Managing a large volume of mass tort clients requires a substantial level of organization and coordination. Law firms that lack a streamlined workflow or insufficient staff can become overwhelmed, resulting in delays in client communication, decreasing close rates, and the loss of confidence and connection with the plaintiff.
Your clients are the single most important priority to your practice. Maintaining a close relationship with them throughout their case can make a major difference in the profitability of your overall practice. If your clients feel they are not being properly represented, or if there’s a significant lack of communication, they may turn to another law firm for representation.
At Case Works, our staff is specifically trained in each tort and our technology drives client engagement. Our high touch process assists in keeping your clients well informed and engaged throughout the litigation, which helps minimize dual representation concerns. We ensure this critical aspect of your practice is professionally and continually managed.
What is dual representation?
The term dual representation typically refers to situations where a client signs retainers with two or more law firms to represent them in a lawsuit, such as a mass tort claim. Whether this was done intentionally or unintentionally, it poses a problem for your firm.
A client may intentionally seek additional representation if they feel their current lawyer isn’t providing adequate representation or fulfilling their duties. Additionally, clients who do not receive regular communication and updates from counsel may become disgruntled by the lack of engagement and retain another law firm.
Conversely, with mass tort cases sometimes taking years to resolve, a client may unintentionally hire a second law firm. Time and lack of consistent communication can cause a client to forget their attorney’s name or even that they previously hired a lawyer. This may lead to them looking for and obtaining representation with a new law firm. Clients may also respond to direct-response TV or online ads that result in retainers with multiple firms.
How does dual representation affect your law firm?
If a client signs with your firm while already being represented by another attorney, depending on their retainer, they may be legally obligated to pay the former lawyer for the services they’ve provided.
As a result, the original attorney may place a lien on the client’s settlement. There are multiple types of attorney’s liens, which refer to the right of a lawyer to hold a client’s property to secure a debt, including case files and money awarded by a court.
A charging lien entitles the lawyer who was initially retained by the client to a portion of the settlement or award as payment for their services. In such cases, you and the other attorney may have to split the fee, which means money out of your pocket.
When considering representation for a potential client, it is important to investigate any outstanding liens the client may have brought forth by a former lawyer. If a lien is identified, it can affect how you represent your client in terms of finances and access to materials. This also prevents you from inadvertently engaging in an instance of dual representation.
How to Avoid Dual Representation
Case Works understands the detrimental effects of dual representation on your law firm. Our client intake process addresses this and ensures that expectations are set early with the client.
Effective communication is a critical component of the attorney-client relationship regardless of the longevity of the case. Consistent updates and engagement with your client are crucial to maintaining the integrity of the case and the relationship.
Law Practice Today offers tips for successful client engagement, including:
- Communicate clearly and often.
- Set expectations.
- Develop interpersonal skills.
- Listen to the client.
- Know when to use automated communications.
- Know which medium to use.
Mass tort cases can involve thousands of people and sometimes take years to settle. It’s understandable a law firm may struggle with client engagement and communication.
Cultivating relationships with each client for the duration of their case solidifies not only your authority, but also your reputation. It also shows your client you are vigilant and committed to their case. This level of engagement will prevent issues of dual representation.
Tools for Successful Client Engagement
Law firms are required by law to offer competent representation to clients. It is one thing to purely represent your client; it is another to represent your client effectively.
Law is a competitive field, and in this day and age; finding another lawyer can take mere seconds. Potential and current clients have endless access to information on law firms, statistics, and costs. When vetting law firms for representation, clients consider these matters and can easily compare legal services. Communication and engagement can differentiate your law firm from the competition.
It’s crucial that your law firm matches the current competitive climate of attorney-client relationships. It used to be the norm for lawyers and clients to discuss matters of the case only when necessary. Today, clients’ expectations are high. They view their lawyer as their partner and, as such, expect a comparable level of attention, consideration, and respect throughout the case.
Failure to meet your clients’ expectations can make it difficult for your law firm to attract and maintain customers. If a client feels they are not receiving adequate communication or that expectations are misaligned, they may start to look for representation elsewhere.
Building and properly managing the attorney-client relationship through collaboration is crucial for success. This is why many law firms opt to outsource client communications.
Transparency and trust go hand-in-hand. Before agreeing to representation, clients may request information on a law firm’s fees, their level of access to information, and processes. It is up to the law firm to decide how much they wish to divulge.
The more transparent you are, however, regarding your procedures and the value your firm adds to a potential client’s case, the more likely they are to hire you.
Complete transparency — from explaining certain fees and how case progress is shared to establishing expectations for communication — helps you build a strong rapport with your client.
The complexity and longevity of mass tort cases can hinder the level of support clients expect and what lawyers can effectively and consistently provide. You, however, are your client’s main source of support, and you must fulfill that duty. Case Works recognizes this and offers a professional case management system and processes which eliminate the potential for clients to perceive they aren’t being properly represented and, thus, seeking representation from another law firm.
Communication goes both ways. If you feel your client has become less responsive and reactive, which can be common in multi-year mass tort cases, our re-engagement program can help. Our team provides consistent communication to your client on your behalf. As a result, their case — and your name — remain top of mind. Case Works technology and experienced staff ensure your clients feel, and remain connected to their attorney throughout their mass tort journey.
Ethical and Legal Obligations to a Client
When representation is established between a lawyer and client, the lawyer is held to certain ethical and legal obligations. All lawyers must abide by the Model Rules of Professional Conduct instituted by the American Bar Association.
Rule 1.4: Communications:
- Inform the client of decisions and circumstances in accordance with the client’s informed consent.
- Advise the client about the client’s objectives and how they are to be accomplished.
- Keep the client informed about the status of their case.
- Comply to requests for information.
- Consult with the client about limitations on the lawyer’s conduct when assistance is not permitted by the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law.
- Explain matters to a reasonable extent to allow the client to make informed decisions.
How Case Works Can Help
Outsourcing your law firm’s mass tort case management and development can prevent you from Asigning with clients who may already be represented by another law firm. And, lower the potential your current clients seek assistance from another firm.
Case Works places a strong emphasis on building a positive relationship between law firms and clients. This begins with the onboarding process, during which Case Works introduces each new client to the firm and assists the client in completing the plaintiff form. This form contains the client’s relevant data and information and serves as another valuable safeguard against dual representation.
Most importantly, our streamlined approach to case management and development engages clients and ensures that cases continue moving forward while you focus on the weightier matters of advocating for your clients.
Contact Case Works today to find out how our full suite of case-management services can help your firm avoid dual representation and the other pitfalls of handling mass tort cases.