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Case Selection Is Heartbreaking at Times

Last year, almost 2500 people contacted us about potential FTCA malpractice cases. Numerous others contacted us about state law malpractice cases. We end up taking only a very small fraction of these potential cases.

Our marketing director has done a great job of focusing our advertising, so we get very few contacts for matters clearly out of our bailiwick, such as divorce cases in Idaho. Still, many of our decisions are easy ones. Perhaps the case is barred by the statute of limitations. Others are complications where there has plainly been no injury. Frankly, some people who contact us are just so off-the-wall that that alone is a serious discouragement to accepting the case.

Still, at least once a week (and often more frequently), we look at a potential case that is just heartbreaking – and there is nothing we can do for the person. We try hard to figure out a way to take some of these cases and occasionally we do so despite our reservations in the hope that we can figure out something or we get lucky and the agency puts money on the case anyway. Unfortunately, we usually end up concluding that there is truly nothing we can do, and luck is sadly infrequent.

It’s not that we don’t want to help people who contact us, but it does no one any good for us to take cases where we don’t think there is a reasonable chance of getting a recovery for the client. With both prospective clients and ourselves, we need to be scrupulously honest about expectations. Telling people what they want to hear is dishonest and can create huge conflicts down the road. At the same time, thinking we are such brilliant lawyers that we can fashion a winning case from a poor set of facts is delusional. We’re experienced. We know what works and what doesn’t work, what is a potentially promising set of facts. Still, our bias is to take cases if we can. At the same time, we always need to resist the temptation of seeing what we want to see, especially if it’s a case with potentially significant damages or someone who really needs help. However, reality is usually cold, and it is our job – our duty, really –to be realistic with clients and prospective clients. Such reality often leads to disappointment and even anger when we turn down cases. We deal with it. That’s something that just goes with the territory.

Even among those cases that do look promising and which we accept, a significant percentage turn out to be ones where we make no recovery. The reasons for that run from discovering facts that we didn’t know about initially to taking a seemingly decent case to trial and losing. When we take a case, we take risks, very real ones. This means we have to be judicious. Be that as it may, it sometimes hard for us – emotionally hard – to turn away some of the people who contact us.


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