Stompoly

Many lawyers get personal injury clients by advertising the fact that they have collected millions of dollars for other personal injury clients. I have gotten millions for my clients. However, the suggestion that getting a lot of money means the lawyer has a lot of skill is not correct. Don't be misled.

A lawyer just out of law school can get millions for a 40 year old doctor earning $500,000 a year who is rear-ended by a drunk tractor trailer driver causing the doctor to become a quadriplegic who will require $500,000 a year in nursing care for the rest of his natural life.

Such cases are so rare that most lawyers will never handle one, regardless of the lawyer's expertise and experience. Getting that kind of case is a matter of luck as, for example, the victim is a relative or personal friend of the lawyer.

Of course, if the victim does not know a lawyer, he or she may react to lawyer advertising, figuring that the biggest advertiser must be the best lawyer. As I said, that is not true. Being a good advertiser only means you are a good advertiser, it does not mean you are a good lawyer.

So how do you choose a good lawyer? First, ask family and friends for the names of lawyers who actually represented them, not just lawyers they recommend. Second, pick three lawyers who claim to be experts and check their credentials, including their Martindale rating which is set by a secret vote of other lawyers. Only consider lawyers with AV ratings. Third, look up their academic background and achievements such as being recognized as one of the Best Lawyers in . That honor can only be earned, not bought. Fourth, talk to all three lawyers. You will feel an immediate bond with one of them. Good communication is essential to success. Fifth, follow an aphorism I first expressed over 45 years ago: "Luck is the size of the fish, skill is the size of the pond." Let me explain.

If you are deep sea fishing, hooking a 500 pound fish takes luck, not skill. Once hooked, it does not take much skill to land the fish because of the equipment used. On the other hand, it takes a lot of skill to both hook and land a 5 pound fish in a small pond using only 2 pound line.

Similarly, getting the big case is a matter of luck. Getting the most money for a little case takes skill.

The vast majority of auto accident cases involve soft tissue injuries with a few thousand dollars in medical bills and little, if any, permanent injury or disability. Obtaining a settlement or verdict for much more than the amount of the medical bills requires a lot of skill.

The lawyer who consistently does better than average in small cases is the lawyer you want for either a small case or a big one. Remember, luck is the size of the fish, skill is the size of the pond.


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