I receive many phone calls from potential clients medical malpractice clients who ask about the size of my firm. It seems that many people have an idea in their head about the size of the firm they would like representing them. I don't know if this pre-conceived idea comes from prior experience or from stereo-types used on popular TV shows.
Whatever the reason, people seem to believe that the larger the firm, the better it must be. I would suggest that this is not the best way to select an attorney. Would you pick a doctor simply based on the number of other doctors that work in the same office? Or would you select a doctor that has a good reputation and good "bed-side" manner, regardless of how many other doctor's names on are on the door?
As with doctors, it doesn't matter how many attorney's names are on the letterhead if your attorney never has time to meet with you and doesn't return your phone calls. What I often hear from clients who come to me after first testing the waters of the big firm is that they rarely even got to speak with their attorney. Any communications were filtered through the attorney's paralegal or secretary.
I believe this is the case for a couple of reasons. First, lawyers are human. They get caught up in the "big firm" atmosphere and eventually convince themselves that they don't need to deal directly with their clients. They're too important for that. Second, they likely have too many clients. The ability of a big firm lawyer to advance in the firm and achieve partnership status is determined by his/her ability to bring in clients. The result is an attorney with an extensive list of clients, few of whom get the attention they need or reserve.
If your big firm attorney is "in a deposition" or "in a conference" every time you try and call him, I would start to suspect something. He's either too important to talk to you or too busy to handle your case. Either way, you suffer.
However, the atmosphere at a smaller firm can, and should be completely different. At my firm, for example, we specifically limit the number of cases we take so that we can offer personalized service to all of our clients. If you call, I will speak with you. If you want to have a meeting, we will arrange it. I have met with many of my clients in their own homes when it is most convenient for them.
Also, because my smaller firm limits the number of cases we take, we are able to spend whatever time and expense is necessary to prosecute the case. I can set aside an afternoon to do nothing but sit and think about your case and how to prove it to a jury because I have made a conscious decision to not overwhelm my office with too many cases. No attorney is doing you a favor if they take your case but do a lousy job working on it.
Another significant difference between large firms and smaller firms, especially when it comes to medical malpractice, is that larger firms cannot afford to take on claims with lesser damages. Because of the massive overhead that goes along with operating a larger firm, they cannot justify the time and expense of representing clients with damages that may not be worth millions of dollars. Smaller firms, on the other hand, do not have as many mouths to feed.
Medical malpractice takes many forms and results in varying degrees of injury. You shouldn't be denied the right to recover simply because a big firm doesn't think you were hurt bad enough. Many smaller firms are able to offer you the representation you need, regardless of how bad your injury is.
So, if you've never actually met your big firm attorney, or you are tired of never getting past the secretary when you have questions about your case, then maybe its time to give a smaller, more personalized firm a chance.