Knowing the difference between a referral attorney and a handling attorney is important and there are 4 ways to tell the difference. The referral lawyer is usually described as an attorney that does not take the lead in a case or advancement of litigation. They can play various roles, from getting the contact information from the client to pass on to another lawyer, to being involved in some aspects of the case. When the referral attorney plays a secondary role, they might gather records or deal with client meetings.
Reasons the Client Should Care About if the Attorney is a Referral Lawyer or Handling Attorney
There are no clear cut answers, if a client should have a referral counsel involved in their case or not. The referral attorney can be helpful in assisting to improve communication and they can assist in selecting a handling lawyer that is qualified to handle the type of case, over one that might otherwise have been selected. They can also act as legal counsel to discuss your case.
Why a client might be concerned if the attorney is a referring lawyer or a handling attorney, which includes:
1. Trust and Relationships: When selecting an attorney, it is usually based on trusting their ability to handle your case. If the attorney is a referral, rather than the handling lawyer, then your trust is misplaced. It would not be unusual to not even meet with the attorney that is managing your case.
2. Divided Fees: This refers to the attorney taking a portion of any recovery in a case. Signing up with the referral attorney, can mean that they will receive a portion of the monetary recovery in the case and the handling lawyer that determined your case was worth taking. When this occurs the handling attorney will determine if your case is worth their time, if it is a borderline damage or liability claim. Having a referring attorney involved in your case could make the difference of whether a handling lawyer will take or case or not, due to the divided fees.
3. Asking Questions: Prior to signing up with a personal injury lawyer, it is not unusual to have questions about their performance, their case evaluation and their credentials. Questioning how they will pursue your lawsuit is another line of questions that is common. These types of questions are best answered by the handling attorney or law firm, instead of a referring lawyer that is not in the position to determine how the case will be handled or the litigation. They are not able to give anything, but their opinion of what might happen, as they have no standing in the course of the case.
These facts are reason enough to consider, if are signing with a referring lawyer or the handling personal injury attorney. The client should know whether they are dealing with a referring attorney or a handling lawyer and there are four steps that can be used to determine which attorney is being hired.
Four Steps to Separate the Referring Lawyer from the Handling Attorney
1. Cases Referred Out: one of the ways to determine which type of lawyer you are discussing your case with, is by the percentage of cases that they refer out to other attorneys or law firms. One example of this is a medical malpractice attorney that refers out all of his personal injury cases. In order to determine if your case is likely to be referred out is to ask the percentage of his overall cases that are referred out. It is also wise to ask approximately what percentage of personal injury cases they refer our with similar damages to yours.
2. Current Active Breakdown of the Attorneys Docket: Attorneys often list different types of cases in their advertising, and this can be very misleading. Some attorneys actively have a docket that is made up of one or two types of cases, but they may not be currently handing every single type of case they advertise, based upon the marketplace of accidents. Asking what the breakdown of current active handled cases is, can help to determine, if your case will be referred out, unless their case load is similar to your type of case. Sometimes it is good to have several firms assisting your attorney in the case, so long as they split the fee among themselves, and your fee does not go up.
3. Ask: Asking the attorney if they intend to refer your case out, is one way to find out, because they have an ethical obligation not to mislead potential clients. Most lawyers are honest anyway and would answer the question truthfully. When the attorney is admit that they are not going to refer your case out, they are usually being honest.
4. Get it in Writing and Read the Fine Print: In the usual attorney standard contract there will be a clause that permits them to bring in co-counsel and the right to refer a case out if they decide. It is possible for this type of contract to be modified, if you do not want your case to be handled by another lawyer, than the one you have discussed your case with and trust. When you do not want the another attorney handling your case, then ask for a clause to be added that gives you the right to cancel the contract and the lawyer to forfeit the right to any fees, if the case is referred out. There are stories of attorneys who claim the fee is 15% or 25%, but usually, there is a hook, or possibly a bait and switch sales tactic. If you suspect an attorney is using a bait and switch fee, contact the California State Bar.
The decision whether or not there will be a referring attorney involved in your personal injury case, can only be decided when you are able to weigh out all the factors. This is a decision that should be yours and not just left up to the lawyers, unless you agree to it in advance. California public policy favors paying a referral fee, for many reasons. One of the is that your lawyer has inside connections into the fraternity of lawyers. He or she can help you find the most qualified lawyer, and still stay involved in the case, and also get a fee. So there is no downside to getting a referral. These steps have explained the different aspects of having a referring attorney and a handling lawyer for your claim by the Ehline personal injury lawsuit lawyers at 1.213.291.9080.
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