There’s an interesting post from the Tortellini today about trial lawyers and their inability to attack the tort reform movement with any skill whatsoever. As the post points out, trial lawyers are fantastic at getting 12 people in a jury to understand even the most complex issues, and to decide in thier favor. That’s what we do. However we can’t seem to come up with a message to convince the public that tort reform is a bad idea.
The public still seems to believe the tort reform message. I think one of the reasons is that the message is strong (ie lawsuits ruin everything, or that lawsuits make the cost of living go up). Our response isn’t strong. Our message isn’t clear. We’re not on the attack. Even if we are on the attack, we’re fighting insurance companies, who for years have told us that we are in good hands, that they are on our side, and that they are like good neighbors. It’s hard to fight a message that’s so ingrained.
Sometimes it feels like trial lawyers are a couple of guys carrying a pitchfork and a board with a nail in it, fighting a large, well-trained army.
Maybe it’s part of the trial lawyer hubris, how we think we’re good at everything. Instead of hiring a PR firm to come up with a comprehensive message and strategy, we try to do it ourselves. It’s the same reason you can open the yellow pages, look at attorney’s ads, and see 100 ads that look almost exactly the same.
I’ve been following the Virgina Tech tragedy closely. Being an Iowa alum, I’m reminded of the Gang Lu murders at the University of Iowa in 1991.
The Gang Lu murders involved a graduate student who, upset at being passed over for an award, took revenge on faculty and students who he felt had done him wrong, before taking the gun on himself. The case was tragic, but has also interested me for the impact it had on Workers Compensation law in Iowa.
Iowa’s Workers Compensation law requires an employer to provide an injured employee with services and supplies needed to treat a injury (ie crutches). In this case, one student who was shot by Gang Lu (in the course and scope of her employment with the University) survived, but was rendered a quadriplegic. The case of Manpower Temporary Services vs. Sioson, 529 N.W.2d 529 (Iowa 1995) required the victim’s employer to buy her a wheelchair-accessible van. That was really the first time an Iowa appellate court had allowed something that “out of the ordinary” in a workers comp case. A later case, Quaker Oats v. Ciha, 552 N.W.2d 143 (Iowa 1996) allowed an award of a van and significant modifications to an employee’s home.
Manpower is an important case for any Iowa Workers Compensation Lawyer. This expansion of injured workers’ rights has doubtlessly helped hundreds of other employees the care and treatment they deserve.
Sometimes… good things can come out of tragedy.
As I tell people all of the time, I’m a personal injury and workers compensation attorney in Rock Island, Illinois. Our firm does personal injury, workers compensation, and medical malpractice. That’s it. No wills, no divorces, no criminal law, etc.
Some people believe that specialization is bad. I guess this is the old-time view of the country lawyer who was a one-stop shop. One example of someone who disagrees with me is Susan Cartier-Liebel. She believes that having too few practice areas makes you look like the people in this pretty funny video.
I, on the other hand, believe that being too much of a generalist makes you look like this:
Virginia injury lawyer Doug Wessel would agree with me… one of his tips for getting good settlement results in personal injury cases is “don’t dabble.” I don’t agree with all of his tips, but I think the “don’t dabble” logic applies to other areas of the law.