By: Todd Kelly

Question: What do you call the person who graduates last in his class from medical school?

When Texans voted for caps on damages for doctors in 2003 (along with the hidden Amendment to the Texas Constitution that did away with the “Open Courts” provision), they effectively limited their right to trial by jury, which was otherwise sacrosanct under the 7th Amendment to our Constitution.

Then Governor, Rick Perry, praised the results by touting how many physicians were now coming to Texas.  He forgot to add that most of them were at the bottom of their medical school classes, or were fleeing from justice in jurisdictions that could still hold them fully accountable.

This result is not a surprise, but rather a foreseeable consequence of creating a protected class of citizen (at least in the civil world).  What is amazing is that with this doctor (and some others I know) their relative immunity created such a cavalier attitude about their practices that they rose to the level of criminal neglect.

Now, without the ability to hold most doctors liable, some physicians are making a killing.  Literally and figuratively.

Answer:  A Doctor.

*Opinion in response to the jury conviction of Dallas neurosurgeon Christopher Duntsch

Again and again we hear that the holidays are a slow time for businesses. And while that may ring true for a few aspects of your work-life, the holidays are actually a great time for you to touch base with your network, to include old friends you might not see often, referral sources, and professionals in related industries.

Here are 3 great ways to get your network ball rolling this holiday season.

Spread holiday cheer

The holiday party circuit has officially kicked into high-gear. Every weekend you’ve got a different function to attend. Take this opportunity to mingle with those who you don’t see very often. There is no doubt you’re going to be drawn to sit next to someone you’re more comfortable with but make an effort to strike up a conversation with someone you may want to collaborate with in the future. What better a place to build connections than a holiday party. Introduce yourself around the room, shake hands and socialize.

Send out a creative holiday greeting

A great way to let people know you are thinking about them during the holidays is to send out a greeting card, but don’t take the easy way out and just send a card signed “Best Wishes”. For a few examples to get those creative juices flowing, click here.

Throw your own party

Another great way to interact with your network in a less formal scenario is to host a party of your own. It can be anything from an open house inside your home to an all-out soiree at a restaurant and bar, depending on your preferences. This is a great opportunity to mingle with not only the people that you currently work with, but also maybe old co-workers, law school friends, neighbors, you name it! And who knows, maybe the people in your circle will make great connections with each other and they’ll have you to thank!

 

It’s November 5, 2002, and a majority of Texas voters have just been persuaded by misleading ads, paid for by an interested party, to vote to severely restrict the rights of injured patients for the benefit of the companies who insure hospitals, HMO’s and physicians who injure them through neglect, recklessness and even, sometimes, intent!  That was the focus of Proposition 12, which has now passed into law, and will become effective in September, 2003.  It has been the hallmark of the ever-touted “Tort Reform.”  Insurance executives are jubilant…

That has been our law, and a substantial hurdle to justice for Texans ever since.

“Reform,” by definition, means to change something.  Usually we want to change things that are not working.  As unpopular as this belief seems today, the American system of justice was working.  Juries throughout Texas and the country were entrusted with the right and responsibility to judge issues of fact and of the value of human suffering with evidence put before them in a court of law.

But some did not like that …

Who, do you suppose, would oppose such a system that enabled average American citizens to hold accountable those responsible for harms?

Because those with money and power were tired of being held accountable to the rest of us when they did something wrong, they successfully destroyed the rights of many Texans to bring suit.  They were well-funded, they made effective use of the media, and used terms “reform,” “frivolous lawsuits,” and “greedy trial lawyers” to sell their self-serving ideas to the Texans who so willingly voted away many of your own rights.

Every victim of a medical error or nursing home abuse that has come to my office since the effective date of the new law (HB-4), has been negatively affected by its harshness.  Many, I can no longer help at all.  Those with less than $100,000 in actual damages are usually turned away because I cannot afford, financially, to help them on a contingency fee basis.  Is this justice?

To our nursing home clients, we regret to inform you that the legislature has capped “non-economic damages” at $250,000.  What is even more egregious is that the jury is not even allowed to know that fact. Because your elderly loved one was likely not earning an income, they did not suffer any “economic damages” – as defined by our Republican legislature, that arbitrary cap (placed in California decades ago) is the maximum value of most of your loved one’s case.  It is not in the least bit uncommon for one of these suits to cost the attorney $100,000.00 or more by the time he or she walks into the courtroom.   Attorney fees in these cases are typically based upon a contingency (a percentage of the recovery if we win).  Does anyone else wish that college football coaches were paid this way?

As you can see, if we were to win the maximum dollar amount, the contingency fee combined with the reimbursed costs would leave very little for the aggrieved family.  The family is then dissatisfied because in that scenario your lawyers may well have been paid more than you received.  Does anyone think that the insurance industry (with all of their “bean counters”) that pushed for this “reform” did not know that the math would play out that way, preventing almost all of these suits from being brought?

What is even more surprising to most is that despite the media sound-bites to the contrary, most of these cases, nationwide, are historically not won by the claimants, but lost.  Therefore, as a business investment, MOST of these cases are now rejected by Texas attorneys who once championed them for injured elderly who are abused and neglected by their caregivers.

It is the minority of doctors and facilities who commit the atrocities that we sue for.  A 2002 report by the Public Citizen consumer watch group indicated that 51% of all medical malpractice claims in the U.S. are made against less than 5% of the physicians.  The problem is that the insurers do not only increase the rates for those 5% of physicians (which would force the bad doctors out of business), but they increase rates across the board, so that the good physicians have to pay the same rates as the bad ones.  It doesn’t work in auto insurance, why do they think it will in medical insurance?  Because they can blame “greedy trial lawyers” and “frivolous lawsuits” for their own greed, and because they have the money and the media network to get that message out loud enough and often enough that the general public believes it.  That 14-year old report has changed this practice in absolutely no appreciable way since its publication.  Why?

So what was the real Medical Malpractice Insurance Crisis?  Ask any honest insurance professional whether the lawsuits against negligent and reckless doctors caused the insurance rates to skyrocket, or whether it was, instead, simply bad investments by those companies in a volatile stock market that forced so many insurance companies into bankruptcy and mergers.  The truth is, that insurance companies made huge investments in the stock market which (like so many of our personal investments) turned sour.  Most reports about the impact of medical malpractice lawsuits – including one conducted by the GAO (Government Accounting Office) show that lawsuits account for less than 2% of the cost of insurance premiums to physicians.

Why then, do lawsuits have to be limited?  Why this infringement upon our 7th Amendment right to trial by jury?

The answer, really, is simple:  the insurance industry wants us to pay for their bad financial decisions, and forfeit our civil right to recover for injuries as a result.  The right to trial by jury, established by our founders, included the right to have a jury decide what your injuries are worth!

Remember, these so-called “runaway verdicts” against doctors were rendered by impartial juries who listened to ALL of the evidence in each individual case, and made their decision based upon legal FACT.  They did not simply get the media sound-bite that made for a good story:  They heard it all.

The hype that these lawsuits were “frivolous” is ludicrous when you consider that if they were, in fact, frivolous, the injured party would almost never win.  In fact, the truly frivolous cases have almost never made it to trial because of safeguards in place such as motions for summary judgment.  Before simply agreeing with the “lawsuit lottery” hype that the insurance industry sells to its favored lawmakers through lobbyists, look deep at each case.  The insurers don’t want to risk a trial with EVIDENCE.  They would rather win every case at once – in the media with money!

We sincerely hope that no injury ever requires you to need our services, but if you walk into our offices looking for assistance for some terrible injury done to you or a loved one by a doctor, hospital, nursing home, or HMO, please understand that the law – and public opinion – is against us.  When it comes to injured children, especially, that is the TRUE Medical Malpractice Crisis!

When you seek an attorney to represent you in a case of medical malpractice, you want someone who has a history of representing injured medical clients – even through these troubled times.  These cases are often a complex combination of law and medicine – not the type of case to “dabble” in.  At The Carlson Law Firm, we handle these cases and others through the quagmire of law that has been created to prevent injured people from seeking justice.  To the extent that you still have rights in Texas, we will help you to pursue them.

 

Todd Kelly

Trial Lawyer

Two-thirds of all writers use statistics in 67% of the articles they write.

Ok, so that might not be the case but it still proves a point. Starting off with an interesting factoid is a great technique to draw in a reader. People love to be provided with interesting, useful and relevant data, and in a business like legal marketing, where content is king, it’s important to do everything possible to ensure that you have strong content.

In the legal industry, the bulk of our writing is based on research and statistics, developing your research skills will ensure that your writing helps to establish your position as an expert in your field.

Advanced Research Techniques

It’s certainly no secret that Google is a great place to begin your quest for information. But the popular online database can quickly become a deep, dark hole of information. There are a few advanced research techniques that when used will help you weed through the quality information and the stuff you don’t really care about.

You can also use Google’s advanced search page to narrow your results by language, file type, region, date and more.

And let’s not forget the age-old Boolean search terms.

Reliable Sources

The United States government is the largest producer and publisher of statistical information. Federal Government agencies produce statistics in the course of research, program management, making forecasts and projections, and as a daily part of their administrative functions. Government produced statistics are used by government agencies and the public at large.

There are a number of reputable website that provide a wealth of knowledge for free, to include statistics. The largest producer and publisher or statistical information is the United States government. Many federal agencies produce stats over the course of their research and program management. These statistics are readily available to the public through a variety of websites. And the best part? If the federal government says so, then it must be true!

It’s no secret to those of us in the legal marketing field that the best way to increase your social media engagement is to provide your followers with quality, thought-provoking content. But, sometimes, that just isn’t enough. (Is anything ever really enough?)

Here are a few tips to get your followers to interact but liking, sharing, and maybe even converting.

Sharing (videos) is caring:

    Did you know that there are well over 100 million hours of video watched on social media each and every single day?  Facebook users alone watch 90 million hours of video every single day. And 82% of Twitter users watch video on that network. With numbers like that, it’s safe to say that sharing social videos is a sure way to boost your engagement.

Tag your people, people:

    By tagging people in your posts, you are essentially notifying them that they, or their projects, are being talked about. This is a way to encourage them to share the post with their followers, thus creating further engagement with your content, because after all social media is in its simplest form a conversation, so it shouldn’t be one sided.

Timing is everything:

    For every network, there are certain times of the day when users are most active. By scheduling your social media messages to post at the best time, you’re that much more likely to engage your followers. It’s important to get to know your specific audience, and when they are most active. Are you targeting 9-5’ers who are most active after dinner, or perhaps your audience is more of the late night crowd, who are up into the wee hours. Maybe your target audience is stay-at-home parents who are active all day long? If you’re not publishing your content for when your audience is most active, they won’t see all your hard work, because it’ll be cluttered up in a news feed from 4 hours ago.

Everybody loves to press buttons:

    A good way to encourage your followers to share your content is to make it super simple for them: by adding buttons! You can add social sharing buttons to all of your content. You’ll have a greater opportunity to reach a broader audience that extends beyond your direct network of fans and followers, and if those people like the content that their friends are sharing with them, they may be inclined to become direct followers of you, too. Win, win.

A website is a huge investment of time, money, and resources. For many, a website is the first impression a potential client will have of your law firm. Your website is the cover of your book, and let’s face it, people judge books by their covers all the time.

So you put a lot of effort into making sure your content looks good and you publish quality content, but what are you doing to encourage actual conversions once a potential client lands on your site.

An effective call to action can do just that.

What Is A Call To Action?

A call to action is any element on a website that encourages visitors to take action. For law firms, this action would be to contact the firm to request services. Essentially, it is a message that motivates potential clients to call.

A call to action can be text, graphic, banner or even a button.

Be Straightforward

A good call to action will tell the visitor, or potential client, exactly how you can help them, we are in the ‘helping people’ business after all. Describe what your service is and how it will help. If you law firm offers free consultations, educate the visitor on why a free consultation is a benefit to them.

Create A Sense Of Urgency

It’s a good idea to craft your call to action in a way that it motivates a potential client to act, and act fast. These deadline driven call to actions are often the most powerful.

Outline The Next Steps

Have you ever been part way through a process and just stopped because you were unsure of what was going to happen next? How is my information going to be used? Am I agreeing to something as soon as I click send? For this very reason it is import to make it clear to potential clients what is going to happen once they take the initiative to contact you.

Choose The Proper Placement

There are actually a few places on a webpage where a call to action can serve its purpose.

Above the fold: It’s always a good idea to have at least one call to action above the fold of a page, which is the area that is visible to users without needing to scroll. This will ensure that even is a visitor doesn’t read the full length of your content, they will see the call to action, which is arguably the most important part.

Integrated into the copy: Another common place you will see a call to action is right smack-dab in the middle of the content. This can be useful because the reader will be able to immediately draw a connection between the content and your call to action.

At the end of the copy: A call to action placed at the bottom of the page is also useful. This will be the last thing some users see on your page, and the last thing they remember.

A well-crafted and masterfully positioned call to action can be the difference between securing new clients and not.

 

Can you hear that? Silence. The sound of your client not returning your calls, emails or even your text messages. There is nothing more frustrating than radio-silence on the end of a client. You have important information to relay to them in regards to their legal matter but you are unable to get in contact with them.

There are certain steps an attorney must take, ethically, to ensure that they exhaust every effort to communicate with a client, but instead of letting it get to this point, there are a few important steps you can take at the very beginning of your attorney/client relationship to ensure you don’t end up incommunicado.

Open Lines of Communication

Inform clients from the initial meeting how often and by what means communications will be made. Ask them how they prefer to be contacted. Some people would rather face-to-face communications only, while other who might be busier, could just prefer to use email as the primary mode of communication. Some might not be technically savvy enough to use email. Establish standards early on so everyone is on the same page. Once these preferences are determined, make sure that everyone working on the client’s case – from the office administrator to the accounting department – is aware of how communications should be made.

Make Introductions

Introduce the client to every person working on the case, or who they may have contact with in your office. This is a great way to build a working relationship with the client, familiarize them with your operations, and in-turn the client will feel more comfortable.

Touch Base Frequently

Set a communication standard for each member of your team. For example, require that your employees reach out to 5 clients each and every day, even if it’s just a simple check-in. By doing so, you will ensure that all your clients are contacted at least once a month by your team. This will keep the lines of communication flowing between employee and client, and will in turn lower the number of unresponsive clients.

By: Attorney Robert Ranco

I got my work ethic from my mom. Don’t get me wrong- my dad was a great man and provider for our family. A Korean War Veteran, he went to college on the G.I. Bill and worked for years as an accountant at Diamond International. Quick with a smile and a kind word, my dad was awesome.

But my mom was a rebel who couldn’t (and still can’t) slow down. Contrary to the norm at the time, “Mother May” graduated high school, worked her way through cosmetology school, and a beauty shop in her own apartment by the time she was 21. Keep in mind, this happened around 1956.

Following this model, my three brothers and I were all working by the time we were 14 years old. Our first job? Scrubbing dirty golf clubs at the local country club for $3.35/ hour.  The youngest (and smartest) brother had the bright idea of putting up a tip jar, so he made a little more money. It was dirty work, but it was a job. We all took pride in being able to buy our own lunch, sneakers, and stereos.

I now have three children, ages 19, 14 and 12. I try to model my parents’ work ethic and instill pride in accomplishment and celebrate their attempts at independence. Sometimes I even think its working. In this age of teenage entitlement I was very proud last year when my youngest handed out fliers around the neighborhood advertising her willingness to pick up dog poop for anyone willing to fork over $5. “That one’s going to make you rich,” said a friend. Maybe so. The middle child is counting the days until she can legally work. The oldest, a college student, works during the summers as a host and busboy at a restaurant.

I only have one rule when it comes to my kids and working: You are not allowed to work at HEB.

Sounds crazy, right?  Your “friendly neighborhood HEB.” What could I possibly have against such a wonderful store? My problem with HEB is that they too often treat their injured employees like dirt.

I have handled a few HEB non-subscriber cases in the past, and have been surprised about how the company has treated its employees after they are injured. My most recent case, which is currently being arbitrated, is by far the worst, and illuminates the conflict of interest created by the HEB Work Injury Benefit Plan.

As most lawyers know, Texas employers are not required to carry workers compensation insurance. Any company can choose to be a “non-subscriber” to the comp system. Companies like HEB can save millions of dollars in premiums by opting out of the comp system.

However, as a non-subscriber, negligence against the company is much easier to prove for plaintiffs. In litigation, non-subscribers are precluded from alleging common law defenses, including contributory negligence. As long as the plaintiff can prove that HEB or its employees were a proximate cause of the damages the plaintiff can recover, even if the plaintiff was 99% at fault. There is no reduction for the employee’s contributory negligence.

HEB doesn’t just opt out of comp, however. They offer a sort of replacement plan that only vaguely resembles comp insurance: Their “Work Injury Benefit Plan.” All new employees at HEB are forced to sign their agreement acknowledging that HEB does not subscribe to comp, the employee agrees to be bound by the terms of the benefit plan, and the new employees further agree to have any disputes settled through arbitration rather than in Texas courts. The employees are coerced to sign away these rights without a proper explanation or the benefit of legal counsel.

This is the “sign your rights away” department at your local HEB 🙂

Why is it a problem? The benefit plan actually does pay for some medical treatment (so long as you follow the rules and see HEB approved providers). For employees without health insurance it might be a good thing to get some basic, immediate medical care. Not every non-subscriber provides medical coverage to its employees. So why am I so upset?

There are serious downfalls to this plan for employees that HEB has orchestrated. The most egregious situation I have encountered occurred last year when my client, Corinne, came to see me. This is her story:

Corinne is in her fifties. Her children are now grown, so she decided to make a little extra money as a cashier at HEB. After working at HEB for just a few months she was injured at work when her co-workers, unbeknownst to her, created a wet floor and she slipped, injuring her back badly. She reported the injury as required After all, failure to report an injury immediately can bar all benefits under the benefit plan. HEB “handled” her claim. They took statements, investigated, created reports, and arranged treatment for Corinne with their doctors.

Corinne was examined; they took X-rays and provided some physical therapy. The X-rays showed that Corinne had degenerative changes in her lower back (as we would see in any 50 year old), but she had never been to a doctor to report lower back pain prior to this incident.

After about six months of non-invasive treatments, Corinne was not getting better. In fact, she was getting worse. One of the HEB approved doctors made a suggestion: “Corinne, you need an MRI. We need to find out why you’re still in pain.” The doctor then submitted the required forms to HEB’s Benefit Plan, seeking approval for the referral to an MRI.

The request for the MRI was denied by the HEB benefit plan. Corinne’s injury adjuster determined that because the X-rays showed degeneration, then all of her issues were pre-existing, and HEB would not pay for additional diagnostic testing.

Consider the dynamic that HEB has created: HEB is the potential defendant in the lawsuit for injuries. They are also the gatekeeper to treatment. They can and did (initially) prevent Corinne from discovering the true extent of her injuries in an attempt to limit their own exposure in a work injury suit. Shockingly, HEB injury adjusters frequently attend medical appointments of injured employees and actually go into the examination room to watch the doctor examine the employee and participate in discussions regarding additional treatment.

Who would voluntarily give the defendant the right to regulate their healthcare in a liability case? Sounds crazy, but every HEB employee has done exactly the same thing.  Can you imagine that happening in a car wreck case? In any other kind of injury case?

Fortunately for Corinne, we were able to help. Once she was out of the HEB treatment system, no longer subject to their oversight, she was able to get an MRI. They discovered that she had two herniated lumbar disks and she needed surgery. In August, 2016 she received a two level lumbar fusion and discectomy, and her prognosis is very good.

Most know that the work comp system has flaws. However, at its root, this sort of conflict (gatekeeper and defendant) does not arise. Any company that subscribes to comp is then protected from litigation by the “comp bar” and also turns over to the comp carrier the responsibility of approving or denying treatment for related injuries. HEB purposefully keeps control of treatment under the same roof as the Risk Management Department, the group in control of paying out claims. They use that conflict to the benefit of the company and the detriment of the injured employee.

And that is why my children are not allowed to work at HEB, ever.


Robert Ranco

Robert Ranco is a personal injury attorney at The Carlson Law Firm in Austin, TX. He also specializes in civil rights litigation. Rob is a proud family man, as well as an adjunct professor of paralegal studies at Austin Community College.

It hasn’t been that long that law firms have been using social media as a tool to grow their business. Legal professionals quickly realized online platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogs are cheap, efficient and powerful ways to gain exposure for their firms. Once legal professionals decided to expand their online presence, the use of social media for law firms as a tool for building client relationships spread like wildfire.

However, like any marketing tool, there is a right way to use it, and a wrong way. Every action you take on social networks should be a part of a larger social media marketing strategy. Below we’ve outlined a few key steps to harnessing the power of social media for the benefit of your business.

1. Choose your platforms wisely

With the proliferation of social media channels we are experiencing, it can be rather confusing to a business owner to decide which ones they should have a presence on. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest, there are a few that that benefit law firms more than others. First, find out which platform hosts the majority of people that share your firm’s interests. You should have a good idea who potential or existing customers are and the type of content they’ll be interested in. Then, it is up to you to narrow the social media playing field.

2. Plan your content

Having quality, well-crafted content to share with your followers is an essential part of succeeding at social media. Instead of leaving your content creation up to the very last minute, take a few hours out of your week to plan ahead. Create a calendar that outlines each post you plan to share and how you plan to share it.

3. Engage your client

The beauty of social media is that it can be a conversation, and not just one person talking at another. Clients like to be involved, and interacted with. They like to feel like they have a voice and that voice is being heard. Listen to your audience and find out what they are talking about. This will also give you an insight into what sort of content they are looking for. Don’t forget, if someone in your audience asks a question through social channels, you should always address them. This will show that you are paying attention. Consider using keywords that have a high rate of website conversions.

4. Drive traffic back to your website

A firm’s website should be their bread and butter, which is why it is important to drive your social media followers back to your website. It is there that they are going to learn the most about your practice. If you are driving traffic to your site, you are going to get more leads, and ultimately, more cases.

It is important that remember that as lawyers, we are subject to strict rules and ethics that limit professional advertisements, and that those rules also apply to social media use.  Ethical risks can include breaching the duty of confidentiality or violating legal advertising rules, just to name a few. To ensure that your social media efforts comply with legal and ethical standards, check with your state bar, as most offer clear guidelines on social media use.

 

Not since 1996 have so few law school graduates secured jobs in private practice, according to a report released by the National Association for Law Placement.

Of the almost 40,000 students who graduated from law programs last year, only 17,168 were able to land private-practice jobs, the report found.

A total of 9,829 graduates began clerking for judges, or found employment in government, the public interest sector or academia.

NALP’s executive director, James Leipold, called the entry-level market “remarkable flat” in the report, adding that many new graduates have to compete with lawyers already in the market for the few number of positions that are set aside for entry-level specific hires, and this already low number of jobs continues to shrink.

The association found that In 2007 there were a total of 37,123 such jobs, but just 33,469 last year.

However there is a bit of good news. Those who are able to land a job are being paid more for their work.

According to the report, the national median salary for 2015 graduates was $64,800, up from $63,000 in 2014. This is the largest year-to-year increase since 2008. The national mean for the Class of 2015 was $83,797, compared with $82,292 for the Class of 2014.

Advice on landing your first job

Maintain contact with your classmates: Without even knowing it you began networking the second you stepped foot into law school. The very people you ate with, studied with, and socialized with became a link to the professional world as soon as you graduated. Don’t hesitate to reach out to them to see if firms they are working for are hiring.

Attend bar association events: It is a good idea to become a regular at these events. There will be actual practicing lawyers in attendance making it the perfect place to network. It is important to embed yourself inside the legal community that you want to be working in.

Find a mentor: A mentor can be one of the most valuable resources for new attorneys. Identify someone with whom you’ve worked with during law school, or someone who’s work you admire. Don’t be afraid to approach the person and ask them if they would be interested in mentoring you. The worst they will say is that might be too busy. Then spend time with your mentor, cultivate your relationship, ask questions about their work as well as provide them with a reason to become invested in your success.

Stay in the know: Make sure you are always reading articles, blogs, newsletters and news feeds from different law firms so that you are up to date on their practices so if you do land an interview, you can impress them with your know-all about their day to day operations.


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