The career structure of most lawyers varies widely. Once licensed, a lawyer may take on any kind of case whether or not they have much experience in it. However, legal ethics require an inexperienced lawyer to enlist appropriate help or take the time to learn the issues to competently represent the client. Most lawyers prefer to stick to one area of the law to gain the knowledge and experience necessary to provide the highest quality legal representation to their clients.
Personal injury lawyers choose to delve into a more specialized area involving only personal injury litigation. Personal injury litigation involves a large number of claims including accidents, medical malpractice, product liability, workplace injury, wrongful death, and more. Some personal injury lawyers choose to devote the majority of their time and energy to one area of litigation within personal injury law, thus becoming more experienced at handling very specific types of cases (e.g. medical mistakes, aviation accidents, work accidents).
As with other types of lawyers, personal injury lawyers may choose to start a solo practice or join a small, mid-size, or large law firm as an associate. Personal injury lawyers may also be partners (owners) of a law firm or strive to be a partner.
Sole practitioners of personal injury law offer a number of benefits to potential clients, which include more personal attention and a one-on-one working relationship between the lawyer and the client. Sole practitioners are also more willing to take on smaller cases and often have lower fees and costs.
A small law firm generally consists of two to ten lawyers who can provide more expertise in a given area of personal injury law and can handle a wider range of legal issues. Mid-size law firms with ten to 50 lawyers offer legal representation in almost every major area of litigation and may house several highly experienced and knowledgeable personal injury lawyers. Large law firms with more than 50 lawyers are often the most reputable, having built up the firm for a number of years and consisting of lawyers with high levels of expertise.
Typically lawyers’ fees are based on a number of factors, which may include the time and energy spent on a case, the outcome of a case, the difficulty of a claim, the experience and prominence of the lawyer, and the costs associated with the case. There are several standard payment options a personal injury lawyer may offer his/her clients. These options include contingency fees, hourly rates, flat fees, and retainers.
A contingency fee is a prior arrangement between lawyer and client in which the lawyer receives a set percentage of the amount of recovery awarded to the plaintiff in a case. This means that a client has no obligation to pay his/her lawyer unless the case is successfully resolved. Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. An hourly rate is also a common payment option that involves an agreed amount of compensation for each hour the lawyer spends on the case until its resolution. In some cases, personal injury lawyers charge a flat fee, which is a set amount, or a retainer, which is an arrangement where a certain amount of money is paid before legal representation begins. These fee arrangements may also be combined.