Most lawyers never write a book or design a consultation to really educate his or her client–especially giving real information that may even help a potential client not hire a lawyer at all. So why did I do it? First, I like helping people make informed decisions about making an injury claim. Second, I like to teach. The Auto Injury Claim Basics book and my free educational consultation help me fulfill both purposes.
My path to becoming a lawyer started in high school. That is when I first suspected a legal career was for me. I didn’t choose this career because it was common in my family. No one in my family was a lawyer. With the exception of my step-dad, even higher education was not common.
So, maybe I became a lawyer because “I really wanted to help people.” I don’t think that was it. Don’t get me wrong–I like helping people, but many professions do that,. It wasn’t even the more believable answer of wanting to make a lot of money. I had never really had much, and wasn’t terribly mindful of such things. I also don’t think Hollywood brought me in, as I didn’t watch lawyer shows and movies. Perry Mason was pretty boring to me.
So, here is what I think drew me to the legal profession: The public education system actually did what we hope it does for kids–it showed me what I liked, and didn’t, and what I was good at, and not. Through writing and literature, speech and debate, model legislature and student government, and music, I found a love for using communication skills to teach or persuade. I could have happily gone into teaching, like my father now has, but I was drawn to the idea of advocating directly for someone’s benefit. I knew advocating is what most lawyers do. What I did not understand, probably until several years into my career, was how much teaching I would do as a lawyer.
My law practice, including this book, is an extension of that. Another fact I have come to understand is how my love for literature (English Literature B.A.) has prepared me for what I currently do. Advocacy, especially for injured people, is fact-based story telling. The challenge for a claimant or her lawyer is to convey accurately and meaningfully the story of what the collision and the injuries did to her life. That is not easy to do in writing, testimony, or trial, but it has to be done for justice to have a chance. I still read books extensively, both new and old, and believe this habit benefits my clients in a direct manner.
So, for these and other reasons, I suspected before I left high school that I wanted to be a lawyer. But there are many areas of law. Why have I spent 20 years dominantly as a personal injury lawyer? I should now tell you that it is the very thing I always wanted to do, and was most prepared for. Well, I think the first assertion is not true, but the second is. I think many of us choose a direction rather than a destination when entering our careers and that is what I did. I started practicing personal injury law because the best offer I received after law school was from a personal injury law firm–Brown, Arenofsky, and Squire. That firm did a lot of work in the Spanish-speaking community, and I am a Spanish-speaking lawyer. I loved that firm and my work there. I stayed there for four years, until Greg Brown, the founder and managing partner died of a stroke at age 51. Another associate there, Dan Durrant, and I started our own personal injury firm a few months later and enjoyed many years as Fine and Durrant. I then opened a solo personal injury practice, and, several years ago, joined my practice with the firm of Davis Miles McGuire Gardner. Their head personal injury lawyer was J. Robert Tolman, one of the most experienced trial lawyers of our generation. I knew I would be a better lawyer for my clients if I spent time working with Robert, and it is true. He and I enjoyed 6 years of partnership, until he started his own firm again recently. We still work together regularly.
So I may not have specifically set out to represent clients injured by wrongful acts, but I cannot imagine an area of law where my particular aptitudes would have been of more use to those I serve. My clients benefit from my desire to teach them, so they can make informed decisions and be in control of the process. And they benefit from my ability to teach insurance companies, mediators, arbitrators, defense attorneys, and juries, as an advocate. My clients benefitted from my efforts to teach leaders in government as an officer and president of the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association. I even enjoy teaching people how to help themselves when they do not need a lawyer.
I hope the consultation or the book gives you the guidance you are seeking.