Lessons from a Personal Injury Attorney Practicing in a Commercial Law Firm

Throughout most of my legal career, I have practiced predominately in transactional and commercial litigation law firms handling personal injury and wrongful death cases. I have never worked in a firm that does exclusively personal injury work. The combination of working in a full-service law firm has many advantages to clients.

After all, every client has unique needs and objectives. We all live in the same world, and we are subject to the same troubles. Many of Lippes Mathias’ corporate clients have legal matters I can help address, including personal injury cases. Our clients trust that our firm can handle all of their legal needs, even if today’s demands are different from yesterday’s. Clients like to feel they have a lawyer who can help them with anything. I tell my clients we can assist them with almost any legal question or need given our full-service offering. If for some reason, a unique situation presents itself where we cannot, we will always find the best referrals.


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I counsel many of our firm’s corporate clients on the best approach to avoid liability. I have had clients purchase property to renovate or develop into hotels and apartments, introducing several premises liability issues. Often when these clients perform their due diligence before buying the property, they do not consider premises liability issues. It doesn’t take long to get a report from the local police department concerning the number of phone calls in the area for criminal activity, which could be a potentially massive liability issue as well that many forget. It’s not just about zoning and land-use or the cost of construction; often, the decision not to include topics such as those identified can have financial consequences. No one wants to spend money unnecessarily; however, if spending a little more on the front end will save a considerable liability expense at the backend- that is time and money well spent.

My early experience as a commercial litigator provided the skills I have translated into success in the personal injury field and vice versa. My commercial litigation training helped me become a stronger writer. When I first started practicing in the personal injury space, I felt I had an advantage when it came to the court’s written submissions. In both personal injury and commercial litigation, you have to read and analyze many documents. The most typical issue during a deposition or cross-examination of an opponent is effectively utilizing written documents, whether it be a lease, contract, medical record, or safety manual. They are all forms of testimony where using my litigation skills is a must.

I’m a big baseball fan, and I remember when teams consisted mostly of full-time pitchers. If you could throw the ball hard, you were a pitcher. These days teams have starters, middle relievers, set up men, and closers. I remember when a starting pitcher would go nine innings, maybe more. Now they rarely go more than six innings. The point is – the legal world is becoming a more specialized place. The practitioner who once did a little bit of everything is rare. I like doing different things. I wouldn’t say I even like taking the same way home from work every day!


Injury RX

If you are a new lawyer, wondering what kind of work you want to do, don’t pigeonhole yourself too early. If you’re a more experienced attorney, think about the skills you’ve acquired over the years that translate into other practice areas. Practicing in a specific field is incredible. But so is the ability to adapt. After all, we are all educated and experienced in solving legal problems for the clients who hire and trust us. Trust yourself.


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