Search Site
Menu

Be Mindful of Your Client's Personal Story

As published in the Winter 2007 edition of the American Association for Justice Newsletter

Most of us are fortunate to have received an excellent legal education. However, it is the rare law school that prepares its students to assess the merits of a case in the context of civil litigation. Case evaluation is foreign to the methodology of teaching law which studies the nuances of appellate decisions. A case, particularly where the facts are closely contested, can boil down to the relative strengths, or liability, of the parties. I am convinced that success can depend upon the plaintiff’s counsel developing the biography or story of his or her client.

COMPELLING PERSONAL HISTORIES EMERGE

Recently, I spent several hours exploring the background of one of my clients. It turns out that she immigrated to this country 30 years ago from a poor Central American country and was unable to speak English. Nevertheless, in the ensuing 10 years she attained four college and post-graduate degrees. Not surprisingly, her work history for the local school system was impressive. I summarized her biography at a mediation for her case. I may have spent as much time on her personal story as I did on the liability and damages. The mediator, defense attorney, and claims adjuster were impressed. The case resolved for more than full value. Understandably, the mission of a law school education is to cause its students “to think like a lawyer” and to impart concepts of law. Law school education, however, fails to emphasize interpersonal skill on our part or on our clients’ part. Results in the courtroom often depend upon more than principles of law, liability, or damages. This lesson is especially true where jury verdicts often seem based upon empathy or intangible factors, despite instructions from judges that sympathy for either side is improper. Of course, the vast majority of personal injury cases are resolved prior to a jury rendering a verdict. Nevertheless, personal stories remain significant. We represent our clients at depositions and mediations and their stories come into play. Surely, the defense assesses the plaintiff’s strengths and so advises the insurer.

STORIES IN INTERROGATORIES

I often have wondered why plaintiff’s attorneys in handling serious cases are so brief in answering interrogatories. The thought may be that if the answer is extensive, the client could be contradicted. If there is a story to tell, be it the personal background or the way in which the injury has affected the plaintiff, that message should be conveyed. A three-line answer to some of those questions fails to relay the message. Without delving into more war stories, it is crucial to accentuate the positive in our cases while privately noting the negatives. In the particular case of my client with the four degrees, it was after learning her story that I fully appreciated her biography and the message I could send to the other side and to the neutral mediator. We all know that many factors are considered in calculating a case’s value. In fact, we must be mindful of those factors when deciding whether to accept a case, put it in suit, or incur significant costs when prosecuting the case. After years of practice, some of us like to feel that we have developed a sense of the circumstances that constitute a “good case.” Others may feel that they have this ability intuitively. However, you have come into that knowledge – a successful practice depends upon your use of that sixth sense. I seek only to alert the readers to an often overlooked area, the client’s story.

Robert I. Feinberg is a member of the Sole Practitioner & Small Firm Section.
Feinberg & Alban,
141 Tremont St., Boston, MA 02111,
T: 617-232-5950617.232.5950[/ln], 1.800.479.9991,
[email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Feinberg & Alban, P.C. fervently protects your rights
  • The Boston firm of Feinberg & Alban, P.C. specializes its practice in the area of personal injury.

    The attorneys serve the entire state of Massachusetts in addition to affiliating with lawyers in other states to handle cases outside of Massachusetts.

  • $7.7 Million Award for Feinberg & Alban Client in Personal Injury Trial

    Boston Attorneys Win Highest Injury Verdict in Massachusetts in 2011 & 2012.

Client Reviews
  • google
    5.0/5.0

    I suffered injuries and total loss if my car last year in a head on collision. Colleen Santora took my case and fought well on my behalf. She thoroughly answered all my questions and concerns, always responding in a quick and timely manner. She helpe...

    Read more

    Jessica Matt

  • google
    5.0/5.0

    Choosing Feinberg & Alban was probably one of the best decisions I ever took. Robert Feinberg and Perry Feinberg are amazing in their professionalism as well as in compassion. Perry was the lead attorney for me. He was always responsive to any questi...

    Read more

    Raja Bhattacharyya

  • google
    5.0/5.0

    I would like to express my gratitude to Feinberg & Alban PC. They are great people and professionals. If you need an attorney these are your guys. Thank you so much! Tatiana

    Read more

    Tatiana Andreeva

  • google
    5.0/5.0

    It was unbelievable!! I got into a motorcycle accident didn’t remember a thing when I woke up I was in the hospital and very terrified I thought to myself I think I need a lawyer I started looking online and I came across this law firm let me tel...

    Read more

    Vin Loco

  • google
    5.0/5.0

    Colleen Santora helped immensely in every step along the way of my fight against the insurance company regarding my property damage and injuries sustained. I'm grateful and would recommend Colleen to anyone! Thanks

    Read more

    DatDude Lex

See all reviews
Awards & Affiliations
Contact us

Quick Contact Form