If the conditions and incentives were actually there for me to enjoy my job, I would be happy with it. In fact, I would continue doing it until I die. It is challenging, dynamic, and rewarding. Not to mention, it gives me an opportunity to help people on multiple fronts. Such as emotional, financial, legal, and dare I say, medical. Unfortunately, in this field, that is not always the case. I’m also not disgruntled at all. I would just like to fix this broken system, and I think I know how to do that. As in most law firms, a true settlement negotiator is not only in charge of the whole firm caseload, but the entire firm’s success is on our shoulders. Essentially, settlement negotiators feed the office and pay everyone’s salary. For a person that is overworked and underpaid, that is A LOT of responsibilities. I cannot even count the sleepless nights I have had due to the decisions I have made that I am ultimately responsible for and waiting for the possible outcome of that decision.
The only reason why paralegals and settlement negotiators really run most of the firms is that most attorneys are too busy providing customer support and signing clients up or busy making court appearances. The good head attorneys (Principal) like to only work on complex and high-value cases.
Just think about this for a moment. On any given day, the majority of the clients always want to speak to the attorney whose name is on the door. All that meet and greet takes up a lot of time. Attorney’s calendar is also filled with endless court appearances and depositions or motion oral arguments. They have extraordinarily little time to work up an actual case.
The conditions and incentives I am referring to are better working conditions and bonuses; if not, at least a “decent” salary. For a guy that is solely responsible for getting insurance companies to pay out millions of dollars each year, I most certainly deserve at least a more decent salary. Considering the level of skill and intelligence it requires not only of running a firm but also to settle, it is a fair trade. For a well-developed law firm with 1,200 cases or more, $100,000 per year should be the average salary if you are a decent negotiator. I personally ran a few firms in the past and was paid half of that, and I brought in millions of dollars worth of settlements each year. On top of that, even though I am not a licensed attorney, I successfully settled many cases in mediation. In this type of business, there is rarely any fairness. Many attorneys blame the settlement negotiator for not bringing in cases either. Even though it’s technically in the job description as well. After all, we’re there to bring in the money. I personally always come prepared by carrying stacks of business cards on me at all times and having intakes sitting in my car just in case.
To compound the stresses of the work itself, there is rarely any appreciation for the work that settlement negotiators do. All of the glory goes to the attorney, which the client almost always thinks has resolved the case. There is virtually no recognition for this job. We close the case, and the attorney gets to brag about it. I consider settlement negotiators such as myself quiet professionals, and our ultimate sacrifice is that we are only as good as the last settlement. As soon as we resolve a case, our bosses are always quick to pressure you to move on to the next file.
As a settlement negotiator, I have three main challenges. Convince the insurance companies to fork out as much money as possible, convince the boss to accept it, which can be even more difficult because they are either greedy as fuck or stupid, and then finally convince the client to accept it because they’re also greedy or stupid. At least one of those challenges will, in fact, make it very difficult to settle a case. Either the insurance companies do not want to pay, the attorney is greedy or stupid, or the client is refusing the offer. In many cases, it’s all of the above. In between all of that, I have to deal with clients that are, in some cases, not the easiest to deal with either. Personal injury clients seem to have either an emotional or a serious behavioral issue. I am also beginning to think that law school dumbs people down to the point where the attorneys’ brain matter dissolves, circulates in their bloodstream, and is eventually expelled with their fecal matter. This fact pretty much solidifies my theory that an average attorney has a fifteen-year shelf life on mental stability. Much less if they practice personal injury law. Maybe not most, but definitely a large number. Don’t get me wrong; I have worked with some brilliant attorneys. But they are very few to come by. Most personal injury attorneys can’t get past doing standard appearances and EBT, let alone fully litigating a case all the way to trial.
Throughout my experience as a settlement negotiator, I have also come across quite a few insane office managers. Not all law firms hire them to monitor cases, but most firms that hire them do terribly. In most cases, aside from understanding that we need to provide medical records to insurance companies for a potential settlement, they have zero concepts of how this all actually works, so they tend to put unrealistic expectations on each case. On top of that, they deliberately put unnecessary pressure on settlement negotiations because they believe that the more pressure they put on you, the better the possible outcome. In most cases, that is the complete opposite.
In two firms that I worked for that had office managers that monitored case progress, not only were they doing terribly, but they made the working environment almost intolerable. Here are two of my worst examples of what I came across in those firms:
1.) In one firm, we had an office manager that seriously needed to be sedated. He was extremely loud, arrogant, and highly aggressive. He would randomly go into rage mode and start cursing at employees as well as clients. In many cases, you would hear him from outside as you walk into the office. It was impossible to communicate with him in person. I tried my best to use email as much as possible to avoid seeing him. I reached a point where I wanted to cause physical harm to him. I basically told him, “I’m quitting for your own safety, and I am not risking going to jail just because I want to jump over this table and start strangling you until you turn every color of the rainbow.”
2.) Somehow, I started working for a firm where the attorney was really cool, and it seemed like we were on the same page. However, that firm had not one manager but two! The manager that was always in the office was utterly useless. All she did for the firm, or more like what she did for me, was send out closing documents after I settled a case. Any circus monkey could have done that. Another manager, who happened to proclaim himself as senior manager, was even more useless. All he did was run around medical offices to follow up on client’s treatments. Between the two, they were both on my ass like crazy glue. On average, I settled about $100,000 per week. Or at least very close to that. Regardless of how much I settled, they would repeatedly take me into an empty room and complain that they barely see any money coming in or how come I settled so quickly or come up with various other bullshit excuses just to deliberately fuck with me. What I heard from other staff was that ever since I came on board, the attorney began to question their role and purpose. However, as useless as they were, my boss would not fire them and essentially picked them over me because apparently, they were there when he first started. I reached a point where I just simply left on Friday and just never came back. From what I learned, they had a high turnover rate, probably for the same reasons.
Aside from all of the difficulties I have settling, many of the lawyers I have worked for are not only greedy but heartless. When a client hires an attorney, they hire an attorney to protect their rights and ensure the best possible outcome of their case—especially when it comes to their health. I generally tackled this issue with my boss day in and day out. Watching attorneys trying to convince a client to do some kind of a surgical procedure when the client clearly doesn’t need it for the sake of a large settlement kind of breaks my heart. Especially when you’re dealing with a younger patient because the majority of orthopedic surgeries, such as meniscectomies, require corrective surgeries years later.
Don’t get me wrong; there are many injuries out there where you may not feel any pain now, but years later, they progress to something serious, which may require a serious procedure. But due to the greed of most of the attorneys out there, it’s always important to get a second opinion before doing any kind of surgical procedure, and I strongly advise my clients to do just that. Especially if the procedure is done by a doctor referred to you by a physical therapy office. One thing that clients don’t know is that any doctor that practices medicine for the No-Fault industry is considered the bottom of the barrel in the medical profession.
This is why I decided to write this book. I am really tired of how clients and attorneys make a mockery of the legal system as well as how shit No-Fault doctors perform unnecessary operations just because they’re greedy. These bullshit cases may bring a quick buck to the plaintiff, but the long-term repercussions are clearly visible! But at the same time, insurance companies pay little on real cases that deserve real money for pain and suffering. Insurance rates in NYC alone are through the roof, countless unknown clients are suffering irreversible health issues due to unnecessary surgeries, and countless people are seriously injured due to staged car accidents.
Legitimate cases where people were genuinely hurt due to someone’s negligence are also waiting years in the court system because the courts are backed up with bullshit cases. You have greedy attorneys and clients who file a two bulge case in court and would litigate it for years just to get a few extra dollars or to make an example to the carrier that you’re willing to litigate a case until the end just so that the carriers could take you more seriously. It is sickening to continue to see this, so I decided to write this book in hopes that someone who has the power to make a change and make the changes needed to fix the entire corrupt system. And believe me, I have a few good ideas, which I will mention further in this book.