Good morning. I’m Marcus Michles, and welcome to this week’s edition of the Michles & Booth video blog. I want to talk to you today about something that at first glance is pretty obvious, but in some ways is a little trickier than you might think, and that is why you should hire an attorney that’s licensed in the state of your accident, in this case Florida. It would seem to go kind of obviously that you would want to hire a Florida lawyer for a Florida accident, but we have so many people advertising in our community that you can’t keep them straight; because there’s a lot of people, a lot of the billboards you see and a lot of the commercials you see are from lawyers that aren’t even licensed in Florida. And how would you know? Well, it’s in the fine print, but as you’re driving 45 miles an hour down the road, hopefully you’re not actually looking at the fine print of a billboard.
The way that lawyers get licensed is pretty much the same in every state, but you might be surprised to know that the laws are very different state to state, even states like Florida and Alabama that share a border. Once you cross over that border, the laws are very, very different.
Now in order to be a licensed attorney in a state, you have to go to law school, but you go to law school anywhere in the country. That’s usually a three-year program after four years of college, and then when you want to become a lawyer in a particular state, you apply and you take a test. That test is of the laws of that state.
To give an example, I’m a Florida lawyer. I’ve been a Florida lawyer from almost thirty years, but I’m not licensed to practice law in any other state. I can ask permission from that state to be granted temporary privileges, but I don’t know the laws of Texas. I don’t know the laws of Arkansas, and I don’t know the laws of any state other than the state of Florida really. I know the laws of Alabama generally, because they’re close by, but I’m not licensed to practice law in Alabama. I wouldn’t recommend me for an Alabama case. I have Alabama licensed attorneys here in our law firm to handle those cases, but I wouldn’t recommend me.
Similarly, I wouldn’t recommend an Alabama lawyer for a Florida accident case. Now you might say, “well what difference does it make Marcus? Lawyers are lawyers”. I get that, but…but there’s an economical reason. Here’s a financial reason that you’ll understand. If someone hires me for an accident that occurred in Arkansas, for example, I can negotiate with the insurance company on the other side. I can handle getting the medical records. I can handle talking to State Farm in Arkansas just like I talk to State Farm in Florida. I can talk to Geico in Arkansas like I talk to Geico in Florida. I know the value of an accident, generally speaking. I employ the same tools, but I might not be intimately familiar with the inner workings of the laws in Arkansas, so what happens when the insurance company doesn’t make my client who lives here but was hurt in Arkansas, let’s say, what happens if the insurance company doesn’t make them a fair offer?
Well, you know what the choices are; you either accept the unfair offer or you file a lawsuit. Keep that in mind, because in order to file that lawsuit, the lawyer has to be licensed in that state. In order to go ask a judge to make the other side do something they’re supposed to do, in order to go in front of a judge and get a trial date or mediation or to get judicial relief of any kind, that lawyer has to be licensed in that state. Now, if I’m going to work on a contingency fee basis, and I’m going to get a third of what I collect, but I need to hire a lawyer in Arkansas to help me get that, guess what? I have to share my fee with that lawyer I had to hire. I don’t mean to disparage anybody, but you would understand that human nature means the lawyer would rather get 33% of the claim, of the full fee as opposed to sharing it with another lawyer and getting 17% or half of the fee. Right? I mean that’s just…that’s human nature, so the incentive exists for a lawyer to accept less in a state that they’re not licensed in than to accept the full amount in the state that they ARE licensed in.
In other words, if I have to share the fee with an Arkansas lawyer, I might be motivated to take a little less in the deal, because my fee would be 100% of the fee instead of having to share it by hiring an Arkansas lawyer to go over to the courthouse for me.
Now, we’ve got a lot of lawyers here at Michles & Booth, and over the years,
I’ve trained a lot of young lawyers on how to…on how to do their jobs, and I’ve always said “Listen, if it’s not a state case, and it looks like it needs to be litigated for any reason on any issue, you need to get that…that lawyer involved in that state. You can’t handle it fairly from Florida.”
Now, this brings me back to the point of today’s video blog. Look at the fine print, and make sure you’re hiring a Florida lawyer for a Florida accident. Not only does it matter in terms of the subject matter, the laws that are to be applied, but it matters in terms of what your options are if negotiations break down, because a Florida lawyer can file a Florida lawsuit. An Alabama lawyer can’t file a Florida lawsuit, and their incentive to share their fee by hiring a Florida lawyer, well that’s…that’s tested. Right? I mean I don’t want to disparage anybody’s integrity, but I’m just saying human nature is you want to make as many dollars as you can, and that comes at the client’s expense.
So take a look at your lawyer carefully. I say interview your lawyers. I mean it’s not just making a decision based upon a billboard. Sit down in the lawyer’s office. Look around. Look at their website. Do a little bit of homework, because selecting the right lawyer means everything in your accident case, and that right lawyer may not be the right lawyer for everybody, but you’ll know if it’s the right lawyer for you. Look at board certification. Look at licensure. Look at experience. and look at the lawyer in the eyes, and see whether that’s the guy or the lady that you think is going to get you the best result.
As always, I’m Marcus Michles here at Michles & Booth.1 You can find michlesbooth.com/blog or something like that, and we’ll have some links up for you. You can find us, if you have suggestions, give me a call. Let me know what you want to hear. Let me know what questions you have. I’ll be happy to answer them.