In our work with plaintiffs and attorneys, we often hear about financial issues that lead to unnecessary complications. While I certainly don't presume to know more about the struggles of being a good attorney than any of you, I want to share some actions for mitigating common financial issues throughout the course of litigation. I hope you find them beneficial to your practice.
#1 Know Your Client's Finances
Great attorneys know their clients, but don't necessarily know all of each client's financial details. Take into account the affect that the following might have on your client's ability to stay solvent throughout litigation, and as a result, what financial expectations might be shaped on their end:
- Credit score
- Mortgage rate and balance
- Personal balance sheet
- Type of health care plan- public (e.g. Medicare) vs. private
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid eligibility
You may want to consider hiring a financial expert to conduct the exhaustive due diligence associated with the many settlement-related financial decisions.
#2 Know Your Client's Stakeholders
When a family pursues a settlement, people inevitably come out of the woodwork. By knowing up front who the stakeholders are–and likewise, who the fair-weather friends are–you can understand who is shaping your client's view of the settlement. A good suggestion might be touching base with your client on a monthly basis to stay up-to-date on any changes in the interested parties.
#3 Know Your Client's Psyche
Plaintiffs have often suffered through personal injury or the death of a loved one and most of them have never seen wealth. Litigation is a daunting process for those who have never been through it, and the concept of then taking a settlement recovery and creating a lifelong plan can seem impractical to someone who has been through a personal or physical trauma. Employing a holistic approach that addresses best possible outcomes vs. worst possible risks can help mitigate some of the uneasiness inherent to the settlement.
If you "follow the dollar" and proactively develop an understanding of your client's financial situation, it can be easier to create an environment in which they have faith that post-litigation life will meet their expectations; for you, that can translate into a more satisfied client.
A West Point graduate where he served as captain and military aviator, John Bair continues his commitment to our country through his efforts within the settlement planning industry. He has represented families of victims lost in the Flight 3407 crash, offered pro bono services to the families of 9/11 victims and drafted the first consumer protection bill for plaintiffs (H.R. 3699).