Personal Injury law firms face a unique set of challenges to stay competitive. Managing overhead, fees and expenses, and compensation structure for associates and paraprofessional staff is a delicate balance. In a landscape shaped by constant regulatory and market shifts and “tort reform” efforts, PI firms need to plan to maintain long-term stability and growth. For small to midsize personal injury firms, offering a more diverse legal platform like mass tort cases can be a key factor in revenue generation, client retention and add an asset to your portfolio.
How to Transition to Handling Mass Tort Claims
Evaluate your existing inventory – You may currently have mass tort claims in your possession in the form of medical records and incident reports. Use of popular medical devices like hernia mesh and pharmaceutical drugs like oxycontin can be found using optical character recognition and performing keyword searches in a client’s electronic medical record. OCR software analyzes the images and extracts the words of the text. OCR programs have become very accurate and can even work with handwritten documents (but messy handwriting will not have the same accuracy as printed text). Other practice areas to mine for potential mass tort claims include workers’ compensation and estate planning dockets. Once you find a particular mass tort you’d like to pursue, use MTI’s Tort Selection Research Checklist to evaluate the potential success of the tort and ensure you’re up to speed on all the various steps in mass tort litigation.
Network with other mass tort lawyers – There’s nothing new about the concept of getting out into the community, attending conferences and events, and earning favorable word-of-mouth recommendations for referrals and co-counsel relationships. What has changed are the ways networking can be tracked and disseminated. No longer does networking mean going to in-person meetings. In the digital world, it’s just as important to stay active with your networking. Online hangouts like Facebook or LinkedIn allow you to socialize with colleagues while answering potential client questions. For industry-insider information specific to the work of mass tort attorneys, the Mass Tort Institute created the Facebook group Mass Tort Professional Network, a community where mass tort attorneys and paraprofessionals to meet in real-time. Members can stay up to date on current events, trials, settlements, and best practices.
Establish Your Risk Tolerance – For all law firms, taking on risk is an acceptable outcome of doing business. While some risks are necessary and can drive positive business outcomes, others can lead to negative impacts such as operational errors, poor strategic decision-making, potential legal exposure, financial uncertainty, or other disasters. The cost to acquire mass tort clients can be incredibly high and compensation may not be seen for 3 – 5 years. Law firms must accept that not all risks are avoidable, but they do have control over the scale and scope of risks they are willing to take.
Create your mass tort identity – There is a homogenized approach to law firm marketing that can sink your mass tort business. It’s easy to disappear among the other ads that are promoting that Law Office A will always pursue the best outcome, or that Law Office B will always partner with their clients to ensure results. Don’t allow your business to be slotted into a template. Determine your strengths and speak to them.
Is your office an early adopter of technology and process management? Include this information, along with how it helps you win cases for your clients. Does your staff have the diversity that allows them to work with a particular community or type of customer? Let the public know. As a law firm, it’s no effort to establish that your work is with the law. The key is making sure that you stand out in the field. You may already know what your niche is but have no idea how it can be used in mass tort. You may not have identified a particular niche, and need to brainstorm to determine what it is, or will be. When you name it, own it—your marketing strategy will be much stronger in the end.
Focus on the goals – Expanding and diversifying your client portfolio is essential for law firm growth. By evaluating your existing client inventory, having a digital networking strategy to augment your in-person handshaking, establishing a strong identity for your firm, and performing a clear-eyed assessment of the amount of risk you can take on, you’ll have everything you need for a successful, growable mass tort practice.
Get more training for you and your support team on the aspects of having a successful mass tort practice. Visit the Mass Tort Academy for access to our free courses and our Practice Management Series.
Written by Jerise Henson
About the Author
Jerise Henson is the Academy Content Writer at The Mass Tort Institute. She has served in numerous roles in mass tort firms from case manager to paralegal and director of client services. She is passionate and dedicated to improving education and training for allied professionals in the mass tort industry.