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10 tips for future Michigan personal injury lawyers

September 16, 2010 by Steven M. Gursten

Attorneys Steve Gursten and Brandon Hewitt will give advice to Wayne State University Law School students on careers as personal injury lawyers

There’s so much to know when starting out as a personal injury lawyer. How do you get a foot in the door? How can you prove yourself? Where do you get your first job as an attorney?

I remember the anxiety of starting my own career as a personal injury lawyer, and I know it’s not easy. There are some things I wish I would have known as a new lawyer. That’s why on Monday, I’ll be sharing these 10 tips for law students at Wayne State University Law School, in Detroit. Attorney Brandon Hewitt, a Wayne law alumni, started as a law clerk while in law school and is now a litigation attorney at Michigan Auto Law. Brandon will also be speaking and reaching out to law students who are considering careers as personal injury attorneys.

Here’s what we will be touching on:

1. The law of supply and demand applies to the practice of law, too.
Today, the supply of lawyers is greater than the demand. To be successful, you’ll have to differentiate yourself. There are lots of personal injury lawyers. But there are not a lot of lawyers out there who know how to try a case. If you want to truly differentiate yourself, learn how to be a real trial lawyer and try cases.

2. Don’t lose the common touch.
Your juries are normal people, not law school professors grading moot court competitions. So don’t talk and write like a lawyer. Don’t use big words when you can use small words. Avoid complicated sentences, because jurors tend to favor people they like and people who they feel are like them.

3. Try to find the humor in things when they go wrong.
They will. There’s an old saying that you’re not a real personal injury lawyer until you win a case you should have lost, and you lose a case you should have won. It is possible for you to have a just case, a deserving client, soundly beat your opposing counsel in every phase of trial, and still lose.

4. Create a personal filing system for your professional development reading.
Dedicate a half hour to an hour a day to professional development reading. There’s a wealth of incredible information for you to choose from. As you read, create a personal filing system. If you read something — for example, a great opening statement that you can visualize yourself saying one day — then copy it and put it in your folder on opening statements.

5. Attend personal injury seminars.
Want to learn more about being a personal injury attorney in one week then you can in three years of law school? Join the American Association for Justice (AAJ) as a law student and you get to go to the summer convention for free. There are introductory programs specifically for law students and new lawyers, where you can learn about taking and defending depositions, your first trial and more.

6. Develop your own support network.
Join the e-mail list serves and legal forums that now exist for nearly every area of law, especially personal injury. Create online relationships with lawyers throughout the country. These lawyers face the same issues you face, and can share motions, ideas, and strategies that can save you hundreds of hours of work.

7. Know the real truth about mentors.

Many personal injury attorneys are not suited to become mentors, and you might want to think twice before copying their habits. If you do seek out a mentor, make sure he or she is the one of the best in the field. Keep in mind, some of the best mentors can be found in your law library. You can learn from some of the best lawyers that ever lived on tapes, CDs, DVDs and books.

8. Think about marketing and management.
You can be the best personal injury lawyer in the world, but if no one knows who you are and what you do, it won’t matter. My law school didn’t offer classes on marketing, management, accounting, and the other real-life things that many of us will need. If your law school offers classes in these areas, take them. If not, read and teach yourself about marketing and management.

9. Keep connected.
Try to remember to be human, and try to spend time with the people you love. That includes spending some time on yourself. Find something you are really passionate about that has nothing to do with law and carve out time to pursue it. It will help keep you from burning out.

10. What others think about you is far less important than what you think of yourself.
Trust me, the law firms that everyone talks about in law school will not be that important years from now. Think about the first girl or boy that you ever dated. Years later, you just have to shake your head and laugh because the things that were so important to you then seem silly. Keep yourself from thinking how important it is to be at “the firm”, and instead, find a job that’s interesting, rewarding and fulfilling.

For Brandon and myself, that job is personal injury. Abraham Lincoln once wrote that lawyers that redress wrongs and injuries to others represent the most noble aspect of the legal profession. Being able to truly help people injured in car accidents – who have been denied and treated unfairly by their own auto insurance companies – has been incredibly rewarding.

Steve Gursten is recognized as one of the nation’s top personal injury lawyers handling serious car and truck accident injury cases and auto insurance No-Fault litigation. He frequently speaks throughout the country on personal injury law and auto accident cases, and is available for comment. Michigan Auto Law has the highest auto accident jury verdict in Michigan in six of the past nine years, according to Michigan Lawyers Weekly.

Related information for Michigan law students:

Is being a personal injury lawyer for you?

No-Fault 101 for law students: Your Michigan Bar Exam

From clerks to Michigan personal injury attorneys

Michigan Auto Law is the leading largest law firm exclusively handling car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state for more than 50 years. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Sterling Heights to better serve you.

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