Most people don’t understand just exactly what a lawyer does when they’re working on a case. In their minds, “lawyering” is what they see on TV or in the movies. People might also think that what a lawyer does during the workday is whatever they see when they walk into a lawyer’s office or accompany them in the courtroom.
However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that is put into a case.
What clients don’t see is the hours of work that goes into their lawsuit, whether it settles or is prepared for trial. They also don’t see the relentless burning of the midnight oil or the careful contemplation as a lawyer considers the facts, evidence, and circumstances of a case — which can be likened to a multidimensional chess game with a host of moving pieces.
And what they also don’t see is the years of study, research, experience, and practice that goes into achieving a favorable verdict.
A Lawyer’s Work Begins Before They Meet the Client
Significantly, a lawyer’s work starts long before they’ve ever met their client. It begins with researching the applicable law.
The law is complex, and it’s always changing. Before consulting with a prospective client, a good personal injury lawyer will research similar cases to understand the laws that were applied and the precedent that the court considered in rendering its decision. Critically, a lawyer should conduct extensive research to ensure their client’s case is properly prosecuted and to defend against any arguments raised by their adversaries.
Significantly, not all case law is weighed the same when a court is deciding the outcome of a case. A court will consider how close the facts and circumstances were in a previous case, compared with the case at hand. The more similar the issues, the greater the weight it will be given.
Additionally, the higher the level of the court, the more weight the precedent will carry — for instance, if the Court of Appeals (the highest state court in New York) renders a decision, it will carry more weight than a holding by the New York Supreme Court (the lowest level court in New York, despite its name) even if the issues in the case are the same.
A lawyer not only needs to have a solid understanding of case law and how it should be applied, but they must have a deep understanding of statutory law — also referred to as “black letter law.” Importantly, when it comes to personal injury actions, there isn’t just one set of laws, but many that can come into play. A personal injury lawyer may look to the Vehicle and Traffic Law in a motor vehicle accident case, and to the New York State Labor Law for a workplace accident. In addition, they need to be well versed in the New York Civil Practice Laws and Rules, which lays out the procedures, timelines, and regulations that are associated with a personal injury action. Failure to be aware of any relevant statutes or rules can be detrimental to a case.
The lawyer who has done all of their homework will know what proof is needed to win a case before meeting with the client in person — and will be focused on it at the very first interview.
And remember, all this research and preparation is before the case has even started.
The Behind the Scenes Investigation of a Case
After an attorney has done their legal research, they will need to investigate their client’s claim. It’s essential that they gather as much information and evidence as possible before memories fade, documents get destroyed, and evidence is misplaced.
The investigation stage occurs before a lawsuit is filed and can involve countless hours of work. A lawyer will conduct interviews with witnesses, gather accident reports, obtain medical records (including records prior to the accident), and acquire necessary government documents such as building records or DMV records. They will also research the defendant and their lawyer.
In addition, before the lawsuit is even commenced, a lawyer might have to go to court to ensure that important evidence such as surveillance videos, audio recordings, or defective vehicles are preserved for review and inspection.
Building a solid foundation to a lawsuit is crucial to obtaining a positive outcome — and the maximum compensation possible. And although you can’t actually see what goes into researching and investigating a case, the hard work is worth it when an exceptional result is achieved for the client.
For any lawyer worth their salt, that’s what it’s really all about.
Contact an Experienced New York Personal Injury Attorney
If you’ve been injured in an accident, you need a personal injury attorney on your side who will take the time to meticulously research, investigate, and prepare your case for the best possible outcome. Due to our knowledge, skill, experience, and integrity, we regularly obtain verdicts and settlements in the millions for our clients.
The Edelsteins, Faegenburg & Brown LLP is a personal injury law firm dedicated to fighting for the rights of accident victims to ensure they get the maximum compensation they deserve for their injuries. Located in Manhattan, we have been handling personal injury cases throughout New York City since 1937. Call to schedule a free consultation at (212) 425-1999 today.