by Susan Barfield
The world of mass tort litigation has its own rules. These cases are vastly different from single event personal injury cases.
First-time mass tort attorneys are used to regularly checking in with each client. They want to use the same high-touch business principles they use for single event cases. But this leaves them overwhelmed, understaffed, and struggling each step of the way.
To build a successful mass tort practice, it is imperative to leverage technology to handle the administrative side of managing cases. It does not necessarily take an army of people to handle thousands of claims. Building a scalable technology platform is a much better and more efficient approach.
If that sounds daunting or overwhelming, you may consider outsourcing mass tort case development to a firm like Case Works who has already built a highly successful and proven technology stack to handle tens of thousands of mass tort claims across most major dockets.
Here are 7 ways to master the nuts and bolts of mass tort case development:
1. Follow the Right Metrics
Many law firms tend to be hyper-focused on metrics and key performance indicators that miss the mark in driving profitability. They talk the most about cost per lead and cost per signed retainer. But what really matters is how many qualified compensable cases you can find and settle. If only a small percentage of signed cases prove up and settle, your firm will struggle. The time and money you spend proving up non-qualifying cases is a needless waste of resources and drags down profitability. The simple but often overlooked solution is tightening your intake criteria so you are not accepting cases that likely have no real settlement value.
When deciding what to measure and track, it is best to start with the end in mind. When all is said and done, the settlement value of your compensable cases is what matters to you, your partners, and your clients. Focus on outcomes and work backward from there. How many compensable cases do you have and what is the value? Tracking cost per lead and cost per signed retainer may add some value, but those are front-end metrics that do not directly drive profitability. If a high volume of cases get rejected along the way because they don’t prove up as fileable, profitability will remain an elusive goal.
2. Make a Good First Impression
As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression, so you had better make it count. We could not agree more! That is why we place so much emphasis on the initial welcome call to newly retained clients.
We have found that firms often overlook this opportunity to make a strong first impression to their own detriment. Many firms procrastinate and wait days or even weeks to make the initial connection with a new client. Procrastination can be expensive. If a new client doesn’t hear from you in 24 to 48 hours, their excitement has waned. Their initial impression is that they are not very important to your firm. Just like everyone else, your newly signed client wants to feel special.
Truthfully, it’s relatively easy to make this happen if you have a great mass tort intake system in place. In today’s online world, a client looking for an attorney has hundreds of options. The average client may contact three to five law firms looking for the ideal match. Typically, the firm with the most responsive staff who gives the right first impression will win the heart of the potential new client.
3. Set the Stage for Success
A critical element to early success is setting the proper expectations with new clients on the front end, then engaging early and often with frequent communication and litigation updates. This does not require an army of people but a well-designed, tech-driven process that is built to scale as your portfolio of cases grows over time. With a well-built, technology-centered platform, the sky is the limit for your mass tort practice.
Proactive communication with mass tort clients is an important area of focus. Regular client engagement reduces dual rep issues, keeps your name in front of clients, and makes life easier for your staff because clients are more responsive when you need them. Informed, engaged, and satisfied clients will gladly refer their family and friends to your firm.
4. Master Medical Record Acquisition and Review
Knowing which medical records to order is not as straightforward as it may seem. Overordering can drive up costs and bog down the review process. Not ordering the right records on the first try causes extensive delays as the record retrieval process can take 30 to 45 days per round of records. Avoiding a second or third round of record retrieval saves months of work and reduces client frustration.
It typically takes a few hundred cases to find the right balance for most torts. Once you have the right medical records the real work begins. The value of any claim comes down to thoroughly reviewing medical records and building a rock-solid chronology to support proof of use and proof of injury. Typically, mass tort claims are evaluated based on the severity of damages and categorized with similarly situated claimants along the matrix. The medical record review process is the key to maximizing the value of your client’s claims. This is no place to cut corners. At Case Works, our goal is to get clients into the highest paying bucket based on an exhaustive review of medical records.
5. Communicate Often and
The value of keeping clients “in the know” and engaged with your firm cannot be overstated. Regular communication through email, text messages, and phone calls, ensures your clients don’t forget about you and lose interest in their case. It also reduces inbound calls with questions like “When is my settlement coming?” and “how much will I get paid?” You never want to hear a client say, “I’ve called you three times and no one has called me back.” Or another common complaint: “I have already answered that question three times. You’re not listening to me?” That’s not the way to 5star Google Reviews from satisfied clients.
At Case Works, we train our client-facing teams on empathic listening because we believe it is powerful. Many clients are going through some of their worst days and want to feel heard and valued. Empathic listening costs almost nothing but yields tremendous value. Great customer service starts with engagement and often ends with another valuable benefit: referrals.
6. Focus on the Plaintiff Fact Sheet
The Plaintiff Fact Sheet (PFS) varies from the docket to docket in length and complexity but is always a critical piece of the value equation. Plaintiff Fact Sheets can be brutal to complete, requiring hours of work and excruciating attention to detail. But, at the end of the day, it has to be done for every viable case.
Here again, starting with the end in mind will make the process easier. Our team begins to compile key information for the PFS during the very first contact with a new client. All along the way, our questions are targeted to gather the information we will need later in the case development process. When you own the entire process from end to end, you can strategically build a checklist of what information is needed and start collecting at the beginning. That way, when it comes time to conquer the dreaded PFS, we are already halfway done.
Once the Plaintiff Fact Sheet is wrapped up, we move on to drafting the short-form complaint. Most mass tort MDLs will use a short-form complaint to make the filing process more efficient. Our team of seasoned paralegals drafts the short-form complaint with the required client information then uploads all necessary documents to the filing portal with the MDL.
7. Keep Clients on the Horse with Customer
Despite a firm’s best efforts to keep clients engaged, occasionally they do go “missing in action.” Due to the legal complexities, mass tort litigation can last for years, which compounds the engagement problem. Even at settlement, it can be hard to locate plaintiffs who are owed money. The worst possible scenario is a hard-working plaintiffs’ attorney who has won a big settlement for an injured client only to find they have lost touch with them. Neither the client nor the attorney can resolve the case and get paid if the client disappears.
There are many reasons why clients go MIA. Some relocate, others change cell phone numbers or migrate to a new email account. Tragically, some clients pass away and leave the firm with no contact information for next-of-kin. This is another reason why it is so important to communicate regularly throughout the litigation process. Every single client outreach should include validation of contact information and a reminder to call the law firm if contact information changes. Another best practice is to get as many backup contacts as you can.
The Case Works Difference
With mass tort claims, much of the development work is administrative in nature. While there are some legal issues that require a lawyer’s involvement, much of the work can be handled by case managers and paralegals skilled in client relationship management. Case management requires a process-driven mindset and a relentless focus on efficiency and quality.
At Case Works, our people make the difference. We pride ourselves in hiring and training top-quality people who deliver exceptional results for our law firm clients. We engrain an ownership mentality so that when problems arise, we bring solutions rather than kicking them back to the firm to solve.
We are proud to be the only vendor who does it all. Literally, we handle every step of the process from the time a client signs the retainer until the case is filed with the MDL. Just like you, our mission is to help those who have been injured by corporate negligence. Most of the time, when people reach out to hire a lawyer something has gone terribly wrong. We want to be there for your clients during their time of need to bring hope and bridge the gap between the time of injury and the moment justice is served.