CoverLaw founder Jim Cover and his attorney wife Stefanie laugh at the plethora of attorney jokes they hear. In fact Jim has compiled a collection of more than 500 such jokes. “One of the biggest challenges we face as attorneys is to persuade people that, far from the image portrayed in lawyer jokes as greedy and over-aggressive shark-like manipulators, we are actually creative problem-solvers, defenders of liberty and indispensable in a healthy democracy.” said Jim.
Many of the jokes, like the shark joke, are actually propagated by some of the very attorneys that they make fun of.
“Shark” or “pit bull” attorney ads appear everywhere -- on television, magazines, direct-mail solicitation letters, the Internet, web sites and on billboards. They flood the marketplace, telling consumers “we’re tough and we’ll take on the insurance companies,” “we protect your rights and apologize to no one,” “we speak up for victims,” “we will fight for you,” and “put a fighter in your corner.”
Tough-guy ads are used because of one of the common faulty perceptions about lawyers; that is that they need to be aggressive, unethical jerks or “pit bulls” to win. This is far from the truth. Tough-guy lawyers who misbehave in court often send a message to the jury that their clients are bad people too. Juries don’t like that. In a personal injury case, the plaintiff needs the jury to like them if they are to get a favorable verdict, not have disdain for them and their mean attorney. The best trial lawyers have the highest level of ethics, class, and good manners.
“From my experience,” says Stefanie Cover, “the higher the caliber of the opposing attorney, the better their demeanor.”
Prior to becoming an attorney Stefanie worked as an insurance adjuster and as a claims manager. She is a member of the distinguished American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) and has 24 years of jury trial experience both defending cases on behalf of insurance companies and prosecuting personal injury claims on behalf of seriously injured people.
“Contrary to what the tough-guy lawyers would have you believe, insurance companies are not intimidated by the hardline approach, nor by lawyers’ claims that the insurance companies will cave because of the attorney’s so called reputation to take even bad cases to trial. This is pure nonsense. Insurance companies want to resolve cases, and they do so more expeditiously when presented with supporting documentation, appropriate experts and a well prepared case by a skilled attorney.” says Cover.
Here is a satirical example of why a person should hire a skilled attorney:
John Smith (the plaintiff) sued the Acme Corp for injuries he sustained when the Acme
Corp semi tractor-trailer collided with his pickup and trailer carrying his horse. Acme’s lawyer, in the course of cross-examining Mr. Smith at trial, asked:
“When the police officer came to the scene of the accident and asked how you were, you said, ‘I feel fine,’ didn’t you?”
Mr. Smith responded, “Well, yes.”
Smith’s response was 100% accurate and 100% not the truth! Smith’s lawyer then redirected his examination: “Now, Mr. Smith, you claim that you were severely injured, so why did you say that you felt fine immediately after the accident?”
Mr. Smith answered, “Well, as I was saying, I was driving on Route 66 in my pickup pulling my trailer with my horse in it when this huge semi-truck ran the stop sign and smacked my right side. My pickup and trailer were destroyed. I was thrown into one ditch and my horse was thrown into the other. I was hurting real bad and didn’t want to move. I could hear my horse moaning and groaning. I knew she was in terrible shape just by her groans.
“Shortly after the accident an officer came on the scene. He could hear my horse moaning and groaning so he went over to her. After he looked at her, he took out his gun and shot her between the eyes. Then the officer came across the road with his gun in his hand and looked at me. He said, ‘Your horse was in such bad shape I had to shoot her. How are you feeling?’”
“This joke, while obviously exaggerated, demonstrates one of the many reasons why you need a good trial attorney if you have a significant personal injury case.” says Jim Cover. “As the opening dialogue of the 1981 Paul Newman movie ‘Absence of Malice’ suggests ‘suppose you picked up this morning’s newspaper and your life was a front page headline... and everything they said was accurate... but none of it was true?’ ... without a good lawyer, you run the risk of a serious injustice.”
“I’m going to need a lawyer, a very, very good lawyer, an expensive lawyer. It could break us.” said Rusty Sabich played by Harrison Ford in the 1990 movie “Presumed Innocent.”
This movie expresses the thoughts many people have about lawyers - that even when they are truly needed they cost too much. However, in the words of the famous oil well fighter Red Adair, “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur.” When it comes to legal representation, acting in pro per, that is without a lawyer, is usually the same as hiring an amateur.
“For example, think about an elderly couple on vacation who are involved in an accident with a commercial vehicle that totals their family car.” says Jim Cover. “The driver of the commercial vehicle admits fault and offers to pay for any damages. The husband who was driving the car wasn’t hurt but his wife suffered a permanent injury to her arm. Very soon after the accident the insurance company tells them that it will take care of everything making the couple feel very secure. Then the offer comes. The insurance company offers the husband $3,000 to settle his claims (since he wasn’t injured) and $33,000 to settle the wife’s. The couple thinks ‘if we settle this ourselves we will save $12,000 in attorneys fees!’ But is this right? The truth is that over time the husband’s losses related to taking care of his wife will likely exceed the combined offer they made to them both. Because she has not stabilized, is still treating, and may have more surgeries, her medical expenses may exceed the $33,000 offer by a significant amount, possibly as much as a factor of 10. In the end, if the couple opts to settle rather than engage a skilled attorney they could lose $500,000 or more in proper compensation for their loss.”
All of the jokes aside, it is important to select the best attorney for your particular issue.
With a devoted team, CoverLaw assists clients throughout Southern California with a plethora of legal matters in addition to personal injury and wrongful death cases. The firm’s services include part-time general counsel services, independent director services, strategic business consulting, business formation and organization, for profit, charitable, non-profit organizations, finance, tax, employment matters, business litigation, debtor/creditor matters, bankruptcy and business reorganizations.
Founder Jim Cover is as much a businessman as he is an attorney. He has taken ventures from concept to go-to-market stage, managed start-ups and helped increase the net worth of a multitude of clients. His background includes helping companies reorganize to regain market position and profits to prepare for an exit. He has turned around and repositioned more than 300 business clients in crisis.
Cover notes “We operate more like a legal concierge than a law firm in that we don’t hesitate to bring in appropriate professionals from other disciplines to assist our clients. Often the advice we give them is to pursue non-legal solutions. For example, I can’t tell you how many clients have come in to me to file bankruptcy and I was able to help them with superior and far less-draconian remedies.”