Why I Turn Down More Cases Than I Accept

The most important tool a trial lawyer can have in his tool bag is the ability to turn down cases. Max Kennerly put it quite well in a recent blog post he wrote entitled “How Much Client Contact Should Be Expected In Litigation?” Because I handle cases on a contingency fee basis, I am hired to handle each case from beginning to end regardless of the amount of legal work required for each individual case. The client pays none of the costs or expenses to litigate the case unless or until the case is resolved successfully. Some cases settle, some cases go to trial, and some cases are appealed from trial. So, for instance, if a case is appealed from trial, and it takes several years to be finalized, I don’t get paid until the end. And that’s assuming I win the case.

Thus I must scrutinize each case I take. And that is why I turn down more cases than I accept.

Recently three good clients with good cases contacted me and asked me to represent them, all in the same week. One was a malpractice case where the hospital had clearly been negligent. The client’s injuries however, were not permanent. I could not take that case. Much too expensive to pursue with the potential jury verdict too low. The other two cases were car accident cases in a county where the jury verdicts are historically low, and my clients’ injuries were not severe enough to warrant pursuing, given the county where suit would have to be filed.

Litigation is a risky business, for litigants and their lawyers. No case is an absolute “sure winner” Anyone, including lawyers, who tells you something different either doesn’t know what they are talking about or does not have, in the case of other lawyers, a successful legal practice.

What Happens if Your Case Does Not Settle?