Academy of Chiropractic’s
Lawyers PI Program
Build Your Infrastructure #134
From the Desk of:
Mark Studin DC, FASBE(C), DAAPM, DAAMLP
"PI Lawyers vs. Non-PI Lawyers:
What is The Best Relationship"
I have been often asked about how to go about breaking into the biggest PI lawyers in the region. From New York to Florida to California to Washington State the question is ALWAYS the same, how do I get the business of the big PI firms? The tactics taken always center on getting databases of PI lawyers from phone books or Online and then work on communicating in a varied formats of media.
When we put on Lawyers Seminars, I instruct the sponsoring doctors to go through the entire phone book and invite all lawyers and those seminars that end up cancelled or have the poorest responses are those doctors who are smarter than I am and ONLY focus on personal injury lawyers.
Before we delve into the answers, let's look into the behavior and business of the personal injury lawyers. The main reason; for you to succeed in this industry, you have to know every side of it, not just your side and your patient's side. The legal perspective is critical and integral into the success of a personal injury healthcare practice.
Many years ago, I decided that I wanted to get more referrals form the largest personal injury firm on Long Island. 60 lawyers and hundreds of millions in settlements and awards and I did what was required. Many expensive dinners, ballgames, holiday gifts and some referrals to them. It worked and I was very proud of myself. I was getting 1-2 referrals a month on a continual basis and after a few months, they sat with me and told me the maximum I could bill, arbitrate and/or lien so they could control the finances for their clients as that is their first priority.
Lawyers have a fiduciary responsibility to first themselves and then their clients. We are ALWAYS DEAD LAST...and with that knowledge I agreed and as long as I sent them some referrals, I was getting 1-2 referral per month, with now diminishing returns.
2 years later...yes, this schmuck went on for 2 years being duped by "pro's" who handled me with ease because they had what I thought was the "holy grail" of referrals...and..in retrospect, that was probably true because I didn't have what they needed other then my referrals. What I didn't understand is I was getting their garbage cases; the "bottom of the bottom" in order to keep my occasional referral coming. Every case I made $2,000-$3,000 and they made after their 1/3 split many multiples of that number and they were acutely aware of that. In addition, through their marketing efforts, they got lots of very marginal cases and those are the ones they referred, not just to me, but others in my position.
One year, I decided I was "upping my game" and just before Christmas, I spent close to $750 for a candy gift basket. I wanted to buy their attention and this would get them to remember me for quite some time. When I personally delivered it, the place went wild with excitement and all the lawyers and staff personally came out to thank me. I was pleased as I knew most of them and it was a very good moment. As the basket was very heavy, the principle lawyer asked me to help him carry it to the storage area so they could break it up and distribute it to the entire firm. As I did so, he opened the storage closest and to my shock, dismay surprise, naivety and education...there were over 100 other gift baskets from small to larger than mine. The lawyer seeing my face realized he erred in allowing me to see this said "Mark...I wanted to thank you again because yours is one of the largest ones."
You know that moment in life when there is a revelation and it so not good? That was a major one for me. In that moment, I had a catharsis realizing "I was had" and it was my fault. I allowed myself out of enthusiasm, greed, pseudo intelligence, abject stupidity and ignorance that this firm had to keep 100's of us happy and as long as we played their game. We would stay in their pipeline, but never get more because they had too many "mouths to feed" proverbially. It was the last time I accepted a new case under their rules and the referral stopped.
On or about the same time, I had met dozens of lawyers at a Bar Association function that I sponsored and I was getting inquires on medical issues with some of the lawyers. My investigation led me to realize they were matrimonial lawyers, real estate lawyers and trust and estate lawyers, therefore I was stingy with my time spent on their issues. After all...they weren't personal injury lawyers.
After my gift basket debacle, I called one of the real estate lawyers and offered to go into his office to discuss one of his cases. After spending an hour, I realized that he was totally clueless, so I asked "why are you taking this case out of your specialty?" The answer was revealing; he shared with me that he is clueless on the medicine (his words,) yet understands the law. It was his "game-plan" for me to guide him on the medicine and he would work the carriers. Without me, he was going to reach out to other doctors to fulfill his needs. This was a niche` that he and other lawyers feel they are equipped to handle as a profit center beyond their immediate specialty.
With this one lawyer, over the ensuing 6 months he referred me 35-40 new VERY GOOD cases. I made the same relationship with 6-7 additional PI lawyers that today, still attend my seminars and call me for advice. In short, I built an entire practice on NON-PI lawyers.
It didn't mean that I gave up on the PI lawyers beyond the largest one that was intent on controlling me. A few years back , I did a statically 6 year study on where my patients came from. The results, 50% from PI lawyers and other 50% from non-PI lawyers that I became their "go to doctor" on "everything personal injury." The really, really good part is that the non-PI lawyers ALWAYS protected my fiduciary interests realizing that we had a symbiotic relationship and was very careful never to "burn that bridge" over a few dollars on one case.
SO...When building a practice pay careful attention to every lawyer in your community, not just those specializing in Personal Injury. In fact, those non-PI lawyers need some very special attention that will yield huge results over time.
PS...That one PI firm intent on controlling me reached out to me many years later after I had become credentialed in MRI, Accident Reconstruction and Biomechanical Engineering and wanted to refer me cases because of my clinical and educational background. I would not take the case to treat as I no longer had an office, but charged them a significant fee to be an expert witness. I have since turned them down many times accepting the requests from others.
"Build it and they will come!" Credentials matter for them to play your game!