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Five Miller & Zois lawyers were represented on the Maryland Superlawyer 2010 list: Ron Miller, Laura Zois, Rod Gaston, John Bratt, and John Cord. This honor is accorded to less than 5 percent of the total number of lawyers in Maryland.

Some have questioned honors like these. Eric Turkewitz in his New York Personal Injury Blog specifically questioned how much gravitas the Superlawyers award should have. Some awards are so powerful that it is impossible to question whether politics and other factors impact whether an honor is bestowed, such as the Nobel Peace Prize and the Time Magazine Man of the Year. Oh, wait, poor examples.

You get my point. Every honor is tainted with some measure of politics or something else that qualifies the purity of the award or accomplishment. So you graduated as your class valedictorian. But did you work harder than everyone else, or were you just good at taking exams? Yes, your child turned out great, but was it the luck of the draw or your spouse’s genes, or were you really a great parent? So I think when you get an honor, particularly one like Superlawyers that puts you in an exclusive class of Maryland lawyers, I think you should happily smile and be proud.  (I say all of this the long-winded way because I do not want to give anyone the impression that we are defined by these kind of awards.  We are defined by our clients and what we do for them.)

I will be speaking to the North Carolina Advocates for Justice in Greensboro on Friday, December 11th on maximizing the value of personal injury claims and the related issue of dealing with insurance companies.

The Daily Herald in Chicago published an editorial yesterday that urges the Illinois Supreme Court to overturn the Illinois cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. The article, written by the President on the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association (I guess they have not gotten the Association for Justice memo), does not cover any fresh ground opposing tort reform.

In fact, it highlights the one argument in opposing tort reform that I reject: that the cap does not lower malpractice premiums. While I hate caps on non-economic damages, I’m sorry, I majored in economics. (Okay, finance, but you get the point.) You cannot assert medical malpractice rates are not impacted by less exposure. Insurance rates are a function of exposure. It’s the first thing an actuary will punch into that computer. That rates do not immediately rise or fall after malpractice caps rise or fall does not negate this causal relationship.

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I just finished George Lakoff’s book, Don’t Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate. Channeling my inner Joe Biden, I loved the book; I hated the book. (2019 Update: By golly, Joe Biden is still relevant today!)

I hated the book because as much as Lakoff tried to fight it, he does too much of the “no reasonable person could think this way unless they were being manipulated” spiel. It is just too condescending and partisan for my tastes, which I think takes away from some luster of the book for me.

Tort Reform

There was an auto accident last night at I-70 and the Baltimore Beltway in Maryland last night at 3:54 a.m.

Are you a lawyer who has started a blog this way? If so, stop it because you are driving me crazy. No, seriously, stop it. The Baltimore Sun can and will report these stories just fine without your repeating them, thank you very much.

The Internet is such an amazing resource for personal injury lawyers to gather information about the handling of their cases. But to use this resource, you will wade through so much junk. If you are just rewriting stories from newspapers with no thought or commentary, you are useless to the rest of us.

I like to blog on Monday but given my figurative post-Mother’s Day weekend hangover; I reviewed the original stories/opinions of others as opposed to venturing to offer my own:

The Baltimore Sun had an interesting article on allegations of bizarre misconduct by a Nevada judge in a bizarre story with a lot of interesting six degrees of separation subplots.

The Washington Post has a good article on legal outsourcing in India, discussing both the exponential growth and some challenges in training lawyers in India.

The Legal Intelligencer has an interesting article about the size of personal injury law firms. I have always found it interesting that personal injury law firms in Maryland and in most states come in two sizes: small and very small. Peter Angelos’ office in Baltimore is the sole exception in Maryland, largely because they have their hands around the asbestos juggernaut. Otherwise, I do not think there is a single plaintiffs’ firm in the top 20 largest Maryland law firms. In contrast, Texas and Florida seem to have much larger, successful personal injury firms. I have never fully understood why the same business model would not apply, regardless of location. But even the largest of plaintiffs’ law firms in the country are smaller than Venable’s Baltimore office.

Yesterday, we settled a serious car accident case in mediation that I never thought would settle. The client was looking well beyond the fair value of the case, valuing the claim at $2.1 million (our maximum potential recovery with Maryland cap on pain and suffering damages) and defendant undervalued the claim from the very beginning. Somehow, after over six hours, the case miraculously settled. This is one of those cases I had assumed as an article of faith that it would have gone to trial. It really is hard to tell which cases will trial and which cases will settle.

But even more incredible than the case settling was the fact that the driver defendant came flew up from his home in Atlanta, Georgia for the mediation. Obviously, the court did not require or expect him to be there. After the mediation was over, he gave an articulate two-minute speech apologizing to the plaintiff and his wife for the accident. This guy really put himself out in a way that provided him no benefit, but he came because he thought it was the right thing to do and he wanted to accept responsibility. It was one of those things that really gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling about our fellow man.

One more feel-good story… I got back to my office this morning and a client whose case is pending in Baltimore County Circuit Court sent a note to our lawyers and staff thanking us for our continued hard work. She included with her note what is essentially a $100 tip! We will send the check back to her, but it definitely boosted my spirits when I got here this morning.

I saw today an interesting blog post by a Massachusetts law firm advocating that Massachusetts ban finance companies that offer loans to people using their personal injury cases as collateral. The post (and comment on the post) argues that by making the loans non-recourse loans contingent on the settlement, these companies get around existing usury laws. Particularly where liability is not an issue and payment is a near certainty, using non-recourse seems like a backdoor around the law.

Mixed Feelings on These Loans

quick money

The Lure of Quick Money Is Hard to Resist

Point of Law has an interesting blog post on a recent study regarding contingency fees. I found two conclusions of interest.

First, the study found that people who had the financial means to pay attorneys’ fees upfront still preferred a contingency fee arrangement, even if that arrangement meant they were ultimately likely to pay more in fees. Apparently, the experiment included affluent trial lawyers as imaginary plaintiffs, and they too chose the contingency fee agreement over the hourly billing rate. The authors explain that our instinct to be “loss adverse” is the principal reason people prefer a contingency fee arrangement, even if they expect it will cause higher legal fees. This theory may also explain why people are far more unhappy when they lose $100 than happy when they find $100.

I suspect another reason for this preference that the authors do not point to is that it is less stressful to have some level of cost certainty. I know I dislike paying anyone by the hour, especially when I do not know how many hours attorneys will expend. I would rather they give me an all-inclusive price to solve the problem.

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