The main thing you want to keep in mind when interviewing attorney's is to try and determine if he or she is a go-getter or just an average old Joe. You need a highly motivated person to take your case not one that seems to be comfortable sitting behind the desk sipping coffee. Another thing to look for is if he or she seems to have time to meet with you and devote his or her full attention to your case while you're there. If they are jumping up and running out of the room or taking phone calls while you are discussing your case, that should be your sign to keep on interviewing others. If on your first meeting, the attorney makes any kind of overture that he or she can get you big money on your case, that too will be a bad sign because no attorney regardless of how great he or she may be can tell you how much your case will be worth in a court of law. And, no good attorney will every make that comment to you in the first place because they know it is up to a jury and they have no idea who these people will be nor how much of a fight the defense will be able to mount against your allegations of injury.
Drawing from my experiences with the legal community, while searching for a law firm to handle my case, I can tell you first hand that the theory based on "the larger the firm the better representation you will get" DOES NOT WORK IN PRACTICE. It comes down to the attorneys' individual level of expertise and infrastructure support mechanism within their firm as to that firms ability to win your case. It's all about maximizing your recovery based upon the merits of your case and for that to be accomplished requires bright competent staff members supporting the lead attorney's.
As you interview each firm, you want to get answers to your questions about the firm, its attorney's and the outcomes of any similar cases their firm represented that closely parallel your own. But, you for sure want to meet the behind the scene support staff, too, in order to get the best feel for whether or not the firm is a "one-horse" side-show or if in fact they meet your needs.
There are, as you may know, several different ways to financially pursue legal representation.
1. You can pay all of the legal fees as you go, and receive the entire recovery if and when one is made.
2. The law firm can pay all of the legal expenses and take a set share of any recovery made.
3. You and the firm can agree to a hybrid of 1. and 2. whereby you pay some and the firm pays some toward the expenses which can be quite high in most personal injury (PI) cases.
Now, for you to expect the law firm to take your case on a contingency basis (them paying all the expenses), you will need to cooperate with them in every respect by supplying them with all of the historical details you can related to your case. Regardless of how unimportant or how trivial YOU may think something is, you must share it all with the law firm you eventually hire. In fact, I chose to catalogue everything in writing and assembled a three ring binder four inches thick for my law firm which cut down on the number of e-mails and phone calls seeking answers to their questions. It also became a great reference tool for everyone concerned. Plus, it helps maintain your memory of the events in tact and in sync with your law firm thus preventing unnecessary surprises from creeping into your case down the road.
Ok, you have chosen the firm and they have agreed to take your case, after some time spent by them running the due-diligence aspect on their side of the issue. At this point, you do not need to be so focused on selling them your case but rather focus your attention on being available to do leg work as needed from time to time. This speeds up the process and may reduce their expenses which means more net proceeds to you off any settlement or win that may occur in your case.
Follow your attorneys' every suggestion and directive made to you. Try not to deviate from what is asked of you. If you are told not to discuss your case with specific individuals then make sure you conform to his wishes. You must set aside all of your ego, chips on the shoulder, ill feelings in general toward everything and everyone involved, and most importantly be willing to demonstrate an enormous amount of patience as you go forward. Realize that your suit will take many hundreds of hours of time spent on trying to assemble all of the facts surrounding your case. These facts will effect your case theory in both good and bad ways. There is technical issues to deal with both legal and medically speaking. These two must be made to mesh together and, by doing so, will ultimately formulate the best possible case theory and supporting evidence of you being injured by Aldara.
It took me about a year and a half to bring my case to the settlement stage. Your case could take more or less time depending upon how strong the evidence is in your particular circumstance. One of the most difficult things you will encounter in the legal arena will be a decision, and it will be yours alone, to accept a pre-trial settlement or go to trial and take your chances with a jury decision that may or may not go your way.
In my case, I had outside forces working against me. The Governor of Texas at the time, George W. Bush, had just implemented his not so "plaintiff friendly" Tort Reform in the state of Texas. It did in fact, change the prior somewhat level playing field of justice in Texas P.I. cases to a field in which the Pharmaceutical Companies had preferential field advantage, in my case.
I learned that regardless of any recovery I may have won from a jury trial decision, 3M would have appealed that decision to the New Orleans Appeals Court where at the time that Court was very much anti-plaintiff insofar as recovery was concerned. They were just coming off the Fen - Phen and Tobacco related astronomical recoveries by plaintiffs in Texas and had apparently formed an opinion that ALL P. I. cases where the same and that plaintiffs had no rights to receive such awards regardless of the degree of injuries suffered by the plaintiff. This, too, will be an issue you must face at some point in your case. Settle or go forward. Every case is different and yours will be no exception.
You can expect your attorney's to be high on your case at times then reach a low point at other times. This is a normal attribute of developing legal case theories for clients. One day you see great leaps ahead from a new discovery being made; the next day you find a flaw in the case to deal with. So, you should not expect your case to travel the distance without some conflict and difference of opinions but in the end you must trust the judgment of your law firm 100% that all is being done that can be done. Until such time you have valid evidence to the contrary.
It is not fair at all for you to make unwarranted accusations against your law firm that you yourself cannot substantiate with supporting evidence. In the average scheme of things, a firm will invest a large amount of their total time spent on your case near the front end where billable hours can rapidly reach hundreds of personnel hours in a short timeframe. Therefore, you must be sure you have a valid reason to approach the firm with any idea you may have of firing their firm and seeking other representation.
Now, grounds for being upset with a firm might include among other things not returning your calls, missing the timely filing of documents with the court, turning over your case to a subordinate member of the firm that is far less competent than the attorney you originally had, outsourcing your case without your knowledge or approval, and the list goes on.
The approximate time line of events may vary between states and your local jurisdictions but for the most part you will find the following fairly close to what you can expect to occur after you hire the law firm.
The first action taken will be to inform the defendant's to your suit that they have been sued by you for your injuries suffered by Aldara and their less than adequate medical care while under their care. This may or may not include joining 3M and Graceway in your suit depending upon their degree of participation in your injuries. Remember, proof is the gold standard in the legal system. Basically, you sue everyone you can demonstrate had any meaningful hand in the causation of your alleged injuries. This initial document is called your "ORIGINAL PETITION" and describes to the Court and anyone reading it for the first time a clear and concise overview and summary of events that you are asking the Court to place on its docket for trial. Usually, a trial by jury will be chosen by your attorney because a jury will tend to be more compassionate in their decision than a Judge who is trained to leave out his feelings and look exclusively at the cold hard facts in making his decision in your case.
Once the Defendant's have been served or otherwise receive your PETITION, they generally have 20-days to respond with their "ANSWER". This is where the Defendants get their first chance to rebut your claims and allegations of injuries resulting from their professional incompetence or malpractice while under their care, failure of 3M and Graceway to properly and sufficiently warn you and your physicians of their knowledge of additional side effects that may have been purposely withheld from the publics' knowledge, and a whole host of other claims that go into creating your comprehensive case against the Defendant's. Count on them denying each and every claim of substance. They are not going to roll over for you that easy. Doing the right thing is not in their vocabulary.
After the Court and your attorney receive the Defendants ANSWER, the Court will then issue everyone a "SCHEDULING ORDER" which generally sets out a timeline for the upcoming events in the case including the TRIAL date itself. Don't be shocked to learn from this document that your trial date is a year or more away. Wheels of justice turn very slowly when you are the Plaintiff.
Now, it is time for each party to share or swap documents, material evidence and any other items they may have, in their possession or control, pertaining to your case. This phase is known as "DISCOVERY" where each party is required to share any and all information they may have with the other parties to the suit. Withholding this type information from the others can get you fines from the Court known as SANCTIONS.
From this point on, there will be a lot of back and forth action between the Court, your attorney, and the defendants attorneys as everyone begins to posture their side of the arguments surrounding your case claims of wrong doing by the defendants. This can take months...
As the Trial Date approaches, the Judge named to your case will usually order a meeting known as a SETTLEMENT CONFERENCE. This is where all parties to the suit get together in one place and attempt to settle their differences in hopes of settling the law suit with you. The likelihood of reaching a settlement is greatly increased by how strong your case is with evidence of both personal injuries, and proof of wrong doing by the defendants. Also to be taken into consideration will be the amount of recovery you and your attorney are asking for in settlement of your suit. The more realistic your recovery amount is the more likely it could be settled during that conference. By realistic I mean the recovery amount matching the proposed degree of injuries and the cost of meeting the future care of these injuries plus any loss of past and future income. Your attorney has all the formulas for figuring this out so that he can generate the most appropriate recovery amount to ask for.
If the SETTLEMENT CONFERENCE fails, then you have usually about 2 weeks to prepare for trial. Settlement can be reached at any time during this 2 week period and the very last minute before entering the court room on the day of your trial. So, don't get too depressed if a settlement is not reached during the SETTLEMENT CONFERENCE.
I have by no means listed each and every event that takes place along your path to the court house and the trial. I have tried to hit the high spots to show you that a law suit of this nature is not quick nor an easy task. There are many hurdles your attorneys have to clear before a judge can even grant your case a trial date. One of those hurdles is called the Daubert Theory and is used in most states. This is perhaps the most difficult hurdle to clear because it calls for your attorney to demonstrate to the court that he has an expert witness who has been able to connect your alleged injuries with your use of Aldara in the terms of pharmacological drug actions and known side effects for Aldara that can all be attributed to your use of the drug. If this expert witness, usually a doctor or pharmacologist, is successful at presenting his argument and evidence for such, the judge will then agree there is enough evidence in fact to go forward to trial. If your attorneys cannot present enough evidence to convince the judge of a connection between your injuries and Aldara, your case ends at this point or your attorney has to scramble around and find another witness that can meet the terms of the Daubert Theory before the deadline to do so previously set by the court in the COURT SCHEDULING ORDER.