When it comes to law firms, there are literally thousands of varieties. There are firms with thousands of attorneys and there are firms with one attorney. There is every single variety in between. So how does a client in a personal injury case know which is better? Is bigger better? Do they have more clout and money behind them? Is smaller better because of the unique attention and ability to change with the case?
There is no clear answer but I can tell you from having worked at a mid size firm (20-30 attorneys) and a small practice (3 attorneys) that smaller firms usually give a better client experience and service. Why is that? I intend to explain in the following.
- Smaller firms have less overhead. A small firm usually occupies much less space than a big firm. In reality, a small firm can operate in space of 1,000 sq ft or less. Big firms usually have a lot of support staff and equipment. The big firm office can be full of beautiful artwork and views of the city. But what does less overhead mean to the client? It means the small firm does not need to take every case that comes in the door so they can meet rent and payroll. The small firm can pick and choose the cases they want and the clients they want. A small firm has the freedom to reject cases knowing that their income is not solely dependent on signing up a certain amount of cases each month. Don’t get me wrong, a small firm still needs to bring in money but they don’t have the financial commitments each month that a large firm has.
- Small firms can change with the case. At large firms, many things are systemized. The intake person is not the same person who is assigned to your case. The attorney who has your case usually has 2 or 3 support staff to manage all the files. Getting a meeting with your attorney can be difficult at large firms because they have such a large caseload and need to turn so many cases a month to meet goals. At a small firm, the lawyer who intakes your case is usually the attorney assigned to your case. That is good because that attorney can grow with the case and evolve as you progress in treatment. They can better recognize if something is amiss or you are not progressing as you should. This allows a better connection to the client and more thorough understanding of the case, the claims and the issues. It allows for better customer service. After all, the legal business is a service based industry, no different than restaurants, mechanics, carpet cleaners, etc… Lawyers work for clients, not the other way around.
- A client gets individualized attention. At small firms, the caseload is usually less than the big firms. Therefore, the attorney assigned to the case can stay in contact with the client from the outset and throughout the litigation. A more cohesive litigation strategy can be developed to meet the client’s specific needs and expectations. If a client needs weekly communication, the attorney can accommodate. The attorney is not tied down by a system designed to sign ‘em up, settle ‘em fast and send ‘em on their way. Individualized attention means the client can have access to the attorney whenever they need it. At our firm, we have policy of laying out client expectations from the get-go. It is extremely important that clients understand and feel comfortable with the attorney-client relationship.
- Small firms usually work on reputation. A small firm generally does not have the marketing budget of a larger firm. Clients that come to small firms are usually referred by past clients or other lawyers. Therefore, the attorney at the small firm has a vested interest in providing a valuable service, aside from the financial reasons. An attorney at a small firm relies on these referrals and therefore strives to make positive impression and deliver powerful service to the client. It really is the old fashioned way of doing it—someone has a great experience and they feel everyone should know about it. At a larger firm, with such a volume of cases, if a few clients are not satisfied, who cares? More are coming in with the next onslaught of marketing. At a small firm, the attorney cannot afford to have someone have a bad experience. It will have a direct relation to the reputation in the community and with other lawyers. Small firms need to value every client, from the smallest auto case to the largest catastrophic injury claim.
- Small firms develop a personal connection. A personal injury claim can be a very severe and disruptive event in a person’s life. Most victims are overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. They need some direction and guidance. They may be at the lowest point of their life—unable to work and unable to get the care they need with no end in sight. At a large firm, so many different hands may touch a file that the client may not know who to call or may end up calling everyone only to be passed around. At a small firm, there is no doubt who you call and who will answer your questions—your lawyer. Your lawyer will be with you from the outset, from the intake to the evaluation to the litigation plan to the trial to the appeal. This process can go years and it allows for a personal connection with the client so they know someone is truly looking out for their best interests.
Many firms do a great job of providing support to their clients. The size of a firm should never be a factor in considering whom to select. Size doesn’t matter. What matters is personal attention, an understanding of the client needs and accessibility. Those things allow an attorney to deliver a better and more thorough experience and result for their client.