Have you ever had questions about hiring a personal injury attorney or about how the practice works? In this series of Q&A, we are going to tackle some of the most common questions we get at Hill Law Firm.
San Antonio Personal Injury Attorney Justin Hill: Welcome to Hill Law Firm Cases, a podcast discussing real-world cases handled by Justin Hill and the Hill Law Firm. For confidentiality reasons, names and amounts of any settlements have been removed. However, the facts are real, and these are the cases we handle on a day-to-day basis.
Welcome to this episode of Hill Law Firm Cases. One thing I wanted to do was cover some frequently asked questions we get. We get a lot of discerning clients that come and meet with us, or one of those reasons is because a lot of clients that end up calling us are clients that have done a lot of research into client satisfaction and reviews and looked into a bunch of different law firms. Nobody’s going to hire our law firm because we got a slogan or a jingle. We don’t carry hammers or other types of tools. We don’t have a phone number that’s really easy to remember. What we are is a good law firm and does good work for people.
We get a lot of questions from people when they call about hiring us, and a lot of those questions I’ve tried to keep track of and write down. I’m going to just walk through some of them. This is going to be a multi-part series where I just hit up a bunch of questions that people ask. One of the questions we get is, how do you get paid? Our law firm is a contingency fee law firm. That means that you don’t pay us hourly, you don’t pay us a flat rate.
A lot of lawyers get paid by the hour. A lot of lawyers get paid by the flat rate. For example, if you get a DWI, you’re going to have a criminal defense lawyer say I’ll handle your case for $5,000 or $10,000 or $15,000. It’s a flat rate, no matter what happens. Our law firm gets hired on a contingency fee, which means we get a percentage of recovery if there is a recovery. If there is no recovery, we don’t get any money. We don’t get any fees. We don’t even get our expenses back if there’s no recovery. If there is recovery, we get our fees as a percentage of the recovery, and we get our expenses back.
One thing that makes us a little different, I think, is that our client always makes the decision on when to settle a case. We can tell them we disagree with them. We could tell them we think it’s too high or too low, but they tell us what to do. At the end of the day, they get to make the final decision on how to settle their case. We have been asked, have we received honors or awards? I think this is a funny question because if you look, there are so many lawyers that get all sorts of awards.
If you’re a lawyer, you get a letter probably once a week or every other week saying you’ve been named top this or top that, now give us $500 for your certificate. A lot of these awards are made up. There was a famous example where a lawyer bought an award for his pet chicken because he wanted to point out how worthless most of these awards were. Some of the awards are peer vote based.
I, Justin, has been named Texas super lawyer rising star for almost 10 years. Now, that’s peer-based in which other lawyers vote on you, and it’s done through Thomson Reuters. We’ve also been nominated for other things and gotten some of these other awards, but I think that’s probably the best one in terms of how you gauge things because it’s voted on by their attorneys.
We get asked if we offer free and confidential case reviews. The answer to that is always yes, with the caveat that we can’t give people free legal advice. I can talk to them about their facts. I can talk to them about their potential case. I can tell them if it’s a case we would take or not take or who I would call if I was them. What we can’t do is give them legal advice when they’re not our clients. With that being said, also, whatever they share with us is confidential, and it can’t be shared with anybody else. We offer, and we give lots of free and confidential case reviews.
We get asked a lot of times what a case is worth. We might get a call from somebody the day after they were in a crash or hurt on the job and their first question is, what do you think I can expect in terms of settlement? There are so many things that go into what a case is worth. That it’s really impossible to give any idea what a case is worth until a lot of work has been done on the case.
A lot of factors have to be determined, including what are the client’s damages. What are their past medical or future medical needs? Will they work again? Have they lost wages? How much insurance does the other party have? Are there any egregious facts like drinking and driving, or texting and driving, and things like that on the other side? Case worth at the end of the day is what a jury says the case is worth, but in terms of what a client can expect, that’s not even a question that can be answered or even a discussion that can be heard until a lot of work has been done on the case and the case is getting ready for trial.
We get asked what happens if we don’t win the case or if the person doesn’t get any recovery? Like I stated earlier if there’s no recovery, we don’t get our fees and we don’t get our expenses. If the case goes to trial and you lose, that’s true. Also, there’s the caveat of a court could Ord court costs against the losing party. I’ve never had a defendant actually seek those out.
I’ve never seen anybody actually seek it out, but it’s something I have to tell clients when they’re going to trial that if we lose this case, the defendant could come after them for court costs. Now court costs are not all of their expenses. It’s very limited filing fees and deposition transcripts, and a very limited number of things are considered court costs, but they could be responsible for those.
What percentage of Hill Law Firm caseload is personal injury cases? We get asked that a lot because we handle a lot of types of cases, and to be fair, we handle sexual assault cases on the job injury cases, car wrecks, 18 wheelers. We consider all those to be personal injury cases. 99% of our docket is some form of personal injury case or some form of case revolving around an injury.
How often do other lawyers refer cases to Hill Law Firm? We get a lot of cases referred to us by their lawyers, but over the last 10 years, really five years, that number has gotten less because we have spent less time trying to solicit cases from other lawyers. We still have the same lawyers that have sent us cases for years. We review those cases.
We look at those cases the same as we always would, but we get a lot more direct calls straight into our law firm now than we used to, and we have to spend time on our direct cases, the same as we would a referred case. That limits our ability to go out and tell other lawyers that we’re accepting referrals. We do get referrals, or we’ve always received referrals. We just receive less these days than we used to. That’s a product of us not trying to get them, not that other lawyers don’t trust us with their work.
How long have you been practicing law? I was licensed to practice law in April of 2007. Lawyers talk funny in terms of how long they’ve been a lawyer. They talk what year they’re in their practice. I think I’m in my 14th year of practice. Have you ever been disciplined by the Texas state bar? Luckily I have not been disciplined. I have not been grieved. I have not had to go through that process. I actually serve on the grievance committee for District 10 here in San Antonio, where I get to help resolve grievances between clients and lawyers.
One thing I’ve learned is some of the best lawyers end up in grievance because of a minor mistake. I’ve also learned that some lawyers deserve to be in that process because of a history of making bad decisions and not looking after their clients. The most encouraging thing I’ve learned, though, is we take our grievance process seriously. I think that aggrieved people are taken care of by the state bar of Texas. I think lawyers are punished where they need to be, helped where they need to be. I’m a big believer in the process the state bar has to self-govern.
Have you handled complex cases involving commercial defendants? The answer to that is yes. We handle at any given time probably 30 or 40 cases involving corporate or commercial defendants; whether that’s on the job injuries or 18-wheeler crashes. We’ve prosecuted product liability cases against some of the biggest product makers in the world. It’s a very common part of our practice to pursue claims against businesses, and corporations, and commercial entities.
The last question we’re going to cover for today, and we’ll do more of these in the future is we were asked, can I see a list of your case results? For the most part, almost every case that settles the defendants require confidentiality. We rarely fight this because the clients are concerned more with getting their settlement and getting it fast than they are about the ability to put it on social media. We don’t stand in the way of their desire to have confidentiality. It would be good marketing probably for us, but at the end of the day our clients get to make that determination, and my marketing need or my desire to put it on a social media post is not going to outweigh my client’s wishes and we always follow them.
We’re going to keep this up, and we’re going to do more lawyer Q&A over the next few months. If you have any questions, reach out and let us know.
[00:09:58] [END OF AUDIO]