Our firm – St. Louis, Missouri – handles personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis. All 6 attorneys practice in this area and we do no work on any other type of fee or billing arrangement. During the last couple of years cash flow has been tough, we have lost some cases, and we are looking for ideas on what we should be doing differently. We would appreciate any ideas that you may have.
A balanced case portfolio is critical for contingency fee firms. You must carefully select your cases. Here are some ideas for an effective case selection system:
1. Develop an evaluation/case rating tool to be used to determine risk and feasibility of taking on contingency fee cases. The tool could be a form with an brief write-up and synopsis of the case, potential fee (high and low), probability of success or failure expressed as a probability percentage, specific risks, how long case might be in progress, hours that it may take to staff the case, client cost investments, and other resources that may be required.
2. Determine criteria that must be met to accept or reject a case.
3. Require more than one head or set of eyes on a case before committing to accept a new case. You might want to require all contingency fee cases to be reviewed and discussed at a weekly team meeting before a case can be accepted by anyone – including. This will help keep any one attorney from getting too emotional and close to a case and base acceptance upon business and economic considerations rather than emotional considerations. This is routinely done in lot of my PI firms to help access and mitigate case risk.
4. Write-up and document the case selection system.
John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC